‘Times’ welcomes federal probe of NYPD surveillance program, wonders ‘what happened’ to Bloomberg

Bloomberg at a Queens Islamic center in 2003. (Kristen Artz via nyc.gov)
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Bemoaning a lack of outrage from lawmakers and other news outlets, the New York Times runs an editorial today denouncing the New York Police Department's tactic of targeting Muslim groups in and around New York under surveillance.

"Today Muslims are the target," the paper wrote. "Tomorrow, it will be another vulnerable group."

"It is a distressing fact of life that mistreatment of Muslims does not draw nearly the protest that it should," the Times writes, before naming Senator Chuck Schumer, Governor Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn as lawmakers who should be calling on the NYPD to disclose more information about their behavior.

The paper notes that Michael Bloomberg is fashioning a rather awkward doctrine: the freedom to worship, and the freedom of government to watch over that worship. The Times puts an emphasis on increasing transparency about the department's activities, and denounces Bloomberg for lashing out at those who question the department.

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"Mr. Bloomberg has reacted in the worst possible way — with disdain — to those raising legitimate questions," the Times wrote.

"[W]e are wondering what happened to the Michael Bloomberg who stood up for fairness and religious freedom by backing a proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero," they wrote. "We hope that the mayor re-emerges soon to resort trust."

Responding to complaints from Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder said the Justice Department has begun a review into the NYPD surveillance practices, which were first detailed in a series of articles from the Associated Press starting last summer.

The Times said finishing that probe is "a priority."

The editorial may increase pressure on the 2013 Democratic mayoral candidates, who deeply covet the Times endorsement, to act on this issue, which, so far, they have seemed reluctant to do.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has a close working relationship with the Bloomberg administration, said through a spokesman that "it is difficult to judge police techniques without knowing the specifics of the case."

Several candidates issued statements defending the NYPD's need to do their work to protect New York, and the country, coupled with statements about protecting civil liberties.

None attended a rally last month organized by Muslims denouncing the department's tactics or have taken steps associate themselves with protests against this practice, by contrast the their varying degrees of outspokenness against the department's current stop-and-frisk policy. 

Today's editorial was published after Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post noted the issue was robustly featured in the editorial sections of the Post and News. Both papers strongly defended the NYPD and sharply denounced the Associated Press for its extensive reports on the practice.