NJ: Gov Demands Rules to Avoid Muslim Profiling
ROBERT SCHWANEBERG AND RUSSELL BEN-ALI, Star-Ledger, 9/27/05
Acting Gov. Richard Codey yesterday gave state officials three weeks to come up with standards for identifying potential terrorists, to dispel fears that the label is being applied to people simply because they are Muslim.
Codey made the demand in response to revelations in yesterday’s Star-Ledger that State Police are refusing to accept computerized reports filed by the New Jersey Office of Counter-Terrorism after finding numerous entries targeting people merely because they practice Islam or have connections to Muslim groups.
Islamic civil rights groups quickly voiced their concern, with one calling for a nationwide review of terrorist databases to ensure they do not single out Muslims.
State counter-terrorism officials contend the problem is not religious profiling, but that some reports were filled out incompletely. Codey, calling the feud a “turf battle,” said the Attorney General’s Office, State Police and counter-terrorism officials “have all assured me that profiling is not going on.”
When asked whether he is comfortable with the standards for entering names into the database, however, Codey replied, “No, I’m not.” He said that is why he requested a report on the criteria for labeling someone a potential terrorist.
Investigators in the Office of Counter-Terrorism are not allowed to file data into a system used as a crime-fighting tool by state, county and local law enforcement officials until Attorney General Peter Harvey finishes his review of the reports. Two weeks ago, the dispute became so heated that Harvey, Counter-Terrorism Director Sydney Caspersen and State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes were summoned to the governor’s office to broker a peace.
Sen. John Adler (D-Camden), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held extensive hearings on the racial profiling of blacks and Hispanics, said he plans to question Harvey and Caspersen. Adler said he wants to make sure they are protecting both public safety and individual rights.
Muslim groups voiced long-standing fears of unequal treatment.
“I think a lot of us have realized for a while that we’re under surveillance and that’s just the way it is and nobody’s going to do anything about it,” said Yasser El-Menshawy, chairman of the Majlis Ash-Shura of New Jersey, a council of mosques and Islamic organizations based in Newark.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C., called for law enforcement agencies nationwide to examine their terrorist databases and ensure they are not being used to profile Muslims.
“Disturbing reports of this kind will only serve to confirm the worst fears of American Muslims about being singled out solely because of their faith,” CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar said.