In few but substantial ways, the tumultuous journey of 2016 is ending just as it began. For Muslims, the potential threat of the Muslim registry proposed by President-elect Trump has not only been looming, but has magnified significantly. His pledge to surveil the Muslim-American community bolstered much of his presidential campaign and its implementation remains a key question as we approach Inauguration Day.
Rep. of New York, Peter King, recently urged Trump to enforce “a program similar to what Commissioner Kelly did,” referencing a five-year effort by ex-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly that was implemented after 9/11.
The program put into place patrols in Muslim communities across the Tri-State Area. During this time, Kelly also oversaw the composite of infringing and profiling attempts, from eavesdropping on conversations to sending undercover officers into mosques, with a special emphasis on Muslim who changed their name after the attacks, imams in the communities, and Muslim-owned businesses.
The program found no terror leads.
King, however, remains insistent that this become the model for Trump’s Muslim surveillance program.
Of course, Kelly’s effort was not the first in monitoring American Muslims. Throughout the 90s, for example, police kept heavy watch on Arab-American communities in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview.
However, more modern developments are making today’s monitoring efforts much more dubious. As we near present day, Google, Apple, Uber and Microsoft all recently vowed to not help such efforts to create or provide data for a Muslim registry.
Oracle both declined to comment on the matter, as well as refused to comment whether the NSA is still it customer. This statement follows only a day after its CEO Safra Catz gave word that she would both join Trump’s transition team, as well as remain involved at Oracle.
Along with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet (AKA: parent of Google) CEO Larry Page, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, Catz attended the most high-profile possible tech summit at Trump Tower earlier this week.
Buzzfeed reached out to the participants following the summit to again ask about registry plans and commitments. They only garnered a response from Facebook and Microsoft, which came only after both of their initial insistences to comment off the record. They both denied any past, current and future efforts in helping to build or provide info for a Muslim database.
Still, it must be noted that the data does surely exist whether we provide it freely or not. It is embedded in our digital footprint despite how safe and subtle we are being. Constantly googling salaat, suhoor, or iftaar times might classify you to be more Muslim, for instance, as would Ubering to the mosque more often than others. Thus, when concerns like those are validated in even an anomalous instance like the Snowden leak, cause for concern spikes greatly.
According to the very 2013 Snowden ordeal, the surveilling and spying government entity of PRISM used data from Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo. Google, Yahoo, and Facebook denied cooperation, as did Apple, who further wound up in a larger dilemma following the San Bernardino shooting when the company combatted federal demands to unlock the phones of the shooters.
The tech industry continues to walk the fine line of security, promises and denial. Earlier this week, almost 1500 individual engineers of major tech firms around Silicon Valley vowed to never help build a Muslim registry. The firms, in addition to the individuals, are promising, and they seriously cannot let us down. Again, the data is more than abundantly and easily out there.
Trump has not outwardly denied wanting the registry. King claims Trump nodded positively when he offered his ideas about a registry, especially one based off of Kelly’s plans.
Perhaps 2017 will restore some faith or bolster some of our freedoms, but the chances still seem bleak. Our liberties going forward hinge on the sincerity of not only the government’s accountability but now, too, on that of the tech industry.