The New York Police Department has ended its controversial surveillance program that kept tabs on Muslim residents throughout the city by disbanding the surveillance unit.
The program, created with the help of the CIA following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and funded in part by both the Bush and Obama administrations, used plainclothes officers to collect info and assemble databases on everything from the shopping to praying habits of innocent citizens.
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"The Zone Assessment Unit, previously referred to as the demographics unit, has been largely inactive since January," NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said Tuesday in a statement. "Recently, as part of an ongoing assessment of Intelligence Bureau operations, personnel assigned to the Zone Assessment Unit were reassigned to other duties within the Intelligence Bureau."
The surveillance effort was originally created to prevent any potential terrorist threats, however the department said it can obtain much of the same information through direct outreach.
"Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the New York City Police Department," the statement continued. "It has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the Zone Assessment Unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned."
Two civil rights groups who filed a 2012 lawsuit against the NYPD over an alleged breach of civil liberties and had their case dismissed in February said they support the move.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also released statements voicing their support of the disbandment.
Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the program for a number of years, saying all legal guidelines were followed while gathering information.
In 2012, a deposition later made public undermined public perception of the program after a police chief revealed the unit hadn't produced a compelling lead in the last six years.
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