[May 12, 2014]NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City
police have been recruiting immigrants, most of them Muslims, in the
years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, to act as informants
eavesdropping in cafes, restaurants and mosques, The New York Times
reported on Sunday.
Citing documents it had obtained and interviews with former and
senior police officials, the newspaper said the department had
sought to enlist the help of immigrants such as a food cart vendor
from Afghanistan, an Egyptian-born limousine driver and an
accounting student from Pakistan, most of whom were arrested for
Detectives working for a unit known as the Citywide Debriefing Team
conducted 220 such interviews in the first quarter of this year, the
Times said, citing police officials, and conducted many hundreds of
interviews in other years.
Police officials described the interviews to the Times as voluntary,
but the paper said several Muslim immigrants it spoke to felt shaken
by the encounters.
John Miller, the deputy commissioner in charge of the Intelligence
Division, said the debriefing team emerged from an urgent need for
counter terrorism sources following the September 11 attacks, the
"We were looking for people who could provide visibility into the
world of terrorism," the Times quoted him as saying. "You don't get
information without talking to people."
Miller said the historic technique of debriefing prisoners, now
being applied to counter terrorism, had been effective.
But the newspaper said many Muslim immigrants had said they felt as
though they had little choice but to cooperate.
In one example, Bayjan Abrahimi, a food cart vendor from Afghanistan
arrested in 2009 in a parking ticket dispute, said detectives asked
him "about Al Qaeda, do you know these people?", the Times said.
They also asked about his mosque, the nationalities of other Muslims
who prayed there and about a brother who drove a taxi in
Finally they asked if he would be willing to gather
information at mosques and possibly travel to Afghanistan, to which,
frightened, he said he agreed.
After his release, Abrahimi told the Times he never heard from the
detectives again, but remained shaken by the matter.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)