Golden claims not to support mosque spying, but letter says otherwise

Golden claims not to support mosque spying, but letter says otherwise
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

State Sen. Marty Golden is all for spying on mosques — except when he’s not.

The lawmaker declared his opposition to the surveillance of mosques in front of a mostly Middle Eastern audience at a candidate forum last week — a year almost to the day after applauding Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s counter-terrorism efforts, including planting informants inside houses of worship.

“The police should not be spying on churches, mosques, or synagogues,” said the five-term incumbent during the Oct. 13 assembly at PS 170 hosted by the Arab-American Association of New York.

Golden (R–Bay Ridge), a retired New York City police officer who is endorsed by three different police unions, said Kelly should apologize to Muslim New Yorkers if proof arose that he authorized the scrutiny, although he was quick to say he didn’t know of an instance where that had occurred.

Yet last October, Golden co-signed a letter that Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Borough Park) and several other pols fired off to Kelly lauding the police department’s vigilance on terror-related matters.

“Although many of the reports have been critical of the NYPD’s tactics, we write to you today to applaud you and the NYPD for using all means at your disposal to prevent another terrorist attack like 9-11,” the letter stated. “We are safer because of the carefully-conceived and well-placed infrastructure of cameras and counter-terrorism officers located throughout the city.”

Golden left after making his comments, but his Democratic opponent Andrew Gounardes pounced on them when it was his turn to speak, accusing the veteran politician of flip-flopping.

“If the senator has changed his position, I applaud him,” said Gounardes, who says he is against the surveillance of mosques.

Golden’s camp rejected Gounardes’s claims, and said that Golden supported NYPD’s efforts, if there was just cause.

“Our opponent’s claim that we are changing our position is just plain fantasy,” said campaign manager Jeffrey Kraus. “If that probable cause leads them to a house of worship, then they have a responsibility to protect Americans.”

The letter, however, doesn’t mention probable cause — a legal standard for justifying police searches and seizures — and doesn’t ask police to refrain from monitoring any establishment.

“We encourage you to investigate any church, synagogue, or business, which may pose a threat to the safety and well-being of our society,” the document continues. “Nothing should deter or discourage you in your quest to eradicate terrorism.”

Aramica Arabic newspaper publisher Antoine Faisal, who attended the forum, said he was appalled at what he viewed as Golden talking out of both sides of his mouth.

“I was extremely dismayed by his arrogance and lack of honesty to the community,” he said.

But Golden chief-of-staff Jerry Kassar came to the senator’s defense in his weekly “Common Sense” column in the Home Reporter newspaper, declaring that the Hikind-Golden letter in no way endorsed spying on mosques.

“The letter said nothing of the sort,” Kassar wrote, though he didn’t include any quotes from the document or explain what he believed it really said.

Kassar did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman