New Yorkers recently learned how many terrorism investigations have resulted from the controversial NYPD surveillance operation that included spying in neighborhoods where Muslims live, eavesdropping on their conversations and infiltrating mosques: zero. If the New York Police Department is going to engage in practices that potentially trample civil liberties, the information gathered should at least be useful in preventing terrorism.
The NYPD Demographics Unit has been monitoring Muslim communities in the city, on Long Island and elsewhere for years. But a June 28 deposition by NYPD Assistant Chief Thomas Galati, which was unsealed last week, provided the first official glimpse of the secretive operation. Galati was questioned in a lawsuit challenging the spying as a violation of a 1985 court-monitored agreement that set federal guidelines prohibiting the surveillance of political activity when there is no indication of unlawful activity.
Police had hoped the demographics unit would become an early warning system for terrorism. But Galati conceded that in the six years he has commanded the NYPD Intelligence Division, he never got a single lead from a demographics unit report and none of the conversations the officers overheard has ever led to a terrorism investigation.
That lack of actionable intelligence is the single best reason to call off the whole dubious operation. The NYPD shouldn't waste time with a program of questionable legality that is clearly ineffective.