"All of these are innocent people," Nagiba el-Sioufi of Newark said recently while her husband, Mohammed, flipped through the NYPD report.
Egyptian immigrants and American citizens, the couple raised two daughters in the United States. Mohammed works as an accountant and is vice president of the Islamic Culture Center, a mosque a few blocks from Newark City Hall.
"If you have an accusation on us, then spend the money on doing this to us," Nagiba said. "But you have no accusation."
The Newark police director at the time, Garry McCarthy, is now in charge of the Chicago Police Department. He said the NYPD initiated the operation and none of his officers participated.
Newark authorities who investigated how the NYPD operation was carried out concluded McCarthy received the 60-page report from the NYPD, according to a Newark official. The official, who insisted on anonymity because the inquiry was ongoing, said there was no evidence that McCarthy circulated the report to anyone else.
The goal of the report, like others the Demographics Unit compiled, was to give police at-their-fingertips access to information about Muslim neighborhoods. If police got a tip about an Egyptian terrorist in the area, for instance, they wanted to immediately know where he was likely to find a cheap room to rent, where he might buy his lunch and at what mosque he might attend Friday prayers.
"These locations provide the maximum ability to assess the general opinions and general activity of these communities," the NYPD Newark report said.
The effect of the program was that hundreds of American citizens were cataloged — sometimes by name, sometimes simply by their businesses and their ethnicity — in secret police files that spanned hundreds of pages:
— "A Black Muslim male named Mussa was working in the rear of store," an NYPD detective wrote after a clandestine visit to a dollar store in Shirley, N.Y., on Long Island.
— "The manager of this restaurant is an Indian Muslim male named Vicky Amin" was the report back from an Indian restaurant in Lindenhurst, N.Y., also on Long Island.
— "Owned and operated by an African Muslim (possibly Sudanese) male named Abdullah Ddita," was the summary from another dollar store in Shirley, N.Y., just off the highway on the way to the Hamptons, the wealthy Long Island getaway.
In one report, an officer describes how he put people at ease by speaking in Punjabi and Urdu, languages commonly spoken in Pakistan.
There are no allegations of terrorism in the Demographics Unit reports, and the documents make clear that police were interested only in locations frequented by Muslims. The canvass of businesses in Newark mentions Islam and Muslims 27 times. In one section of the report, police wrote that the largest immigrant groups in Newark were from Portugal and Brazil. But they did not photograph businesses or churches for those groups.
"No Muslim component within these communities was identified," police wrote, except for one business owned by a Brazilian Muslim of Palestinian descent.
Polls show that most New Yorkers strongly support the NYPD's counterterrorism efforts and don't believe police unfairly target Muslims. Civil rights groups and Muslim activists, however, have called for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's resignation over the spying and the department's screening of a video that portrays Muslims as wanting to dominate the United States.
In Newark, the report was met with a mixture of confusion and anger.
"Come, look at yourself on film," Abdul Kareem Abdullah called to his wife as he flipped through the NYPD files at the lunch counter of their restaurant, Hamidah's Cafe.
An American-born citizen who converted to Islam decades ago, Abdullah said he understands why, after the 9/11 terror attacks, people are afraid of Muslims. But he said he wishes the police would stop by, say hello, meet him and his customers and get to know them. The documents show police have no interest in that, he said.