Newsday: King, Muslim groups to rally for NYPD

Newsday — by Anthony M. Destefano

Rep. Peter King and a number of Muslim leaders are scheduled to hold a news conference outside police headquarters in Manhattan Monday morning in a show of support for the NYPD counterterrorism monitoring of Muslims.

King (R-Seaford), head of the House Committee on Homeland Security and long a supporter of NYPD counterterrorism programs, told Newsday Sunday that among the leaders will be representatives of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, as well as Muslims from Canada.

The event comes after NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly ramped up the public debate over the police counterterrorism program, telling participants at a Fordham University Law School alumni luncheon on Saturday that police operate under strict rules mandated under the so-called Handschu guidelines and that criticism of police action has been a "misrepresentation" of the counterterrorism program.

The guidelines get their name from a 1985 Manhattan federal court consent decree in a lawsuit over police surveillance of political activity and demonstrations. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the guidelines were expanded in 2002 to allow police to take certain proactive steps, including monitoring of websites and examining publicly available records.

"Anyone who intimates that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places or map neighborhoods has either not read, misunderstood or intentionally obfuscates the meaning of [the guidelines]," Kelly told the alumni.

Franklin Siegal, one of the original attorneys who remains part of the Handschu case, Sunday indicated it might be months and possibly years before the court decides if the NYPD activity regarding Muslim surveillance, described in documents leaked over many months to The Associated Press, falls within the guidelines.

Siegal said legal papers were filed in October to reopen the case to begin an arduous fact-finding probe about the NYPD program. He added that some of the police activity, such as going to public places, may be outside of any guideline restrictions.

"The real issue here is the [leaked] documents raise questions that there are violations, so it is our responsibility to rectify it and make them obey the rules," Siegal said about the surveillance.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told Newsday Sunday that a police review of websites found evidence of terrorists looking to recruit Muslim college students in New York, including at Stony Brook University, Brooklyn College, Queens College and upstate University at Buffalo. Some Muslims have complained about NYPD use of undercover operatives to penetrate student groups.