Rashed Mian

Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian

Jill Stein, Third-Party Candidate, Escorted Off Hofstra’s Campus

first presidential debate

Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, was escorted off Hofstra University’s campus Monday afternoon following an impromptu news conference with reporters, a Nassau County police spokesman told the Press.

Stein, who did not secure the requisite 15-percent polling threshold to get on the debate stage, had apparently gained access to the campus and was speaking with reporters when she was removed from the campus.

A police spokesman said Stein did not have proper credentials to be on Hofstra University’s campus. It was unclear how the long-shot presidential candidate entered Hofstra’s grounds, the police spokesman said.

On Twitter, Stein suggested she was authorized to be at Hofstra.

More than 1,000 police officers are providing security in and around Hofstra, and various checkpoints have been set up throughout the sprawling campus to avoid people without credentials from gaining access to secure areas.

According to her Twitter profile, Stein was escorted out and placed into a van, which was stopped twice by authorities.

Stein is expected to hold a demonstration outside the campus Monday evening along with several hundred of her supporters.

“The Commission on Presidential Debates is trying to exclude myself and Gary Johnson from the debate on Monday night on the campus of Hofstra University,” she wrote on a Facebook event page. “I’m going to be there anyway. The American public has a right to hear real debate about real issues affecting real people.”

Stein was famously arrested outside the gates of Hofstra during the 2012 presidential debate.

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

It’s Debate Day at Hofstra – Follow the Press for Updates

presidential debate

Good morning from Hofstra University, the site of the first of three presidential debates between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

The Long Island Press will be updating, Tweeting, Facebooking all day as the world awaits one of the most anticipated debates in history. According to several reports, this could be the most watched debate, ever, and rival Super Bowl ratings. And just in case you are thinking about keeping score, the first Obama-Romney debate four years ago drew more than 67 million viewers.

Monday evening’s contest of ideas comes as various polls indicate a tight head-to-head race. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday had the two in a “virtual dead heat.” Clinton holds a two-point advantage both in a two-way race and when the two third party candidates—Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein—are included in the poll.

In a separate survey conducted by Bloomberg, Clinton and Trump are tied coming into the race. But in that poll, Trump holds a two-point lead when Johnson and Stein are included.

Trump has essentially wiped out the significant lead Clinton generated after both nominating conventions this past summer, which highlights just how crucial Monday night’s debate will be for the two candidates.

Given how unusual this presidential campaign has been—dating back to the beginning of the primaries—nobody knows quite what to expect, especially from Trump who has made several inflammatory remarks about various religious and ethnic groups. Despite denigrating Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals,” suggesting a US-born judge with Mexican heritage should be disqualified from overseeing a Trump University lawsuit, calling for the complete ban of non-US Muslims from coming into the country, Trump has been undeterred. He has successfully built up a solid core of support, most notably from working-class white Americans.

Clinton remains mired in a controversy over her handling of a personal email server while she was U.S. Secretary of State and has been unable to quell concerns that she’s untrustworthy. Clinton recently had to walk back her own controversial comments about half of Trump supporters being “deplorables” for exhibiting misogynistic, racist and sexist views. Clinton later apologized.

Both candidates come into the race as the most disliked presidential nominees in history.

So, what do you need to know about the debate?

The debate from Hofstra University kicks off on 9 p.m. and will be televised live on all major networks, plus cable news networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Also, both Facebook and Twitter will be airing the debate live on their platforms.

Lester Holt of NBC News will serve as moderator and he too will fall under a microscope to see whether he challenges both candidates for misleading or completely false comments. Moderators don’t typically fact-check candidates on the spot, preferring to let the candidates correct purported mistruths themselves. But after Matt Lauer’s widely ridiculed town hall-style event in which he was accused of being caught flat-footed on some of Trump’s claims, Holt will be scrutinized to see how aggressive he is in addressing any false claims.

As security goes, Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner last week said this would the most “significant security event” in three decades in the county.

Police have closed several major roadways in and around Hofstra. Also more than 1,000 officers from various law enforcement agencies will be on hand to provide security inside the debate area, the campus and the perimeter—where officials have prepared for potential largescale protests. Krumpter said the department has prepared for upwards of 10,000 protesters.

Refer to our previous coverage for information regarding prohibited items, road closures, and the debate format.

Happy debating, everybody!

Snowden Advocacy & Manning Isolation Underscore Whistleblower Risks

Bradley Manning Trial
Sketch of Pfc. Bradley Manning Trial Courtesy of Deb Van Poolen, (www.debvanpoolen.com)

Although exiled in Russia, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and a team of supporters have been vigorously advocating for a presidential pardon under the premise that his leaks have led to surveillance reforms and sparked important discussions about government intrusion.

At the same time, another whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, remains incarcerated in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas after she was convicted of leaking classified documents related to the Afghan and Iraq war. This week, she was ordered to serve 14 days in solitary confinement related to a suicide attempt this summer.

Snowden may very well be the most recognized whistleblower in history given 2014’s Oscar-winning documentary Citzenfour, the recently released biopic Snowden by Oliver Stone, and his larger-than-life persona since exposing the United State’s global mass surveillance.

By being granted temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden has thus far escaped prosecution, unlike Manning—yet both plights underscore the inherent risks of sounding the whistle on perceived government abuses in the United States.

Related: The Controversial Truth Behind America’s Never-Ending War

Manning was convicted more than two years ago under the Espionage Act—a World War I-era law intended to prosecute spies—for passing along 700,000 emails to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while a private in the US Army. The cache also included footage from an US Apache helicopter that documented American service members gunning down two journalists mistaken for enemy combatants. Manning, prosecuted at the time as Bradley Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Immediately afterward, Manning revealed that she identified as a woman and expressed a desire to undergo gender reassignment surgery. After a lengthy battle with military officials and a five-day hunger strike, the military in September approved the operation.

But Manning’s situation turned grave earlier this year when she attempted suicide. Manning was notified of potential disciplinary actions for the suicide attempt, and the prison followed through Thursday, when a three-member disciplinary board found her guilty of “conduct which threatens”—related to the suicide attempt—and having “prohibited property” for being found with an unmarked copy of a book about the hacking collective Anonymous.

It took the board 30 minutes to issue its decision following a four-hour hearing in which Manning was prohibited from having a lawyer present.

Manning will first serve seven days of solitary confinement at an undetermined date. The remainder of the sentence will only be served if Manning is found guilty of other discretions in the future.

Manning has 15 days to appeal.

In a statement attributed to Manning, she said: “I am feeling hurt. I am feeling lonely. I am embarrassed by the decision. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Manning appeared to be in higher spirits earlier this month when her gender reassignment surgery was approved.

“This is all I wanted—for them to let me be me,” she said at the time.

Although Manning has the permission from the military to undergo the operation, she is still obligated to follow male hair length standards enforced by the prison.

Manning’s psychologist recommended the surgery this past April. Her suicide attempt came in July and then she commenced a hunger strike on Sept. 9.

Next for her is solitary confinement—which the United Nations’ expert on torture in 2011 said should be banned in all countries because “severe mental pain or suffering” could amount to “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” when utilized.

Manning’s lawyers in May officially appealed her 35-year sentence, calling her punishment “grossly unfair and unprecedented.”

So, as human rights groups, such as the ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and noted celebrities and writers advocate for Snowden’s pardon, Manning will soon be moved to a solitary confinement cell.

(Featured photo: Sketch of then-Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial Courtesy of Deb Van Poolen)

Security Top Priority as Hofstra Presidential Debate Nears

Hoftra Presidential Debate

Law enforcement is planning to drop a safety net around Hofstra University for next week’s presidential debate, which Nassau County police’s top cop called the most “significant security event” the county has hosted in decades.

During a press conference at Hofstra University Wednesday, Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said at least a half-dozen law enforcement agencies have allocated manpower and other resources for the event. In total, more than a 1,000 cops are expected to flood the debate area.

With the eyes of the nation focusing on Hofstra next Monday, county officials said they’re not taking anything for granted.

“This election is very unique, and first and foremost you look at the two candidates,” Krumpter said, flanked by police brass. “This is a divisive election; it’s a lot of inflammatory conduct in this election.

“You look at the last year in this country and the world as a whole, the number of terrorist events as well as the direct assaults on law enforcement…that’s the big difference today,” he added.


Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said there are no specific threats to the county, adding, “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

He said nearby residents should prepare to be inconvenienced by road closures and to plan for alternate routes, suggesting motorists avoid the area entirely.

Hofstra University was a late addition to the presidential debate series. Selected first as an alternate location, Hofstra was the Committee on Presidential Debates’ pick to replace Wright University in Ohio, which backed out in July due to security issues and budgetary concerns. That left Nassau County—and Hofstra—a little more than two months to plan for the first of three presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

RELATED: Presidential Debate At Hofstra: Moderator, Format & Other Details

Although officials didn’t have an entire year to devote to the debate, which would’ve been the case had Hofstra initially received a nod, the county said its past experience has been invaluable.

The university hosted presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Come Monday, it’ll have the distinction of being the first-ever university to host three consecutive presidential debates.

“It’s a whole lot easier to build on what we know and what we already learned, even though the dynamic today is significantly more complicated,” Krumpter said.

Nassau estimates the cost of policing and other county efforts to be upwards of $2 million.


The county is preparing for an excess of 10,000 demonstrators to flood the nearby area on debate day.

Police have designated a portion of Hempstead Turnpike and Hofstra’s south campus parking lots as “Free Speech” zones.

Nassau police is following its script from last spring’s Trump rally in Bethpage, which attracted several hundred protesters. Aware of previous altercations between Trump supporters and those who abhor his proposals, the department made sure to segregate the opposing voices. They plan to do the same thing during the debate, Krumpter said.

“Nassau County Police Department will not tolerate any violations of law,” Krumpter said. “But we’ll do everything we can to protect people’s rights for free speech.”


Animals other than service/guide dogs
Back Packs
Bags and signs exceeding size restrictions
Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
Glass, thermal, or metal containers
Laser pointers
Mace/Pepper spray
Selfie sticks
Supports for signs and placards
Toy guns
Weapons of any kind
Any other item determined to be a potential hazard


From 5 a.m. until midnight:

Charles Lindberg Boulevard and Earl Ovington Boulevard will be closed.

From 11:30 a.m. through midnight:

Hempstead Turnpike will be closed to all traffic between Oak Street and Merrick Avenue by Eisenhower Park.

Oak Street will be closed from Hempstead Turnpike north to Westbury Boulevard.

Eastbound and westbound traffic in this area should use alternate routes such as Front Street, Old Country Road or Stewart Avenue.

Lawrence Street in Uniondale will be one-way northbound only from Hempstead Turnpike to Westbury Boulevard.

Courtenay Road in Hempstead will be one-way southbound from Hempstead Turnpike to Front Street.

No street parking will be permitted on both Lawrence Street and Courtenay Road on Monday, September 26th.

There will be no access to Hempstead Turnpike from Front Street. Residents and other local traffic only will be permitted.

The following streets will be one-way southbound for one block south of Hempstead Turnpike:

Manor Parkway
Marvin Avenue
Walton Avenue
Gilroy Avenue
Cunningham Avenue

Northport VA Officials: Vet Did Not Seek Treatment Prior to Suicide

Northport VA suicide

Northport Veterans Administration Medical Center officials appearing before a Congressional oversight committee Tuesday rejected claims that a 78-year-old U.S. Navy veteran was denied service before he committed suicide last month at the facility.

The determination was based upon a review of surveillance footage, emergency room records, and phone logs, officials told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Surveillance footage recorded the vet, Peter Kaisen, on the hospital’s grounds for 12 minutes on Sunday, Aug. 21, from the moment his vehicle entered the campus, Northport VAMC officials said. At no point did surveillance footage place the Islip man at the hospital’s Emergency Department, they claimed.

“Allegations that he was turned away from our Emergency Department are false,” said Dr. Joan E. McInerney, NY/NJ network director for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

There was also no indication that Kaisen attempted to sign in at the facility’s welcome desk, either, officials said. The only gap in surveillance was during the moments Kaisen was in an adjacent parking lot near a wooded area, where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Phillip C. Moschitta, Northport VAMC’s director, told seven committee members in attendance that there was “definitive” evidence to support the VA’s accounting of events. He said he’s awaiting a final report from the FBI, the lead agency that investigated Kaisen’s death.

The hospital’s account is in stark contrast to allegations made by two whistleblowers last month. The anonymous hospital workers told The New York Times that Kaisen was denied service that Sunday. The same report claimed Kaisen was frustrated that he was unable to see a mental health physician.

About 100 observers packed the Northport VAMC’s auditorium for the committee’s much-anticipated field hearing. Kaisen’s widow, Joan Kaisen, was also in attendance. Like a handful of people who insisted they be permitted to address the panel, Joan was rebuffed when committee members addressed her husband’s death.

While the hearing focused largely on Kaisen’s much-publicized suicide, Northport VAMC officials also discussed the closure of five operating rooms this spring due to a faulty HVAC system, alleged financial malfeasance associated with billing procedures, as well as the deaths of two other people linked to the hospital.

“Through the years, up until very recently, I continued to hear constituents in my district who have nothing but the best to say about the quality of care that they have received here at Northport VA,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Selden), who along with Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), is one of two Long Islanders on the committee. “It is over the course of the last few months that we started to receive an increase in feedback from individuals that resulted in some pretty serious allegations, which is why we’re here to get answers.”

RELATED: Long Island Vet’s Life of Devotion, Love & Sacrifice Ends With Tragic Questions

But Kaisen’s suicide took precedent.

Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) peppered VA officials with questions about emergency room sign-in procedures. At one point he produced a paper log that patients are required to fill out at the emergency wing’s welcome desk. Both Moschitta and McInerney said they were unaware of the specific sign-in procedures inside the Emergency Department.

“You still use paper like this here?” Miller inquired.

“Yes, there are some paper documents,” Moschitta responded.

“What happens if this gets thrown away?” Miller added, crumpling the paper in his hands to mimic its being discarded.

“You would still have the patient in front of you,” McInerney said.

“Unless they went to the parking lot,” Miller interjected, referring to Kaisen’s death.

Besides surveillance footage, there was also forensic evidence collected by investigators indicating how long Kaisen was in a specific area, Moschitta said.

“There are no breaks in the video,” he said, adding that video showed Kaisen passing the hospital’s checkpoint all the way until he parked his vehicle. The parking lot, however, is not equipped with surveillance cameras, he testified.

“So, it was physically impossible to go from the incident to the ED (Emergency Department),” he said of the 12 minutes Kaisen purportedly spent on the campus.

Moschitta, who declined to go into the specifics of Kaisen’s case, took offense to claims that his employees would intentionally spur a veteran.

“Our staff would never do something like that—that’s not our history,” he said. “It’s just very insulting to think that.” He believed the evidence will “set the record straight” that Kaisen was not turned away.

“Northport has a long history of providing excellent clinical and mental health at our main facility and our five community clinics,” McInerney added.

When questions turned to the operating room’s HVAC system’s problems that began in February, Moschitta apologized for failing to inform Long Island’s Congressional delegation, who read about the rust particles spewing from the vents in a Times article in May.

The hospital closed all five operating rooms in March for safety reasons and performed a temporary fix. Of the 154 procedures that were postponed due to the closures, 22 patients have yet to undergo operations, choosing instead to wait for the operating rooms to reopen, officials testified. All five operating rooms reopened in June.

“At no time, even when we had a discharge, was air quality below standard,” insisted Moschitta, who hired an outside company to analyze the air particles.

Moschitta told the House committee that a contract to permanently solve the HVAC issue will be finalized in the near future.

In addition, Moschitta vehemently denied claims that the Northport VAMC was profiting from an outreach program designed to bring former patients back into the fold.

“These encounters are not billable,” Moschitta testified, “so there’s no money generated…Clearly there was no fraud here.” The director said he welcomed an outside audit.

Such “falsehoods” do a disservice to veterans who “feel they’re coming to a place they can’t feel safe in,” Moschitta said. “That is why I’m very happy you’re here…We’ve got to clear the air. I don’t want any employee at this medical center, or any volunteer, or any patient to think anything less than we’re the best that there is for them.

“We always try to improve,” he added, “that’s our goal.”

Northport VAMC officials also addressed claims about the deaths of two other people associated with the facility. One was a veteran who worked on-site and whose death reportedly went unnoticed for three days. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office ruled out suicide and foul play. In the other incident, a patient who had been discharged died off campus, Moschitta said.

Afterward, Joan Kaisen said she was “very happy” with the proceedings, specifically with the amount of time devoted to her husband’s death.

“I think they’ve got a wide spectrum that they have to handle, but I feel good because he was one of the pinnacle points of this investigation,” she told reporters. “So that gives good solace to me and my family.”

Yet Kaisen’s family and friends remain skeptical that the vet would have made the trek from his Islip home to Northport VAMC only to end his life.

Tom Farley, his friend of 40 years, noted that Kaisen hadn’t been treated for mental illness and might have been unaware of the services the hospital offered.

“I’m very disappointed about the way they’re trying to say he was never here,” Farley said. “It was 12 minutes…[Moschitta] won’t actually answer how long that 12 minutes he was actually on film…In 12 minutes you can come in, try to get into the emergency room and leave. Twelve minutes is a long time.”

Williston Park Man Killed in Crash

A 58-year-old Williston Park man was killed when he crashed his car in in Garden City Park over the weekend.

Nassau County police said Thomas G. Saccende was driving a Nissan northbound on Herricks Road when his vehicle struck a traffic signal pole near the corner of Wilson Boulevard at 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

The victim was taken to Winthrop University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Third Squad detectives impounded the vehicle but found no apparent criminality.

New York City Bombing Suspect Captured, Reports Say

New York City bombing

The 28-year-old man wanted in connection with this weekend’s bombing in New York City and New Jersey has been apprehended.

Ahmad Khan Rahami of Elizabeth, N.J., was captured following a shootout with police in Linden, N.J., officials said Monday.

During the exchange of gunfire, one officer suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and another was struck in his bulletproof vest, officials said.

Television footage showed Rahami on a stretcher being escorted into an ambulance.

The manhunt and subsequent police-involved shooting was triggered by the release of a “Wanted” poster and newly deployed electronic messaging system Monday morning in which Rahami was identified as a person of interest.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said an afternoon press conference that investigators “directly linked” Rahami to devices in New York and New Jersey. He did not elaborate further.

“We will continue to investigate activity to ensure we completely understand Rahami’s social network,” Sweeney told reporters.

Authorities have yet to uncover motivations behind the twin explosions on Saturday, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror.”

A bar owner in Linden, N.J. reportedly spotted Rahami sleeping outside his establishment and called police. A firefight ensued, ending with Rahami’s apprehension and injuries to two officers.

Rahami was identified in surveillance footage taken near the Chelsea neighborhood where a bomb exploded in a dumpster Saturday night in Manhattan and injured 29 people.

That blast was preceded hours earlier by another explosion along the route of a 5-kilometer Marine Corps charity run in the Jersey Shore community of Seaside Park on Saturday morning. Authorities believe both bombings are connected.

Police in Rahami’s New Jersey hometown also discovered a backpack containing multiple bombs Sunday evening.

An alert was distributed to New York City residents’ cell phones Monday requesting information concerning Rahami’s whereabouts. The message warned Rahami would be armed and dangerous. Rahami is a US citizen who was born in Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 1988, officials said.

Police departments on Long Island have been on heightened alert ever since Saturday’s incident in Chelsea.

Both Nassau and Suffolk police have intensified their patrols and been in constant contact with federal, state and local partners.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority said commuters should expect a greater uniformed presence on subway and rail lines, including the Long Island Rail Road.

“Naturally we’re always on the lookout for incidents, and we always encourage folks to report,” LIRR spokesman Aaron Donavan said, adding the railroad has been on heightened state of alert since the attacks in Paris last year and the slayings at an Orlando nightclub this summer.

New York City bombing

In response to Saturday night’s bombing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed New York State police and the National Guard to deploy 1,000 additional uniformed officers to “high-profile locations” across the state, the governor’s office said.

“Protecting the safety of New Yorkers and our state’s visitors is priority number one,” Cuomo said on Sunday.

All 29 people injured in the attack suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The explosions in New Jersey and New York City also coincided with a mass stabbing inside a Minnesota mall that injured nine people. The self-declared Islamic State later reportedly claimed that the knife-armed attacker at the Crossroads Mall was a “soldier” of theirs. The man was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer.

Unlike the Minnesota incident, no known groups have taken responsibility for the weekend bombings in New Jersey and New York City.

There is “no evidence of an international terrorism connection with this incident,” Cuomo told reporters Sunday. “But it is very, very early in the investigation, and it is just starting.”

President Barack Obama, speaking in New York City on Monday ahead of his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, said the FBI is investigating the Minnesota mall stabbing as a “potential act of terrorism.”

“We see no connection between that incident and what happened in New York and New Jersey,” Obama said.

Obama’s remarks came just minutes before news trickled out regarding Rahami’s capture.

“They want to inspire fear in all of us and disrupt the way we live, to undermine our values and so even as we have to be vigilant and aggressive…We all have a role to play as citizens in making sure we don’t succumb to that fear,” Obama said. “That kind of toughness and resoluteness, and a recognition that neither individuals nor organizations like ISIL can ultimately undermine our way of life. That’s the kind of strength that makes me so proud to be an American. That’s the kind of strength that’s going to be absolutely critical…by showing those that want to do us harm that they will never beat us.”

Newly installed NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the investigation will broaden now that the chief suspect has been taken into custody.

“This case is very much active,” said O’Neill. “Now that we have this suspect in custody, the investigation can focus on other aspects such as whether this individual acted alone and what his motivations may have been.”

(Photo credit: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Plea for Tips, Peace After 2 Brentwood Teens Slain

Brentwood gangs
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini requested tips in the murder of two teens on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 (Long Island Press photo)

Suffolk County police urged tipsters to share information on who murdered two teenage girls in Brentwood this week while the victims’ families pleaded for an end to gang violence suspected to be involved.

Friends and family set up a makeshift memorial with candles and birthday balloons near where the bodies of Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens—who was slain the day before her 16th birthday—were found. Police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Both teens, who were beaten to death, were from Brentwood.

“This is an act of savagery in our community and we need to work together,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told reporters during a news conference Thursday in Brentwood. “These are some of the worst wounds I’ve seen.”

He offered no motive as to what led to the tragic slayings. The two girls, who were lifelong friends, died of blunt forced trauma, the commissioner said.

Mickens was discovered on Stahley Street, adjacent to a elementary school, on Tuesday evening. After receiving a tip, investigators found Cuevas’ body Wednesday evening nearby in the backyard of a home up against a fence in a wooded area off Ray Court. Cuevas was originally thought to be missing.

Sini said that area had been searched after Mickens’ body was found, but how extensively the wooded area was scrutinized he didn’t know. He acknowledged that Cuevas’ body should’ve been discovered earlier. That investigators initially missed her lifeless body, however, was “not for a lack of effort,” Sini said.

The police department had already reached out to community leaders and school officials, as well as federal law enforcement partners, he added.

As family, friends and strangers alike poured onto the street to offer condolences, Rob Mickens, Nisa’s father, thanked the community for their support. He grew emotional when considering what the perpetrators had taken from him.

“I’m supposed to walk my daughter down the aisle. They took that away,” he said. “I’m supposed to have a Sweet 16 dance with my daughter. They took that away.”

“We should not be here right now getting ready to put our babies into the grave,” Mickens added.

Mickens and Cuevas had been best friend since they day they met, finding joy on the basketball court, family members said. Last Christmas, they each bought dog tags individually engraved with the words “Ride” and “Die”—a testament to their bond.

Standing just feet from where her daughter’s body was found, Elizabeth Alvarado gave an impassioned plea for the violence to stop.

“How many more lives do they need to take?” she said, her voice cracking. “How much more blood do they really need to have on the street? I mean, my daughter’s blood is on the street, it’s stained right there.”

“When is it going to finish?”

Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on the slayings to call them at 631-852-6392 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All callers will remain confidential.

The Controversial Truth Behind America’s Never-Ending War

AUMF (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” – President Barack Obama, May 23, 2013.


S fighter jets and drones circled above a terror training camp in Somalia last March as scores of presumed militants celebrated a graduation ceremony.

Of immediate concern to US officials was what the alleged Al Shabaab militants planned to do next. Apparently in possession of evidence that trainees were plotting an attack on US troops and allies in the region, US officials decided a preemptive strike was in order.

After the dust settled, the Pentagon estimated that 150 alleged militants were killed—just like that.

That the United States targeted a camp in Somalia is not surprising. What later astonished watchdog groups, however, was the death toll. The London-based nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism classified these strikes as the deadliest ever recorded by the organization.

This recent military operation—a lethal combination of unmanned drones and piloted warplanes—is just one of countless missions that have been carried out against an amorphous array of terror groups and militants spanning more than a dozen countries since al Qaeda crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Lately, the most notorious target is the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

For 15 years, the United States has been waging a war not against a single nation but an enemy that has metastasized so rapidly most Americans would be excused for being unable to identify the US’s many post-Sept. 11 foes. That’s because what began as an initial response to al-Qaeda’s involvement has morphed into an open-ended conflict against myriad groups spread out across the Middle East and Africa, all in the name of the “War on Terror”—the longest battle in the nation’s history: 5,482 days and counting as of this publication. Over that period, 4,504 US soldiers have died in Iraq, and 2,384 US soldiers have perished in Afghanistan, according to icasualties.org, which tracks military conflict deaths. It has been costly in other ways, too. A Congressional Research Service study released in July 2014 estimated that US taxpayers have paid more than $1.6 trillion to wage it.

Yet Congress, the only branch of government empowered by the Constitution to declare war, has yet to hold a single vote on the Obama administration’s two-year-old assault on ISIS, nor for that matter, on the many attacks it’s directed against an array of militant groups around the globe. By contrast, the House Select Committee on Benghazi spent more than $7 million over two years investigating the embassy attack that killed four Americans.

Through its inaction, the Republican-dominated Congress—which has lambasted Obama for his alleged abuse of executive power on other issues, such as immigration and gun control—has all but endorsed Obama’s ISIS policy by granting him free reign to unilaterally bomb countries unrelated to the Sept. 11, 2001 aggression and openly engage in proxy wars.

Congress may not be prepared to act, but make no mistake, its silence is not going unnoticed.

On the fifteenth anniversary of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), the joint resolution which granted then-President George W. Bush the initial power to mobilize US Armed Forces against those responsible for destroying the World Trade Center, it is worth analyzing how the United States arrived at its current state of perpetual war.

“Of the issues which are not being discussed, this is one of the most important, because we are setting a precedent here for the next generation,” Bruce Ackerman, a noted Yale Law School professor and prolific author, tells the Press. “And shall the president unilaterally use force, and shall we depend on the wisdom of a single person to make war—this is what the American Revolution is about.”

An F/A-18D Hornet in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led military operation to destroy ISIS. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)



rom a 10-day span beginning in late August, the US bombed Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia; ISIS in Libya, Syria and Iraq; and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. If nothing else, the strikes—touted in press releases from US Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida and US Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany—provide a revealing, albeit limited, glimpse into US military deployments.

From Aug. 30 through Sept. 8 alone, American forces have conducted more than 120 strikes in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia, killing 15 alleged militants.

Dominating the news cycle in recent weeks, however, has been the acrimonious presidential horse race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, conspiracies regarding Clinton’s health, Trump’s unchallenged claims that he opposed the Iraq War (which he actually supported), and debates surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assumed bravado, which if you haven’t been paying attention (how could you not?), was provoked by Trump’s high praise of the former KGB master spy.

On the same day that Clinton’s falling ill during a 9/11 anniversary memorial event at Ground Zero made headlines around the world, U.S. Africa Command conducted four strikes against ISIS positions in Libya, bringing to 142 the number of air strikes since the US-led operation commenced Aug. 1.

What’s been absent from the coverage is this: The bombings in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen all stem from the AUMF vote on Sept. 14, 2001, three days after 9/11.

On that day, Congress voted 420-1 in favor of the law after rejecting an earlier version that would have given the president unprecedented powers “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.”

The approved 2001 AUMF stipulates:

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Prof. Ackerman believes Obama has so overstepped the 2001 authorization that his policies more closely resemble the initial AUMF that Congress rebuffed.

“President Bush might have made an unwise decision, might not, but he followed the law, both in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Ackerman, an admitted liberal, insists. “President Obama is not.”

Since Sept. 18, 2001 when Bush signed the joint resolution into law, the 2001 AUMF has been invoked to justify every action from borderless wars, ubiquitous drone strikes, indefinite detention of alleged militants, the extrajudicial killings of US citizens, domestic wiretapping and bombings of various organizations that didn’t even exist when terrorists flew two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and attempted to crash another into either the White House or US Capitol before a passengers’ revolt sent it plumetting into a field in Shanksville, Penn., on Sept. 11, 2001.

A decade-and-a-half later, the War on Terror has expanded dramatically, and along with it, the interpretation of the 2001 AUMF. Yet America is no closer to ending the War on Terror than when it began, and this current state of endless warfare is prompting serious questions about the legality of the ISIS war and whether safeguards are in place to prevent a single person—Obama, or his successors—from continuing America’s perpetual war.

There have been a few bipartisan efforts to repeal the 2001 AUMF and replace it with an ISIS-specific authorization, but such measures have failed.

Despite their inability to force a vote, the minority in Congress proposing change has been vocal.

“We have seen the US send more and more troops to Iraq and Syria, and Congressional leaders aren’t even batting an eye,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Ma.) at a press conference in the capitol this May.

“Make no mistake,” he continued, “we are expanding our military footprint in these conflicts. We are putting more Americans in harm’s way. We are spending unlimited amounts of taxpayer dollars…and we are engaged in endless wars that have no endgame in sight.”

“I am among those who do not agree that the AUMF…is a solid foundation,” added Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) as he called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to hold an ISIS AUMF vote. “To me, it’s crumbling; it’s not legally binding or standing in any respect.”

In June vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) drafted two amendments to an annual defense appropriation bill that would sunset the 2001 AUMF two years after the new administration takes office.

Similarly, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to oppose the 2001 AUMF, has introduced an amendment that would repeal the law 90 days after its defense funding expired. So far all efforts to persuade members to pass a new AUMF have failed.

Complicating matters is the Obama administration’s opinion that the 2001 AUMF provides legal authority for his war on ISIS. Since its outset on Aug. 8, 2014, this battle has cost $8.7 billion—an average of $12.1 million per day, according to the Congressional Research Service. The administration argues that fighting ISIS is covered by the AUMF’s mandate. But ISIS has not been affiliated with al Qaeda since 2014.

Despite the administration’s view that the 2001 AUMF, as well as a 2002 version—which gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq—can be applied to present-day threats, Obama proposed his own AUMF. But it didn’t take long for Republicans to criticize it as too restrictive and Democrats to argue that it’s overly broad. Even without it, the White House intends to bomb ISIS positions in Iraq, Syria and now, Libya.

While giving testimony March 2015, Obama administration officials told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a new authorization is not necessary to legally battle ISIS.

Essentially, a new AUMF would be a symbolic gesture, created simply for the purpose of showing a united front against ISIS, US Secretary of State John Kerry told committee members at the hearing.

“The President already has statutory authority to act against ISIL, but a clear and formal expression of your backing would dispel any doubt anywhere that Americans are united in this effort,” he explained.

For his part, Obama has repeatedly said he’d like Congress to sunset the 2001 AUMF eventually. But when he proposed his ISIS AUMF, he only stipulated that the 2002 version would be repealed, not its more controversial predecessor.

“Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense Institute in May 2013.

Obama added: “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.”

Since August 2014, three American service members have died fighting ISIS. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to hold a single vote, let alone a debate, on the merits of sending the nation’s soldiers to yet another war.

That’s the exact quagmire Rep. Barbara Lee was trying to avoid when the California Democratic Congresswoman delivered the lone vote opposing the 2001 AUMF 15 years ago.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) joins her colleagues at a bi-partisan press conference in May calling on Congress to repeal and pass a new authorization to use military force.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) joins her colleagues at a bi-partisan press conference in May calling on Congress to repeal and pass a new authorization to use military force.



itting at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, during a special memorial service on Sept. 14, 2001, she contemplated how she’d vote.

She had two choices: follow her gut and oppose the 2001 AUMF joint resolution or support the measure as a demonstration of American unity against terror.

As she considered her options, Lee listened as speakers honoring the national day of mourning held at the historic cathedral attempted to heal a wounded nation.

Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, found comfort in prayer. With the drumbeats of war sounding ever louder in the halls of Congress while the rubble at Ground Zero still smoldered, he remarked on the tough choice entrusted to America’s leaders.

“Let’s us now seek that assurance in prayer for the healing of our grief-stricken hearts, for the souls and the sacred memory of those who have been lost,” Baxter implored that day. “Let us also pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security. Wisdom of the grace of God that as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.”

It was as if he was speaking to Lee.

“That as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.”

“It was at that moment I said, ‘Yeah, you know, if we pass this resolution, there is no end in sight, and this could lead to wars everywhere in the world,’” Lee tells the Press.

That very same day, she went to the House floor and delivered the sole speech opposing the White House’s proposal.

“This unspeakable act on the United States has forced me, however, to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction,” an emotional Lee told fellow lawmakers. “September 11th changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. This is a very complex and complicated matter. Now this resolution will pass, although we all know that the president can wage a war even without it.

“However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint,” she continued. “Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ‘Let us step back for a moment, let’s just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.’ Now I have agonized over this vote, but I came to grips with it today, and I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful memorial service. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said: `As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.’”

The resolution passed 420-1 on Sept. 14. Four days later President Bush signed it into law.

Following her vote, a few of Lee’s colleagues wrapped their arms around her as a show of support. Sure, they disagreed with her decision, but they respected her for following her convictions.

“It was difficult,” Lee acknowledges in a recent phone interview. “It had nothing to do with my anger and belief that we needed to bring those who perpetrated this horrific attack to justice.” Lee did not personally lose anyone on 9/11, but her chief of staff’s cousin was killed when Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville.

“I mulled over it. It was like, ‘Okay, is it easier to say: Go along with the flow and be part of the unified response? Or to really try to uphold my Constitutional duty, and say, ‘Let’s step back for a minute and make a rational decision?’” she continues. “Let’s determine how to react without leading to more terror, more violence, more war. Three days after 9/11, that was not the time to do this.”

Years later Lee remains convinced she made the right decision. She cites a report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which notes that both presidents Bush and Obama have publicly referenced the AUMF at least 37 times to justify US military action.

The same report found that the AUMF has been applied to various levels of military action in 13 countries: the more well-known battlegrounds of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—as well as those that don’t necessarily provoke immediate connections to the War on Terror—Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Georgia and the Philippines.

As the war has progressed and the tactics have changed, so too has the executive branch’s interpretation of the law.

The Congressional Research Service discovered three varying interpretations of the 2001 AUMF from Bush and Obama administration officials prior to the war on ISIS. The legal understanding evolved from “primarily an authorization to enter into and prosecute an armed conflict against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan” to use force outside Afghanistan on specific individual targets when a “higher standard of threat” was posed. The interpretation was later defined so broadly that the AUMF was understood to include forces “associated” with al Qaeda and the Taliban, the report noted.

Screengrab from the Congressional Research Service's 2015 on the 2001 AUMF's continued application.
Screengrab from the Congressional Research Service’s 2015 on the 2001 AUMF’s continued application.

The CRS report does not paint the whole portrait of how the 2001 AUMF has impacted policy-making because its mandate was limited to only examining unclassified reports prepared for Congress.

One such operation not made public until the Obama administration was pressured by a federal court to reveal its so-called “Drone Memo” was a drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. The strike killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US citizen-turned-radical cleric and alleged leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Before Al-Awlaki could be assassinated, the Obama administration made sure it had legal authority to act.

Gen. David Barron, then the acting assistant attorney general, argued in the July 16, 2010 memo that the AUMF “clearly” authorized the president to use “necessary and appropriate” force against al Qaeda, which, Barron determined, encompassed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“[A] decision-maker could reasonably conclude that the AQAP forces of which [Al-Awlaki] is a leader are ‘associated with’ [al Qaeda] forces for purposes of the AUMF,” the memo reads.

Thus, that day Al-Awlaki’s death warrant was essentially sealed.

The same strike also killed Samir Khan, an al-Qaeda propagandist who spent his teenage years on Long Island in Westbury, where he wrote for his school newspaper. Government officials have said that Khan was a bystander and was not targeted by the United States.

A redacted version of the memo only came to light after The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union sued for its release.

“And shall the president unilaterally use force, and shall we depend on the wisdom of a single person to make war—this is what the American Revolution is about.”

The memo offered a rare peek into the US’s drone war, including what many human rights groups and journalists had long reported: the CIA’s direct role in running the government’s program.

Drone strikes have been the hallmark of the Obama administration—and the 2001 AUMF has served as legal authority for perpetrating strikes outside of war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 424 strikes conducted in Pakistan since 2004, 373 have been carried about by the Obama administration, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. Drone strikes have also been responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, according to the BIJ. US officials recently claimed that drone operations have killed between 64 to 116 civilians, prompting criticism that the government was low-balling the civilian death toll.

“[The 2001 AUMF]’s so broad that it’s being used for military action and other forms of military activity…that has nothing to do with 9/11,” Lee says.

Lee may have been alone on Sept. 14, 2001, when she voted against the 2001 AUMF, but she’s not acting solo anymore.




ack in May, U.S. Army Captain Nathan Smith sued President Obama on the grounds that the ISIS war is illegal.

The case is still making its way through the courts, but the fact that a deployed service member is suing his commander-and-chief has given new momentum to the cause.

Smith, who joined the Army in 2010, is by no means a pacifist. Fighting ISIS is the right thing to do, he insists, but he’s just not sure that what he’s being commanded to do is legal under the Constitution.

Smith’s challenge centers around the 1973 War Powers Resolution enacted after the Vietnam War to ensure that future presidents do not usurp Congress’ authority. The resolution stipulates that unless Congress authorizes war within 30 days, the president has up to 60 days to pull armed forces out of a conflict zone.

Despite Congress’ failure to decide whether the United States should fight ISIS, nearly 4,400 troops have been deployed to Iraq and Syria. Smith is stationed at the command center in Kuwait at the center of the war on ISIS.

“He takes his obligation to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States seriously,” says Ackerman, the Yale professor. “And what does he have? A set of informal remarks attributed to one or another administration source which shift over time.”

Smith got in touch with Ackerman after he read the professor’s Aug. 25, 2015 article in The Atlantic arguing that, given Congress’ acquiescence, perhaps the courts could intervene. But the only piece missing from that equation was someone who would have standing to sue: a US soldier.

“Existing case law establishes that individual soldiers can go to court if they are ordered into a combat zone to fight a war that they believe unconstitutional,” Ackerman says.

Enter Smith.

“We’re at a crucial turning point,” Ackerman observes. “President Obama himself has repeatedly stated that it’s [the 2001 AUMF] obsolete and the like, but he just keeps on using it. This lawsuit marks a critical turning point. If the courts don’t take this case seriously and actually take the law seriously, but stay on the sidelines, I have no doubt that the next president, whoever he or she may be, will use President Obama’s precedent as the basis for unilateral lawmaking, whenever he or she—in good faith—believes it will deter attacks on the United States.”

The current debate has little to do with whether fighting bloodthirsty death cults like ISIS is justified, though some people might disagree with the tactics. Of concern is whether the 2001 AUMF has given the executive branch carte blanche to wage war in America’s name wherever—and however—the president sees fit.

The inherent issue with the AUMF is that it was formed in the wake of 9/11, when the threat posed to the nation was al Qaeda and the Taliban. None of the emerging terror groups—al Shabaab, AQAB and ISIS—had a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. To resolve this discrepancy, Obama administration officials argue that such groups are judged based on their current and historical activities. Those who would like to see a new authorization to combat ISIS insist that passing a measure specifically targeting a certain group would resolve the ambiguity.

“The determination that a particular group is an ‘associated force’ is made at the most senior levels of the U.S. government, following reviews by senior government lawyers and informed by departments and agencies with relevant expertise and institutional roles, including all-source intelligence from the U.S. intelligence community,” said Stephen W. Preston, general counsel to the Department of Defense, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2014.

Simply sharing the same beliefs as al Qaeda, he asserted, is not enough to deem a group an “associated force.”

Preston delivered his remarks prior to the administration’s bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and later in Syria. At the time, the law was being applied to military operations in Afghanistan and the continued detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. AUMF had also been invoked to combat AQAP in Yemen and for capture-or-kill operations in places like Somalia and Libya.

Perhaps the most dramatic capture mission occurred in October 2013 in Libya, when US Special Forces dragged Abu Anas al Libi, one of the FBI’s most wanted men, out of his car and took him into US custody. Al Libi, who had a $5-million reward on his head, had been indicted in federal court in 2000 for allegedly planning several US embassy bombings that killed more than 200 people. Al Libi, who had been in poor health, died while awaiting trial in New York.

Such is the scope of the 2001 AUMF that the United States can send special forces into a country it is not in direct hostilities with and capture a suspected terrorist.

Like Yale’s Ackerman, Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif., has been critical of Obama’s interpretation of the 2001 AUMF.

“Only Congress has the Constitutional power to declare war,” Cohn tells the Press. “Then the president can lawfully wage war. But the UN Charter prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense. So even if Congress declares war, it could be illegal under the UN Charter if not carried out in self-defense.”

So if Congress is so bullish about fighting ISIS, why not then approve one of the several authorization versions that have been proposed and put an end to the debate about the scope of the executive powers?

“We should,” says Lee. “The president sent one over over a year and a half ago. I don’t support what he sent over because it didn’t repeal the 2001 authorization, but we should at least try to amend it, debate, and members should vote up or down.”

Days before the anniversary of the 2001 AUMF vote, Rep. Lee once again took to the House floor to deliver a harsh rebuke of Congress.

“The American people and Congress deserve to know what’s being done in their name. Sadly Congress has been missing in action,” she said. “It’s unacceptable that our brave servicemen and women are facing snipers and mortar rounds, but Congress can’t even muster the courage to debate the war that we are asking them now to continue to fight—it’s just plain wrong.”

“There is a consensus in Congress that we should be fighting the war,” adds Ackerman. “It’s just that all things considered, nobody wants to take the blame if it fails. [But] that’s just what the Constitution demands.”

And so America’s longest war rages on.

(Featured photo credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Study Highlights Election-Year Islamophobia’s Negative Impact On Muslims


A majority of Muslim Americans feel unsafe in the United States due to a divisive presidential election that, they report, has negatively impacted their lives, according to the preliminary results of a recent study conducted by Adelphi Unversity.

Researchers assessed the impact of Islamophobia on the Muslim American community during the corrosive campaign for the White House. The results, although troubling, were not surprising, say watchdogs, given the rancorous rhetoric demonizing Muslim Americans, their role in society, and how their culture clashes with purported mainstream American values.

Though the study is still incomplete, preliminary results were shared with the Long Island Press prior to its future publication in an academic journal. More than 600 Muslim Americans—43 percent who were US-born—have participated in the analysis since July. The final tally should reach around 900 participants, researchers say.

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The early findings come two months before voters hit the polls for a presidential election featuring a Republican candidate who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from entering the United States as well as eavesdropping on American mosques. The implication being that Muslims are dangerous and that mass surveillance must be implemented in order to protect the country from them. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Muslims have argued that violence is abhorrent and anathema to their religion, and those who commit acts of violence in Islam’s name do not represent the beliefs of 1.6 billion followers worldwide.

Among the more disturbing of the study’s discoveries: 50 percent of respondents said they feel unsafe; nearly two-thirds reported experiencing discrimination in the past year; and perhaps most noteworthy, 93 percent reported that election-year Islamophobia had “some to extreme” negative impact on theirs and their families’ lives.

Dr. Wahiba Abu-Ras, an associate professor of social work at Adelphi University in Garden City, conducted the study with Zulema Suarez, her colleague from Cappella University in Minneapolis, Minn. Aside from analyzing the real-life implications of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, Abu-Ras said that she hopes the completed study can be used to educate policymakers to make more informed decisions when addressing the needs of the Muslim American community.

“Watching my kids listening to the news, asking them how they feel about it, has really driven me to address the Islamophobia and how this may impact [Muslims] in this country,” Abu-Ras told the Press.

Researchers focused on Islamophobia’s impact on communities rather than the scale of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States today.

A separate study conducted jointly by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and U.C. Berkeley Center for Race and Gender released earlier this year found that the number of mosque attacks in the United States quadrupled between 2014 and 2015. The same survey found that at least 74 groups specialize in promoting anti-Islam sentiment—nearly half of which collectively made $205 million in revenue.

The Adelphi study was more personal. It found:

  • Nearly all respondents reported that Islamophobia had some to severe impact on the Muslim Community;
  • 17 percent reported feeling “extremely to very safe” being a Muslim in the US, 36 percent said they feel extremely unsafe and 47 percent feel somewhat safe;
  • 62 percent said they feel the need to prove they are Americans;
  • 56 percent said they experienced their loyalty being questioned;
  • 89 percent said they feel that their lives have less value.

The majority of participants (60 percent) also shared that their experience with Islamophobia within the last month of their responding to the survey was “much worse” than the previous year.

Abu-Ras said she was not surprised by the preliminary findings, particularly from the respondents who reported experiencing negativity associated with the general election.

“During 9/11, I believed people were discriminating against Muslims, and Islamophobia was still there, but [Islamophobia] was not as obvious as now,” Abu-Ras said.

Anti-Islam rhetoric, she said, is no longer playing out behind closed doors.

“It’s explicit, not implicit anymore,” she said.

Corey Saylor, director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia at CAIR, was similarly unsurprised when told of the study’s preliminary findings.

Saylor has been tracking anti-Islam sentiment for years. But starting in 2014 and continuing in 2015, he observed an uptick in a “rise in hostility” toward Muslims. The antagonistic behavior, he explained, peaked in November and December of last year, which coincided with the slayings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Donald Trump’s subsequent proposal to ban all non-US Muslims from entering the country. In all of 2015 there had been 78 reported attacks on US mosques, but 33 such incidents occurred within that two-month span, according to a report released by CAIR in June.

“At this point, enough people know someone who has been objected to, at the very least, verbal abuse because of their faith,” Saylor said, adding that a “sense of insecurity when you go outside of your home is unfortunately more prevalent in the community than it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

Some of the respondents in the Adelphi study reported feeling afraid of even socializing in public out of concern for their safety. Others said they deny their identity in public, while some parents have taken the drastic step of changing their children’s names.

Most troubling of all is how people are coping with the problems facing the community, Abu-Ras noted. By hiding in the shadows, Muslim Americans are avoiding addressing the impact Islamophobia has had on their lives, she said. She hopes that the study will have an impact on policymakers.

“There is a lot of policy that we can change,” Abu-Ras said. “Freedom of speech is not about cursing others; freedom of speech is about respecting others.”

She compared what Muslim Americans are living through to the LGBT community’s experience in the United States.

“I believe hiding in the closet for Muslims, not to show their faith, it really may impact our mental health and psychological well-being,” Abu-Ras said.

Researchers hope to receive responses from several hundred more participants before November, when the nation finally heads to the polls and decides between two presidential candidates whose views on Islam are poles apart.

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