This is ridiculous.
NEW YORK — Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.
The article later points out that many people Americanized their Arabic-sounding names to avoid discrimination. Which they are then discriminated against for doing by the NYPD. You have a right to change your name (even without a court issued name change) under the First Amendment. I also found this part of the article quite interesting:
The legal justification for the program is unclear from the documents obtained by the AP. Because of its history of spying on anti-war protesters and political activists, the NYPD has long been required to follow a federal court order when gathering intelligence. That order allows the department to conduct background checks only when police have information about possible criminal activity, and only as part of “prompt and extremely limited” checking of leads.
The NYPD’s rules also prohibit opening investigations based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Federal courts have held that people have a right to change their names and, in the case of religious conversion, that right is protected by the First Amendment.
I’m curious to see how the NYPD responds to what seems to be a clear case of ethnic/racial profiling. The legal justification seems to be in question when even the in-house lawyer for NYPD is criticizing their methods. This also makes me wonder how the NYPD are handling Occupy Wall Street protesters.