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NYPD texts show strategy on Muslims

Detective's messages to a tipster reveal the scope of monitoring, often seeking more data: "Get pictures."

NEW YORK - A New York Police Department detective told a federal judge that he has seen no evidence that one of his informants brought up the subject of jihad as a way to bait Muslims into making incriminating remarks. But text messages obtained by the Associated Press show otherwise.

While the detective, Stephen Hoban, described the activities in a new legal filing in U.S. District Court as narrowly focused on a few people under investigation, text messages show a wide-ranging effort. Eager to make money, Shamiur Rahman, the informant, snapped pictures during prayer sessions, rallies, and a parade; recorded the names of people who signed petitions or protested; and reported fellow Muslims who volunteered to feed needy families.

When the detective responded, his text messages nearly always sought more information:

"Did you take pictures?"

"I need pictures from the rally. And I need to know who is there."

"Get pictures."

Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called "create and capture." He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.

Now, as the NYPD defends itself from allegations by civil rights lawyers that such tactics violated a long-standing federal court order, the department said Rahman was either lying or didn't know what he was talking about.

"Rahman was never tasked to, nor did he as far as I know, engage in what he refers to as a 'create and capture' methodology," Hoban wrote.

Rahman allowed the AP to review months of text messages with Hoban from January to September 2012. After Hoban's filing in federal court in Manhattan, Rahman did not respond to messages for comment from AP.

The different accounts of Rahman's activities are significant. Taken with the NYPD's use of plainclothes detectives assigned to the Demographics Unit to catalog Muslim business and to eavesdrop on conversations, civil rights lawyers say Rahman's tactics show the NYPD is violating court-imposed rules about what files it can keep on activities protected by the First Amendment.

The NYPD strongly denies that, and Hoban's affidavit is central to their defense.

The NYPD's court papers also reveal for the first time the scope of the monitoring by its Demographics Unit, now called the Zone Assessment Unit. In the last three years, the unit has filed more than 4,200 reports, or about four per day.

The civil rights lawyers want a federal judge to appoint an outside monitor to oversee the NYPD's intelligence-gathering operations, which the police department is strongly resisting.