Local Muslims React to Ongoing NYPD Counter-Terrorism Tactic

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Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York.

A detective squad within the New York City Police Department that was formed a few years after the 9-11 terror attacks reportedly recruits Muslims being held on minor charges to become police informants for the purpose of gathering information on other Muslims.

The report in Sunday's New York Times said the unit called the Citywide Debriefing Team has been visiting city jails to recruit mostly Muslim immigrants to become police informants. Many interviewed by The Times said they felt pressured to cooperate.

Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, said this debriefing unit is more troubling than the now disbanded undercover NYPD unit that gathered demographic information on Muslims at mosques and other places.

"We believe that the NYPD sometimes threatens these people with taking away green cards from them or putting them in more trouble with the law," said Sarsour.  She said the now disbanded demographics unit had already gathered the information it needed.

Sarsour said Muslims being held on misdemeanor charges not related to terrorism are often threatened "that if they do not become informants that there could be consequences."

Asim Rehman, President of the Muslim Bar Association, said this kind of program only erodes trust between the NYPD and Muslim communities.

"There is nothing more important to effective law enforcement than trust between communities and law enforcement and programs like this break down that trust," said Rehman.

Police officials interviewed by the Times said the Citywide Debriefing Team has generated important information about potential terrorists.