The New York Police Department (NYPD) has been recruiting Muslims to act as informants and eavesdrop on Muslim cafes, restaurants, barber shops, gyms and mosques since 9/11.

According to The New York Times, former and present NYPD officials say that the NYPD's Citywide Debriefing Team has conducted hundreds of interviews with Muslims in New York City.

"We were looking for people who could provide visibility into the world of terrorism," John Miller, deputy commissioner in charge of the NYPD Intelligence Division, told The New York Times. "You don't get information without talking to people."

While Miller claims the interviews were voluntary, Muslim immigrants say they felt pressured by the police to spy on their own people.

Bayjan Abrahimi, a food cart vendor from Afghanistan arrested in 2009 over a parking ticket, says he was asked by police "about Al Qaeda, do you know these people?"

Abrahimi says the NYPD also wanted to know about his mosque, Muslims who prayed in the mosque and his brother who drove a taxi in Afghanistan.

Democracy Now reported that the NYPD spying program was created with help from the CIA, which is banned from spying on Americans in the U.S. (video below).

The NYPD designated at least 50 Muslim organizations as terrorist groups, which allowed police to carry out "terrorism enterprise investigations" that included sending informants into mosques to spy and make secret recordings.

Sources: The New York Times and Democracy Now