Fresh off a meeting with Mayor Eric Adams and Muslim community leaders, longtime advocate Dr. Debbie Almontaser joined Errol Louis on “Inside City Hall” Wednesday to discuss NYPD deputy commissioner John Miller’s denial of police wrongdoing during the post-9/11 surveillance of New York City’s Muslim populations.
Almontaser said she wants New Yorkers to understand the trauma New York's Muslim community lives with because of the surveillance, including informants ingratiating themselves on college campuses and in wedding parties. She knows, she says, because she had interactions with informants working alongside her as she planned protests and political activities.
“The community was traumatized because of how invasive the surveillance was,” Almontaser said. “It was in our mosques, it was in our bodegas, it was in our coffee shops, it was in our barber shops.”
In testimony in front of the city council Friday, Miller denied wrongdoing and claimed “there is no evidence” that the NYPD spied on Muslim New Yorkers. Miller oversees the department’s intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus.
In 2014, the city disbanded the Demographics Unit, the plainclothes team assigned to infiltrating Muslim communities. The city then settled several lawsuits by agreeing to pay more than $1 million damages and change training policies.
The meeting with Adams and administration officials was scheduled prior to Miller’s comments, but Almontaser said the testimony was the first thing discussed Tuesday. A day earlier Adams condemned the surveillance programs, stopping short of criticizing Miller.
“I thought we did some things that were wrong and they will never happen under my administration,” Adams said Monday in The Bronx.
Almontaser served on Adams’ mayoral transition team after endorsing him in the primary.