On Profiling, Irony, and Hypocrisy

By Dan Cadman on February 26, 2014

A federal district court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against New York City officials alleging that a secret New York City Police Department (NYPD) program of spying on Muslim businesses and mosques violated the constitutional rights of business owners and members of those mosques.

The lawsuit, filed several months ago, named as defendants former mayor Michael Bloomberg, police commissioner Ray Kelly, deputy commissioner for intelligence David Cohen, and the police department itself. The plaintiffs alleged a violation of their constitutional rights and unlawful profiling on the basis of their religious beliefs.

I offer no opinion on the merits of the suit, or the decision, but one would have to have the sensibilities of a Chia Pet not to see that the backdrop of the case was riddled with ironies and, perhaps, a whiff of hypocrisy.

First is that the plaintiffs were businesses, mosques, and individuals from New Jersey, where the surveillance took place — not in New York City. Feel free to surmise what you wish about Hizzoner, looking ahead to the possibility that the secrecy of the program might be compromised (as often happens in such matters, and as in fact occurred when the Associated Press got wind of it), not wanting to antagonize the liberal constituency on his home turf back when the program began several years ago.

Although the former mayor has repeatedly insisted on his affinity for immigrants, on his belief in a liberal immigration policy (not only for New York, but for the country), and has been a vocal advocate for a broad-based amnesty, it would seem that his affinity only stretches so far: Although the surveillances don't appear to have been predicated on any hard information, or to have actually resulted in the detection of any terrorists, he and his law enforcement subordinates repeatedly denied that the program was an exercise in profiling. In fact, Bloomberg repeatedly and vigorously defended the program.

Note, however, that before leaving office Bloomberg signed into law a number of ordinances restricting federal immigration officers' access to police information, prisoners, and arrestees and limiting the kinds of immigration detainers that NYPD and city corrections officials would be permitted to honor, apparently because both Bloomberg and the city council believed that the Secure Communities program constituted an inappropriate overreach akin to profiling of aliens simply because they had been arrested, no matter how serious or minor the crime.

Note also that that Bloomberg's police commissioner and co-defendant in the suit, Ray Kelly, was commissioner of U.S. Customs in a prior incarnation. As readers know, the components of the now-defunct Customs Service were merged with components of the also-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service to form the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies within Homeland Security. Notwithstanding this significant background as head of a federal border control agency, Kelly also proved to be obstructive toward immigration enforcement measures targeting criminal aliens, including the Secure Communities program. Before enactment of the city ordinances, he had issued general orders of broad applicability within the NYPD that had much the same effect of limiting information and contact.

Only where immigration is concerned does law enforcement become such a murky world of politics, contradictory positions, and pretzel-like gymnastics by leaders attempting to downplay the inconsistent and often hypocritical positions they take while impeding the proper functioning of our federal immigration system.