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NYPD wide terror net troubling

Joff Cafer Sahin, owner of Pita House restaurants

Joff Cafer Sahin, owner of Pita House restaurants in Setauket and Patchogue, said he was "dumbfounded" when he found out that his Patchogue location had been included in a list of "identified locations" by the NYPD's intelligence unit. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The wide net of the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism intelligence has reached Nassau and Suffolk. Unless there is solid reason for suspicion, cops should not monitor people or places just because they're Muslim -- or any other religion or ethnicity. Yet our Long Island police seem to be content to let the spying go on here.

The city has invested enormous resources in counterterrorism, which is hard to fault, given the city's tragic history as a terrorist target. Still, it seems clear that widespread NYPD monitoring of Muslims and Muslim-related locations, described in a series of Associated Press reports, crosses a line into unfair profiling.

In one case, detailed in yesterday's Newsday, the Pita House, a Patchogue restaurant, is on an NYPD list as: "Owned and operated by Turks." Muslims eat there, but so do Jews, Christians, and atheists. And the food is nondenominational. Yet there was enough NYPD surveillance to pick up and report such vital clues as Turkish newspapers and a Turkish movie on the television.

Nor is Long Island alone in NYPD scrutiny. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie and Mayor Cory Booker have been critical of NYPD monitoring in Newark's Muslim neighborhoods.

Suffolk police said they don't oppose it. County Executive Steve Bellone said Suffolk doesn't do this kind of monitoring. Nassau police said the NYPD could monitor there without their knowledge or participation.

But our police should make sure they know what the NYPD is up to here. And the NYPD should do surveillance only when it has legitimate reason to suspect terrorism is afoot.