NEW YORK – A celebrated police anti-terrorism cyber unit became a beehive of anti-Muslim rhetoric after a city consultant unleashed hundreds of hateful e-mails saying Muslims and Arabs were all potential terrorists, a unit member said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The Department of Correction lieutenant, listed as John Doe Anti-Terrorism Officer on the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, said he was subjected to a hostile work environment, great emotional anguish, public humiliation and illegal retaliation.
The Egyptian-born man asked for unspecified damages, saying he had suffered severe emotional distress, mental anguish, depression, physical injuries, illness, loss of pay and benefits and loss of advancement opportunities as a member of the elite anti-terror unit.
The man, described in the lawsuit as "a proud Arab-American, a practicing Muslim and a patriot," blamed the city for failing to respond to his repeated complaints about the contractor, who was alleged to have sent e-mails saying "Burning the hate-filled Koran should be viewed as a public service at the least" and "Without Islam, there wouldn't be any Islamic terror."
He said the hateful rhetoric, unchecked by supervisors, infected the workplace, where other employees felt comfortable making anti-Muslim comments and jokes and where a high-ranking police official thought it was OK to say, "All Arabs are animals."
A city law office spokeswoman, Connie Pankratz, said city attorneys were aware of the case and were reviewing the papers Tuesday.
The police department said it immediately blocked an e-mail account when it became aware of a complaint about the content of e-mail "sent by an individual not employed by the department."
"We took immediate action to block his e-mails, followed by a cease and desist letter to the individual and his employer, a consulting firm," the police department's chief spokesman, Paul Browne, said in a statement.
The lawsuit said the lieutenant was awarded a certificate of outstanding duty in October 2001 for his "heroic efforts following the World Trade Center disaster" and that he played a primary role in launching the cyber unit of the New York Police Department's intelligence division, where he is assigned a top-level security clearance and works undercover to protect his safety.
According to the lawsuit, the lieutenant believed he was living the American dream as he identified terrorist threats to the city two decades after arriving in the United States and more than a decade after gaining citizenship in 1990.