State Sen. Marty Golden’s re-election bid is turning into a poorly written spy thriller.
The five-term incumbent who received a political black eye last week for slamming the NYPD’s surveillance of city mosques after he signed a letter praising the practice continued to fight accusations that he flip-flopped on the issue on Friday — claiming that the controversial letter he put his name to a year ago never contained the word “spying.”
“I haven’t seen the word spying anywhere in this letter,” Golden told NY1’s Errol Louis during a televised debate against opponent Andrew Gounardes. “We are not saying they should go into mosques and just start spying on people, but only when they have reasonable suspicion leading onto probable cause.”
Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — who’s received endorsements from nearly all of the major police unions — told a mostly Middle Eastern audience attending an Arab-American Association of New York meeting earlier this month that the NYPD shouldn’t be conducting surveillance on any house of worship.
“The police should not be spying on churches, mosques or synagogues,” the Senator said, adding that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly should apologize to Muslim New Yorkers if proof arose that he authorized the scrutiny.
Yet, a year earlier, he signed a letter lauding the police’s surveillance of city mosques amid reports that the NYPD kept several Muslim businesses and houses of worship under surveillance and planted officers inside them.
“We write to you today to applaud you and the NYPD for using all the means at your disposal to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11 from occurring,” reads the letter, which is addressed to Commissioner Kelly, and which Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park) and several other elected officials co-signed. “We admire you for going to precisely the source of the problem. Nothing should deter or discourage you in your quest to eradicate terrorism.”
Golden claims he has always supported infiltrations into houses of worship if police had reasonable suspicion, the legal standard for detaining a person, or probable cause — a stronger threshold for justifying arrest and seizures.
He’s correct that the word “spying” doesn’t appear anywhere in the letter, yet neither do the phrases “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause.”
Gounardes lambasted Golden of flip-flopping and for signing the letter even though mosque leaders accused the NYPD of keeping Muslim houses of worship under surveillance without any justification.
“This letter came on the heels of reports that revealed the police were spying on mosques and bookstores and cafes without reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” Gounardes said during the NY1 debate, noting that the program had failed to foil any attacks or turn up any leads to terrorist cells. “If they have evidence of a conspiracy to commit a crime, then absolutely they should go in there. But if we are going to spy on people while they are in a mosque praying or in a cafe or buying books because they are typecast into a certain profile, that violates the Constitution.”
But Golden quickly pounced on Gounardes’s remarks, accusing his 27-year-old challenger of aping his stance on the issue.
“He takes the same stance I do,” Golden said.