NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the New York Police Department’s surveillance of the city’s ethnic neighborhoods had not unfairly targeted any group in an effort to root out possible terror connections, and compared it to screening kids for measles.

An Associated Press investigation found that NYPD dispatched undercover officers into ethnic communities to monitor daily life and scrutinized more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups in the years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bloomberg refused to comment directly on the details of the AP’s investigation. Later in an interview he said: “If there is a community where the crime rate is very high, to not put more cops in that community is ridiculous. If you want to look for cases of measles, you’ll find a lot more of them among young people. That’s not targeting young people to go see whether they have measles or not.”

The mayor’s comments Wednesday offered a revealing glimpse into how Bloomberg believes the city’s law enforcement officials should walk what he says is a fine line — protecting the city against attack while upholding constitutional protections.

“I believe we should do what we have to do to keep us safe. And we have to be consistent with the Constitution and with people’s rights. We live in a dangerous world, and we have to be very proactive in making sure that we prevent terrorism,” he had said earlier in the day.

A number of advocates have questioned whether the NYPD’s policies have gone too far as the department put many innocent people under scrutiny while hunting for terrorists. Several Muslim civil rights groups and a New York congresswoman have urged the Department of Justice to investigate the department for what critics see as racial profiling.

Bloomberg said no one should generalize about any group, but authorities must respond to the threat of criminal activity.

“What I find disgraceful is the automatic assumption that (in) any one religious group, everybody’s a terrorist. That’s not true. It is true that you can go to certain places where people give sermons and a lot of them are anti-American. But that doesn’t mean that everybody is a terrorist,” he said.

“But if you’ve got a clergyperson preaching anarchy, do you really think the police department shouldn’t try to send somebody and listen and see if they’re trying to foment a riot? You can’t wait till the riot’s on the streets,” he said.

The AP’s investigation found that the NYPD Intelligence Division maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with “American Black Muslim,” it considered to be “ancestries of interest.”

New York City’s Muslims — a group that the mayor said tends to be well-educated and entrepreneurial — are supportive of police presence, he said.

“I think most Muslims want police protection. They don’t want their kids … falling off the … train and going down the wrong path,” the mayor said.

According to AP’s investigation, the NYPD Intelligence Division used its list of “ancestries of interest” to dispatch a secret team of undercover officers into ethnic communities to eavesdrop and monitor daily life. The officers, known as rakers, filed daily reports on what they overheard.

The department also used undercover officers and informants to scrutinize more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups, according to documents and interviews with people involved in the program. Mosques were singled out for further investigation based on suspected criminal activity but also for conservative Islamic beliefs, the documents show. At least one business was flagged for having a devout clientele.

All of this was done with unusually close help from the CIA, in a relationship that at times blurred the line between domestic and foreign spying.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent in Chicago, said he wasn’t disturbed by the NYPD’s practice of monitoring certain ethnic or religious communities when tracking terrorists. “I am opposed to racial profiling, I think it doesn’t work, but there are things called criminal profiling,” Rogers explained.

“If you’re going to catch an Irish mob bank robbery crew … you’re normally going to show up in places where the Irish-connected folks are going to hang out,” Rogers said. “In the FBI, we used to say that’s a clue.”

Rogers said the NYPD was doing nothing wrong when it hired former CIA employees to help it build its program, but said he would support a review.

Bloomberg said he believes the public is increasingly willing to give up aspects of their privacy in exchange for added safety. New facial-recognition technologies will soon make it possible to track exactly who is walking down the street, he said, adding that he believes “we’re going in that direction.”

“As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before,” Bloomberg said.

Do you agree with Mayor Bloomberg? Sound off in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (12)
  1. al says:

    “As the world gets more dangerous, people are willing to have infringements on their personal freedoms that they would not before” Hmmmm, sounds like Mr. Bloomberg had been reading “Mein Kampf” by Herr Hitler!!! Got news for you, Herr Bloomberg, the American Constitution is still the Law of the Land!

  2. Meme Meyagi says:

    .there are 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa, what is being done about it?

  3. Schmellma Arss says:

    He should change his name to Scmoozberg.

  4. Richard says:

    The man is a billionaire fascist of the highest order, as well as the world’s wealthiest hypocrite! Preventing terror while upholding Constitutional rights??? You can’t even light a cigarette outdoors anymore, and I’m not even a smoker! ! This man has been more vigilant in taking away our liberties because HE believes he’s doing the right thing. When you deal with any politician who BELIEVES, most constitutional rights are null and void. He says we’re willing to give up our freedoms, but he doesn’t mention the part where he explains how he extracts our freedom from us anally as we all bend over and take it!

    1. KPMc says:

      “You can’t even light a cigarette outdoors anymore, and I’m not even a smoker!”

      LIE! You can’t light up in a public park or beach.

      The easiest way to get people to swallow lies is wrap it in a kernel of truth!

  5. Stoshaglia says:

    For probably the only time ever I will agree with jew Bloomberg.

    1. KPMc says:

      Well… If an idiot bigoted anti-semite agrees than it must be right.

  6. Garth says:

    Get a grip here….9/11 changed everything for everyone for good. If it takes some profiling in order to abort terrorism, then so be it. Granny with a cane or walker, and a blond haired blue eyed man or woman, did not bring down aircraft and the twin towers. It was Arabs from the Arab community. And if any of them don;t like the profiling, or the extra scrutiny, well too bad. Roll up your little magic carpet, pack up your Turbin and head back to whereever it is your roots are. Americas safety and those who pose no threat to us or our borders, comes first. To hell with Political Correctness, or feeling violated. The Arab community caused this, and now they don;t like feeling the consequences of their borthers actions. Well vent that energy and frustration on your brothers and sisters who are contemplating violence and terror………

    1. Meme Meyagi says:

      the problem with what you said is that everyone is being bent over, not just mooslimes, and i don’t see anything being done to remove mooslimes from usa.

    2. KPMc says:

      “The Arab community caused this, and now they don;t like feeling the consequences of their borthers actions.”

      And some tramp let the sperm that created you infest her ovaries but we don’t blame all mothers for trash like you. Just YOUR mother!

      1. Garth says:

        KPMc = MEATHEAD…….Dead from the neck up

  7. J says:

    New Flash! We don’t live in Shangri-la!

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