The NYPD's Super-Secret Muslim Spy Unit Has Led to Zero Investigative Leads, But Lots of Urdu Speakers

The NYPD's so-called "Demographic Unit"—the mini-CIA the department's Jason Bourne Juniors created to keep track of Muslims on account of their being Muslims and all—has been responsible for exactly zero arrests, plots uncovered, or leads pursued, the AP reports today. What it has accomplished, according to the chief of the department's intelligence division, is eavesdropping on people in Lebanese cafes because "that may be an indicator of possibility that that is a sympathizer to Hezbollah."

That's from a deposition that intelligence chief Thomas Galati gave in June in a long-standing federal civil rights case against the NYPD. According to Galati, the demographics unit—which dispatched undercover officers to monitor Muslims in schools, mosques, cafes, and shops for no other reason than that they are Muslims—"never made a lead" or generated any useful investigative information as far as he knows.

Galati's defense of what the unit has done is so colossally and perniciously stupid that it bears repeating at length:

In one instance discussed in the testimony, plainclothes NYPD officers known as "rakers" overheard two Pakistani men complaining about airport security policies that they believed unfairly singled out Muslims. They bemoaned what they saw as the nation's anti-Muslim sentiment since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Galati said police were allowed to collect that information because the men spoke Urdu, a fact that could help police find potential terrorists in the future.

"I'm seeing Urdu. I'm seeing them identify the individuals involved in that are Pakistani," Galati explained. "I'm using that information for me to determine that this would be a kind of place that a terrorist would be comfortable in."

He added, "Most Urdu speakers from that region would be of concern, so that's why it's important to me."

About 15 million Pakistanis and 60 million Indians speak Urdu. Along with English, it is one of the national languages of Pakistan.

In another example, Galati said, eavesdropping on a conversation in a Lebanese cafe could be useful, even if the topic is innocuous. Analysts might be able to determine that the customers were from South Lebanon, he said, adding, "That may be an indicator of possibility that that is a sympathizer to Hezbollah because Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah."

When the AP's Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman began reporting on the Demographics Unit last year, the NYPD first denied its existence and later argued that it was a central plank in the city's counterterrorism efforts. One former analyst told the reporters that the unit was instrumental in securing the conviction of a bookstore clerk for plotting to bomb a subway station. "Galati testified that he could find no evidence of that," Apuzzo and Goldman write today.