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NY cops eavesdrop on Urdu, Bengali speakers

August 29, 2012 15:24 IST

With memories of the 9/11 attacks etched in the psyche of New Yorkers, city police say they give particular attention to Urdu and Bengali speakers when they eavesdrop in restaurants and stores to gather information on terrorists.

Commanding officer of the New York Police Department's elite intelligence division Thomas Galati said he has keen interest in Urdu-speaking New Yorkers.

"I'm seeing Urdu," Assistant Chief Galati said of the data generated by his eight-person demographics unit, which has eavesdropped on thousands of conversations between Muslims in restaurants and stores in New York City and New Jersey and on Long Island.

"I'm using that information for me to determine that this would be a kind of place that a terrorist would be comfortable in."

"A potential terrorist could hide in here," Galati was quoted as saying by the New York Times. "Most Urdu speakers would be of concern."

Nearly 80,000 New Yorkers, mostly of Pakistani and Indian descent, speak Urdu.

Galati also turned to those New Yorkers -- perhaps another 20,000 or 30,000 -- who speak Bengali.

Galati said that those who speak Bengali would also get the same attention from city police officials.

"The fact that they are speaking Bengali is a factor I would want to know," he said, adding that the information was used solely to be able to determine where "I should face a threat of a terrorist and that terrorist is Bengali."

Galati, however, said that compiling of Urdu-and Bengali-and Arabic-language hangouts and eavesdropping had not resulted in tips about potential terrorist plots.

 "I could tell you that I have never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a demographics report," Galati was quoted as saying by the paper.

Top police officials say that the 9/11 Commission found that six of the 2001 attackers lived in Paterson, New Jersey as that city had an Arabic-speaking community.

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