NYPD officers accessed Black Lives Matter activists’ texts, documents show
5 april 2017
Exclusive: Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal details of how police posed as protesters amid unrest following the death of Eric Garner
People protest after a grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.
Undercover officers in the New York police department infiltrated small groups of Black Lives Matter activists and gained access to their text messages, according to newly released NYPD documents obtained by the Guardian.
The records, produced in response to a freedom of information lawsuit led by New York law firm Stecklow & Thompson, provide the most detailed picture yet of the sweeping scope of NYPD surveillance during mass protests over the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and 2015. Lawyers said the new documents raised questions about NYPD compliance with city rules.
The documents, mostly emails between undercover officers and other NYPD officials, follow other disclosures that the NYPD regularly filmed Black Lives Matter activists and sent undercover personnel to protests. The NYPD has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment or interview.
Emails show that undercover officers were able to pose as protesters even within small groups, giving them extensive access to details about protesters’ whereabouts and plans. In one email, an official notes that an undercover officer is embedded within a group of seven protesters on their way to Grand Central Station. This intimate access appears to have helped police pass as trusted organizers and extract information about demonstrations. In other emails, officers share the locations of individual protesters at particular times. The NYPD emails also include pictures of organizers’ group text exchanges with information about protests, suggesting that undercover officials were either trusted enough to be allowed to take photos of activists’ phones or were themselves members of a private planning group text.
protesters text message
Police obtained access to protesters’ text messages, the documents show. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
“That text loop was definitely just for organizers, I don’t know how that got out,” said Elsa Waithe, a Black Lives Matter organizer. “Someone had to have told someone how to get on it, probably trusting someone they had seen a few times in good faith. We clearly compromised ourselves.”
Keegan Stephan, a regular attendee of the Grand Central protests in 2014 and 2015, said information about protesters’ whereabouts was limited to a small group of core organizers at that time. “I feel like the undercover was somebody who was or is very much a part of the group, and has access to information we only give to people we trust,” said Stephan, who has been assisting attorneys with a lawsuit to obtain the documents on behalf of plaintiff James Logue, a protester. “If you’re walking to Grand Central with a handful of people for an action, that’s much more than just showing up to a public demonstration – that sounds like a level of friendship.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and professor at John Jay College, agreed that it would not be easy for an undercover officer to join a small group of protesters and hear their plans. “It would be pretty amazing that they would be able to get into the core group in such a short window of time,” said Giacalone. “This could have been going on a while before for these people to get so close to the inner circle.”
The NYPD documents also included a handful of pictures and one short video taken at Grand Central Station demonstrations. Most are pictures of crowds milling about or taking part in demonstrations. In one picture of a small group of activists, the NYPD identifies an individual in a brown jacket as the “main protester”. These images of protesters are reminiscent of those taken by undercover transit police, who were also deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Grand Central Station in 2015.
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An individual is identified as the ‘main protester’. Photograph: NYPD/Screenshot/Scribd
Giacalone said this type of leadership identification was standard police practice at protests. “If you take out the biggest mouth, everybody just withers away, so you concentrate on the ones you believe are your organizers,” he said. “Once you identify that person, you can run computer checks on them to see if they have a warrant out or any summons failures, then you can drag them in before they go out to speak or rile up the crowd, as long as you have reasonable cause to do so.”
Attorneys say the documents raise legal questions about whether the NYPD was acting in compliance with the department’s intelligence-gathering rules, known as the Handschu Guidelines. The guidelines, which are based on an ongoing decades-old class-action lawsuit, hold that the NYPD can begin formally investigating first amendment activity “when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that an unlawful act has been, is being, or will be committed” and if the police surveillance plan has been authorized by a committee known as the Handschu Authority. (That committee was exclusively staffed by NYPD officials at the time.) However, according to the guidelines, before launching a formal investigation, the NYPD can also conduct investigative work such as “checking of leads” and “preliminary inquiries” with even lower standards of suspicion.
Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it was difficult to know whether NYPD’s undercover surveillance operations crossed the line, as the documents did not make clear what, if any, stage of investigation the police were in at the time of the operations. But he said the department’s retention of pictures and video raised questions, since police are not allowed to retain information about public events unless it relates to unlawful activity.
“So my question would be: what was the unlawful activity that police had reason to suspect here?” said Price. “It doesn’t appear that there was any criminal behavior they were talking about in the emails. Most references are to protesters being peaceful, so I would be very concerned if they were hinging their whole investigation on civil disobedience, such as unpermitted protests or blocking of pedestrians.”
Throughout the emails, the NYPD’s undercover sources provide little indication of any unlawful activity, frequently characterizing demonstrators as peaceful and orderly with only one mention of a single arrest.
“The documents uniformly show no crime occurring, but NYPD had undercovers inside the protests for months on end as if they were al-Qaida,” said David Thompson, an attorney of Stecklow & Thompson, who helped sue for the records.
Giacalone argued that police could have easily come up with a legal justification to initiate surveillance, especially if such operations occurred after the shooting of two NYPD officers in December of 2014 (all dates in the NYPD’s email communications were redacted). But he noted that such investigative activities would be harder to justify if officers were not directly observing signs of unlawful activity.
“If they’re not talking about any crimes being committed, they’re going to have a difficult time defending this. It may end up in another one of these lawsuits,” said Giacalone. “Some may say this is good police work, fine, but good police work or not, we have rules against this kind of thing in New York.”
Attorneys have already filed a petition charging that the NYPD may have failed to produce all of its surveillance records. But for some protesters, the damage has already been done.
“In the first couple of months, we had a lot of people in and out of the group, some because they didn’t fit our style but others because of the whispers that they were undercovers,” recalled Waithe. “Whether it was real or perceived, that was the most debilitating part for me, the whispers … It’s really hard to organize when you can’t trust each other.”
George Joseph in New York
Tuesday 4 April 2017 11.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 4 April 2017 22.00 BST
Find this story at 4 April 2017
© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited
Former FBI Agent: NYPD’s Muslim-Spying Demographics Unit Was Almost Completely Useless (2014)
14 mei 2014
from the holds-several-‘most-rights-violated’-trophies,-however dept
Certain demographics are desirable. 18-34? Taste-makers and early adopters. 35-49? Money. Muslim and New York City resident? Being a member of this group meant (until recently) having First Amendment-protected activities being closely scrutinized by the NYPD’s now-defunct “Demographics Unit.”
This special unit was recently disbanded, roughly a decade after it should have been, thanks to a new mayor and a new police commissioner. The unit was put together by a former CIA officer who used the post-9/11 attack climate to push for expansive surveillance of the city’s Muslim population, including designating entire mosques as terrorist-related entities. Despite all the extra attention being paid to Muslims, not a single useful investigation resulted from this unit’s work.
The surveillance being done by this unit so pervasively subverted civil liberties protections that not even the CIA could access the NYPD’s files without breaking its internal rules. The same goes for the FBI, which has long partnered with the NYPD in its counter-terrorism efforts. Don Borelli, a former FBI agent, has written a piece for the New York Daily News, detailing why police commissioner Bill Bratton was right to disband the Demographics Unit.
Together, we were able to stop many threats — and save many lives — including a serious plot against the subways from Najibullah Zazi, an ethnic Afghan who grew up in Queens and went on to become an Al Qaeda operative.
Interestingly enough, the NYPD demographics unit had detailed files on Zazi’s neighborhood in Flushing during the period in which he was becoming radicalized. It kept files on businesses and visited coffee shops believed to be hangouts for potential terrorists. The unit even visited the travel agency where Zazi bought his ticket to travel to Afghanistan for terrorism training.
So why wasn’t Zazi identified until he was driving to New York from Denver to blow up the subway? Because the program was ineffective. The mission of the demographics unit was to spot the terrorists in the haystack, but again and again it failed to do so.
All haystack, no needle, like so many other surveillance programs. The unit overwhelmed itself in useless data, keeping it from finding what it needed when it mattered most. These data swamps built by investigative agencies have proven to be more dangerous than old-fashioned police work.
During my time with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I read many reports derived from investigations conducted by the NYPD Intelligence Division, which may well have relied on the demographics unit’s work. I was presented with many interesting facts about where people were attending Friday prayers and who belonged to various Muslim student associations.
But rarely did I learn anything I didn’t already know through traditional investigations, much less anything that would have led me to open a terrorism investigation.
Adding to the mess here is the NYPD’s twisted relationship with the FBI. While it clearly enjoys access to G-men and their tools, former police chief Ray Kelly often made it clear that his officers did superior work and that the FBI’s production of information was too slow to be useful. Of course, FBI agents have said the same thing about the NYPD, particularly in the information department, where the sharing was usually a one-way street that flowed out of the FBI and into the NYPD’s hands.
Beyond the antagonistic relationship is the Demographic Unit itself — its own worst enemy. The former CIA officer who had a local judge rewrite guidelines to give the NYPD unprecedented permission for pervasive surveillance also managed to ensure that most info flowing back upstream to the FBI ended up being routed directly into the trash can.
Moreover, I wound up shredding some of these reports because they had no investigative value and, in my opinion, did not belong in any FBI file because they solely reported on what was First Amendment-protected activity.
Much like other failures to stop terrorist activity, the problems here were communication (too little) and information (too much). As Borelli notes, in his experience, it’s been more useful to build trust than to endlessly spy, something the NYPD really hasn’t made much effort to foster over the years. But its failure to do so means it has buried itself in data and alienated those who could bring an inside perspective. A decade’s worth of spying resulted in nothing but violated rights.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Apr 28th 2014 4:05pm
Find this story at 28 April 2014
From Mosques to Soccer Leagues: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spy Unit Targeting Muslims, Activists
23 september 2013
Since 9/11, the New York City Police Department has established an intelligence operation that in some ways has been even more aggressive than the National Security Agency. At its core is a spying operation targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans where they live, work and pray. The NYPD’s “Demographics Unit,” as it was known until 2010, has secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and built a vast database of information. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from domestic spying. Just last month, it emerged the NYPD has labeled at least 50 Muslim organizations, including a dozen mosques, as terrorist groups. This has allowed them to carry out what are called “Terrorism Enterprise Investigations,” sending undercover informants into mosques to spy on worshipers and make secret recordings. We’re joined by the Pulitzer-winning duo who exposed the NYPD’s spy program, Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, co-authors of the new book, “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.” We’re also joined by Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, which was among the groups targeted by the NYPD.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: Yes, well, it’s been 12 years since the 9/11 attacks, but only now is a full picture emerging of what could be one of its most controversial legacies. In the aftermath of 9/11, the New York City Police Department established an intelligence operation that in some ways has even been even more aggressive than the National Security Agency. At its core, a spying operation targeting Muslim Americans, where they live, work, and pray. The NYPD’s demographics unit, as it was known until 2010, has a secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations and restaurants, barber shops, and gyms, and built a vast database of information on Muslim Americans. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from spying on Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Just last month, it emerged that the NYPD has labeled at least 50 Muslim organizations including a dozen mosques as terrorist groups. This has allowed them to carry out what are called terrorism enterprise investigations, sending undercover informants into mosques to spy on worshipers and make secret recordings. That news came just weeks after a group of Muslim Americans filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD’s spy program, alleging what they call unconstitutional religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance. At a news conference, plaintiff Asad Dandia described his run-in with the man who turned out to be a police informant.
ASAD DANDIA: In March of 2012, I was approached by a 19-year-old man. He came to me telling me that he was looking for spirituality, and that he was looking to change his ways. He said he had a very dark past and wanted to be a better practicing Muslim. So, I figured what better way to have him perform his obligations than to join this organization? In October of 2012 he released a public statement saying he was an informant for the NYPD. When I found out, I had a whole mixture of feelings. Number one, I was terrified and I was afraid for my family, especially my younger sisters who were exposed to all of this. I felt betrayed and hurt because someone I took in as a friend and brother was lying to me.
AARON MATÉ: That’s Asad Dandia, one of the plaintiffs in the suit by Muslim Americans against the NYPD for spying. Arguments in the case began last week. While the spy program has been intrusive, it has also been ineffective. The NYPD has even admitted that the demographics unit failed to yield a single terrorism investigation or even a single lead. In a deposition last year, the commanding officer of the intelligence division, assistant NYPD chief, Thomas Galati, said “I could tell you that I have never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report and I’m here since 2006. I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the NYPD spy program was first exposed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Associated Press. Two lead reporters on the story have just come out the new book that expands on their ground breaking reporting. Their book is called, “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.” Co-authors Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman join us here in New York. They shared the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Matt, lay it out. Lay out this book for us. In a nutshell, how you got on this story, and what you found.
MATT APPUZO: Sure, well, our book really goes a lot deeper and a lot broader than we were able to do even in all the many stories we wrote for the AP. What we really focused on is how in the aftermath of 9/11, about how the NYPD working hand-in-hand with the CIA, built an intelligence apparatus that focuses on American citizens like no other police department in the country. This active-duty CIA officer and a retired CIA officer built in apparatus by which, you know, a sort of army of informants is out there and we have these demographics officers who their job is just to hang out in neighborhoods and listen for what people are talking about.
Some of what we have seen in these files, it’s a file says, we saw two men speaking at a cafe and they were talking about what they thought about the president’s state of the union address, and here’s what they thought. What do they think about drones, what do they think about foreign policy, what do they think about American policies toward civil liberties, you know, TSA. Are we too discriminatory against Muslims? All the stuff ends up in police files and their justification is, we need to know what the sentiment of these communities are so we can look for hotspots.
AARON MATÉ: Adam, talk to us about how this plays out. So, you have NYPD Commissioner, Ray Kelly, working with David Cohen from the CIA, and they set out to create basically a map of all New York’s ethnic neighborhoods?
ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, that’s right, I mean, that is what the demographics unit was doing. They wanted to literally map the human terrain of the five boroughs of New York. And they went beyond too, they went into Newark, they went into other places as well; Newark, New Jersey. So, they had this fear after 9/11, and they looked out into the Queens and Brooklyn and these other places where there were a lot of Muslim Americans and thought, we don’t know much about these communities and they looked, as an example, at people like Mohammed Atta, who was one of the 9/11 hijackers. Mohammed Atta had radicalized, he had grown more religious, and he was — he had given off the signals in front of the community, and they wanted to be in the communities in New York, so if there is anyone like Mohammed Atta, in fact anybody who was radicalizing they would have listening posts. They would have eyes and ears in the community to pick up on that.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the things you write about is how the undercover officers would go to the best Arab food restaurants, not coming up with leads, but because the food was good and just “spy” there.
ADAM GOLDMAN: We found a lot that these plainclothes officers working with the demographics unit were gravitating toward the better restaurants. There is a bakery, the Damascus Bakery in Brooklyn that serves excellent pastries. There is a kebab house in Flushing, Queens that serves excellent kebab. And what the commanding officer in charge of the demographics unit started to see was there were many reports being filed from similar locations. And how do spend you $40 at the pastry shop? And so, eventually, he determined they were going there, following these reports, simply because the food was good.
AMY GOODMAN: Matt Appuzo, talk about the main players here. Talk about Larry Sanchez, talk about David Cohen who’d come from the CIA and went to the NYPD.
MATT APPUZO: Sure, Ray Kelly comes on board as police commissioner after 9/11, and says, look, we can’t rely solely on the federal government. And I think really smartly said, we can’t do business as usual. We need to start developing our own intelligence and have a better sense of what is going on in the city. So, the guy he hired to do that is a man named Dave Cohen, who we profile really deeply in the book, who made his career at the CIA, rose to the level of the deputy director for operations, basically a nation’s top spy.
So, he retired as the head of the clandestine service. And he was basically recruited out of retirement to start what is, basically a mini-CIA at the NYPD. One of Cohen’s first things, is he then calls down to the CIA and says, hey, I need an active-duty guy who can be my right-hand man. George tenet, the director of the CIA, sends Larry Sanchez to New York. And Larry is this very likable guy, skydiver, scuba diver, a guy’s guy, and he’s active duty, so he’s got a blue CIA badge. So, he can start the morning — early morning at the CIA station in New York and then kind of go over to the NYPD and he is directing domestic operations for NYPD and he is telling officers how to do collection or where to focus their efforts. And he really was the architect of the demographics unit. So, this guy, active-duty for the CIA, was really the intellectual father of the demographics unit.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We are speaking with the prize-winning reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, who have written the book, “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.” We will be back with them in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, reporters for the Associated Press, co-authors of the brand-new book, “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.” We are also joined by Linda Sarsour. She is here in New York City, a leading Arab-American activist with the Arab American Association of New York, a national network for Arab American communities. I’m Amy Goodman with Aaron Maté.
AARON MATÉ: Well, before break, we were talking about Larry Sanchez who came to the NYPD from the CIA. Let’s turn to a part of a 2007 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that looked at the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts. This is, then Senator, Joe Lieberman questioning New York City Assistant Police Commissioner Larry Sanchez, the analyst who came to the NYPD from the CIA.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I’m paraphrasing, but I think you said that the aim of this investigation and of the NYPD was not just to prevent terrorist attacks, obviously, post-9/11 in New York City, but to try to prevent — understand and then prevent the radicalization that leads to terrorist attacks. So, in the end of it, what are the steps that you come away with that you feel in this very usual area, unremarkable people, not on the screen of law enforcement — how do you begin to try to prevent the radicalization that leads to terrorism?
LARRY SANCHEZ: Let me try to answer this way; the key to it was, first, to understand it, and to start appreciating what most people would say would be noncriminal, would be innocuous, looking at behaviors that could easily be argued in a western democracy, especially in the United States, to be protected by First and Fourth Amendment rights, but not to look at them in a vacuum, but to look across to them as potential precursors to terrorism. New York City, of course, has created its own methods to be able to understand them better, to be able to identify them and to be able to make judgment calls if these are things that we need to worry about.
AARON MATÉ: That’s Larry Sanchez, testifying in 2007. Matt Apuzzo?
MATT APPUZO: Adam and I have watched that clip and read the transcript, I don’t know, dozens of times, and one of our great regrets is that this happened in 2007 and nobody, and including us, said, hey, that guy just got up and said stuff that is protected by the First Amendment shouldn’t be viewed as such and should be viewed as potential precursor to terrorism and that the NYPD has these sort of unspecified methods to decide how to ferret that out. I kind of watch that now, and I remember when that happened, and now I’m kind of like, how the heck did I not — how did the reporter in me not say, geez, well what are these methods? Why the heck did it take four years before…? You know, Adam and I look back now and we’re like, jeez, they told us they were doing this stuff, they told us — they laid it all out there. And why weren’t we as journalists, as a public, more skeptical and why weren’t we willing to ask more questions?
AMY GOODMAN: The FBI, Adam Goldman, and the NYPD were also competing with each other, so much so they were going to sue each other. Can you explain what was happening?
ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, there was enormous friction between the FBI and the NYPD, mainly the NYPD intelligence division. And these two outfits would sometimes not work in harmony. Mainly because Dave Cohen thought that the intelligence division and his detectives should go on their own. He didn’t want to be part of the part of what they called group think. So, they said, look, we’ll go out and we’re going to investigate and if we find something, we’;ll bring it to you. But, the problem with doing that is that, sometimes these investigations were in late stages and the FBI had concerns about how they had developed these cases. And it flared up in the newspaper. And in the end, the FBI felt like, look, you just can’t go out and do your own thing. We’re going to stop this, we got to work as a team and that is how you build — cooperation is how you build stronger cases.
AARON MATÉ: Matt, and the spying of course, also extended beyond the Muslim community. There’s reports in your book about spying on left-wing activists, on bicycle protests?
MATT APPUZO: Yeah, so, everybody remembers the bombing of the Times Square recruiting station. The pipe bomb, thankfully didn’t injure injure anyone, but it was 3:00 in the morning and blew out a window. Well, in the aftermath of that, the NYPD, and we’ve seen this in the files, the NYPD did an investigation were they said, you know, we have identified this blog that posts links to protests, news stories about protests and pictures of protests all around the world, confrontations, anarchist protests, radical protests, people throwing people throwing Molotov cocktails. That’s what this blog does, and they said, boy, that blog had a link up to a Fox news story about the Times Square bombing within three hours. And to the NYPD, the three hours seemed awfully quick. And so, they said, well, maybe that suggests that the guy who runs the blog knew in advance. And it turns out that at one point years earlier, one of the guys who ran the blog, this guy named Dennis Burke, he had ties to Critical Mass, the guys who ride the bikes, and Time’s Up New York, the protest group in New York City.
AMY GOODMAN: And friends of Brad Will.
MATT APPUZO: And friends of Brad Will, the group that wants to get to the bottom of the death of American journalists in Mexico. So, they actually open an investigation based on those facts. They open an investigation not only into Burke, but also into his associates in these other groups. And so, they infiltrated the Times Up guys, the Critical Mass guys, the Friends of Brad Will. They actually sent an undercover officer as part of this investigation out to the People’s Summit in New Orleans, which is a group of sort of anti-globalization groups, and the NYPD was there. Because of this investigation into the bombing, they actually put into the files, people who were organized — labor organizing for nannies, people who were talking about the Palestinian conflict with the Israelis, people who are writing newsletters from, sort of, left-wing organizations, this stuff that had no connection — nobody believed there was any connection to the bombing, but it just shows you how this stuff spirals away from its central focus.
AMY GOODMAN: Linda Sarsour, can you talk about, as your with the Arab-American Association of New York, how the investigations that the NYPD was conducting that Adam and Matt are describing, affected you and your community?
LINDA SARSOUR: So, Adam and Matt basically confirmed everything that our community already knew was happening, at least since immediately after 9/11. And the terrorist enterprise investigations that you heard also included, I believe, my organization. And what the NYPD wanted to do to my organization, they clearly lay this out in a secret document, they wanted to recruit a confidential informant to sit on my board. So, not only were they creating listening posts and going into our restaurants, coming to our events, coming — acting as clients in our organization, they wanted to actually have someone who would be a deciding figure on my board, have access donors, have access to information, access to financial information, and I think that we keep learning that the program is just more outrageous. And what it does is it creates psychological warfare in our community.
How am I supposed to know if the NYPD was successful in that endeavor? That’s number one. Number two is, the community, right now, is in a position where, how do we even know the guy next to us that’s praying at the mosque or the guy at the restaurant that’s like trying to open a conversation with us about something that is happening in Egypt, for example, and for those people who know, Arabs, particularly, we love to talk about politics. And a lot of our families came to the United States so we could have a place to practice our religion freely, to have our own political views, and now that we know that the NYPD wants to hear what our sentiment is, people probably don’t want to share their sentiment.
The most disturbing of all is our Muslim student association who are calling us to consult about how political should their events be. Now, when I was in college, I wanted my events to be as political as possible. And if they weren’t, I wanted to figure out how to make them controversial. And the fact that our students feel that they can’t do that because there are going to be NYPD informants, because they can be taken out of context and because they think that something like what happened to Fahad Hashmi is going to happen to them, I think it is a valid concern.
So, I’m a New Yorker and I hope others are outraged to know that the New York Police Department is spying on innocent Americans in their neighborhood. The last point that I want to make is that these terrorist investigations, what happens is, is that if they open one, anyone who comes into that facility that’s under investigation is subject to that investigation. So, if my organization has this terrorist enterprise investigation, that means every client, every staff member, every family member, every vendor that we work with is subject to this investigation by the New York Police Department.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the NYPD Soccer League.
LINDA SARSOUR: A program that the NYPD touts as a community outreach program, and something we that believed as a community we were involved in because we wanted to get kids off the street, we wanted kids to play sports and it was organized sports competition between kids from different boroughs. It was fun. We joined, as the Arab American Association of New York. We had a team, Brooklyn United. In 2009 we beat the Turks from Queens, and it was great, and it was fun, and we have a huge trophy from the New York Police Department. What we learned later learned through secret documents is that the New York Police Department was using a sports league — now imagine that your child is part of this league and is being spied on by the New York Police Department. And what the New York Police Department did is they actually mapped out for you two different documents. One was, where did the South Asians play cricket and watch cricket, and where did the Arabs play soccer and watch soccer? For those of you who know soccer, Arabs are not the only ones that play soccer. Definitely not in New York City anyway.
So, I feel the information just gets more outrageous that even something as simple as sports, as playing soccer, is something that is under the terrain of the New York Police Department, that our kids were subject to intelligence gathering and spying by the New York Police Department when all they wanted to do was beat some people or some other kids in another borough. And I think our kids, right now, you know, their families are like what’s this. How am I supposed to explain to them that I didn’t know, that I was not — that I had no intention of subjecting their children to intelligence gathering by the New York Police Department? And so, I personally get put in a situation that Commissioner Kelly and his people put us in. And actually the Arab officers who worked in the Community Affairs Department, I don’t know if they knew, but if they did know, shame on them for allowing us to be a part of something where they knew had ultimate if reasons.
AARON MATÉ: Now, Linda, hear in New York, there is obviously a lot of public protest against stop-and-frisk. How has it been to organize resistance to this spying on your community? What are you finding in terms of the public’s perception to this program?
LINDA SARSOUR: In New York right now, and I think in the country as a whole, I think that you’ll find it is more likely for people to say, oh, stopping 685,000 blacks and Latino young people, that’s a little racist, you know, that’s kind of a little too much. I think we’re finding more people, and I’m part of the stop-and-frisk movement as a person who is not black or Latino. So, I’ve seen that sentiment. But, with the spying, it has been hard to get people to understand that it is the same thing. They are both discriminatory policies that target communities of color. No matter what way somebody tries to explain it to me.
The problem with our movement is that it’s framed in the sense of personal security, so people are like, well, if you are not doing anything wrong, what’s the problem? What’s the inconvenience of some guy who listens to, like, your conversations. And I think that’s where the fundamental principles of who we are as Americans and what our rights are, right to privacy — I shouldn’t have to worry about working in an organization that — that’s infiltrated by the New York Police Department. I hope no one else has to worry about that. But, it’s been a little difficult for us to organize around this, but continue to do so.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to MSNBC last month, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the report by our guests Matt Appuzo and Adam Goldman that the NYPD has labeled mosques as terrorist organizations. Kelly insisted the NYPD’s operations are legal.
RAYMOND KELLY: I haven’t seen the story, but they’re hyping a book coming out next week. Actually, the book is based on a compilation of about 50 articles that two AP reporters did on the department. It’s a reflection of the articles and the book will be a fair amount of fiction, it will be half-truths, it will be lots of quotes from unnamed sources. And our sin is to have the temerity, the chutzpah, to go into the federal government’s territory of counter-terrorism and trying to protect the city by supplementing what the federal government has done.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You do agree that entire mosques should not be labeled terrorist organizations, right?
RAYMOND KELLY: Absolutely, of course, of course. And again, we do according to law, what we are investigating, and how we investigated is now pursuant to a federal judge’s direction.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is reportedly one of the people being considered to head the Department of Homeland Security. Adam Goldman, there was a lot there, accusations that your reports are fiction and based on unnamed sources. Go ahead.
ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, one of the things we tried to do with this book that the NYPD doesn’t do is we tried to be incredibly transparent. If Ray Kelly gets the chance, he can read the book, he’ll find that many people spoke on record about what the NYPD was doing. Named individuals, including Hector Berdecia who ran the demographics unit. Another thing we tried to do is end note all these secret documents that were leaked to us so the reader themselves can go and look at the end note and then go to our website, enemieswithinbook.com, and read the secret files them self, and come to their own conclusions. So we lay all that out and in an effort to be completely transparent. The book is, as The Wall Street Journal said, assiduously reported. The other point I’d like to make about Ray’s comments is that he won’t engage with us on the book and he’s never engaged with us either on the book or our reporting. And Matt and I went to great lengths in the book to make a good case for why the NYPD felt like they needed these programs in the aftermath of 9/11.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the head of the demographics unit who then came to be completely disturbed about what his unit was doing.
ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was guy, he was a legendary narcotics detective. I mean, he was taking down drug dealers, taking guns off the streets. He was also a military reservist.
AMY GOODMAN: His name?
>> Hector Berdecia. And after 9/11, he spent time in Iraq and he was there post-invasion. And he came back to New York and they offered him this job to run this secretive unit that he was unfamiliar with. And he took this job. And he felt that, you know, hey, there are bad guys in New York, there are bad guys in New York, there’s Al Qaeda in New York, and he believed it. He, himself, had said himself he sort of drank the Kool-Aid. As he went on running this unit, he began to get frustrated and he began to see that he had really talented detectives, right, with really great language skills, right, and they weren’t making any cases. It was just and effective way — it was more about effectiveness, is this an effective way to use resources of talented police investigators? These were guys who are used to putting bad guys in jail, right? Taking drugs off the street, taking guns off the streets. Guns kill people. And he, instead, was writing intelligence reports about what people think of the state of the union address. And eventually, I think he got frustrated and disillusioned with the program.
AARON MATÉ: Matt, can you talk about the issue of oversight? First of all, this raises a lot of civil rights issues. Has there been a response from White House or from the Justice Department? And then also talk about what kind of oversight exists here in the city.
AMY GOODMAN: Right, and what — is this happening now?
MATT APPUZO: Everything that we talk about in the book, with the exception of a few sort of ancillary programs, but the core of the book, to our knowledge, is still happening now. Fascinating the issue of oversight, the NYPD gets money from the City Council every year, obviously, the City Council never held a hearing to actually look into the intelligence division’s programs. They have never been subjected to an audit. The intelligence division gets money from the White House under a drug trafficking grant. The White House says, we don’t have any — we don’t know what the money is used for. You can’t hold us to account with what the NYPD does with our money. Congress has funded these programs. They don’t know, they’re not equipped to know, they don’t ask. Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have spent $1 billion, $2 billion at the NYPD since 9/11. They say they don’t know what goes on, and the way the grants are set up they they don’t have the ability to know.
There is essentially, no outside oversight at the NYPD intelligence division. The programs are opened in house. They don’t have to be approved by a judge, they don’t have to be approved by a prosecutor. Kelly likes to talk about we have all the federal prosecutors and the district attorney, but they don’t actually decide when the Intel division can open the case. So there isn’t the kind of outside review that you would see at the CIA or the FBI. And, you know what, from our standpoint, the lack of transparency, the fact this was all done in secret with no public airing, was really what drove us to write this book, because you can’t — people can’t give their informed consent to a program that they don’t know exists, they don’t know what they’re giving up, they don’t know what they’re getting in exchange.
AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, as we come to the end of this conversation, Najibullah Zazi, of course, a key figure in your book?
MATT APPUZO: The book, in its essence, is a thriller book, I mean, it’s a chase. This is essentially 48 hours inside New York City as the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States tries to unravel the most serious Al Qaeda plot since 9/11, inside the United States, three young men led by Najibullah Zazi, with a bomb, bearing down on the New York City subways, had this been successful, it would caused hundreds if not thousands of fatalities. And we take a real hard look, a real critical look — or we think a thorough look, at what works and what doesn’t. And what we found is at every opportunity, that Zazi is interacts with these intelligence programs of the NYPD Intelligence Division, the [Unintelligible].
AARON MATÉ: They were in his neighborhood.
MATT APPUZO: They were in his neighborhood, they were in his mosque, they had turned his Imam into a cooporative, they had an undercover in his mosque, they were in his co-conspirator student group, they were in all the restaurants in his neighborhood, they were in the travel agency where he bought tickets to go to Pakistan — the train. This was not a failure of resources and manpower.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened?
MATT APPUZO: Well, they didn’t — they missed him. Well, you have to read the book to find out how they stop him, come on. The subways don’t blow up, so the real rush is good collaboration, good cooperation is what saves the day.
AMY GOODMAN: And Adam, what most surprised you in doing this series of articles? You did scores of articles, and of course, the book is more than the compilation of the articles.
ADAM GOLDMAN: I think what most surprised us is while we were doing the series that led to the Pulitzer, we knew they were in the mosques and we knew they had informants in the mosques, they had under covers in the mosques. And Ray said, well, we’re just following leads, and this is all legal. That’s been Ray’s — that’s Ray’s phrase, it’s all legal. And we didn’t really didn’t understand how is this all legal. How can you just be a mosque?
AMY GOODMAN: People might be surprised that the CIA is involved in local surveillance.
ADAM GOLDMAN: Right, right. Then while we were reporting at the book we obtained documents this is how they were doing it. We learned about the terrorism enterprise investigation. And so, now, holistically, we understood, oh, right, so, they open this investigation on sometimes reed-thin suspicions and they use that to gather their intelligence on these mosques — the leadership of the mosques for years and years and years and years. They never made a terrorism enterprise case. And by designating the mosque a terrorism enterprise, they could send in their informants and undercovers, you now, they send in people with spy gadgets, listening devices in their watches and their  and that was really extraordinary. I want to make a point —- one last point about Ray, and why we make the -—
AMY GOODMAN: Ray Kelly, the Commissioner.
ADAM GOLDMAN: Ray Kelly, and why we wrote this book. We’re not questioning Ray Kelly’s patriotism, and we’re not questioning his authority as Police Chief to keep this city better. I guess what we’re doing is, and maybe to use one of Ray’s words, is it’s chutzpah. I guess we have the chutzpah to ask questions about what the police department is doing and whether these tactics work.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we will continue to talk to you as you continue to uncover what is taking place. I want to thank you both for being with us, and congratulations on your Pulitzer for your series of articles. The new book is, “Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.” Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. And thank you so much, Linda Sarsour; Arab American Association of New York and the National Network for Arab American Communities. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we look at a terrorist attack that occurred 50 years ago this past Sunday. It was September 15, 1963, and it happened in the Birmingham Baptist Church. Four little girls were the fatalities. We’re going to speak to the fifth who did not die, but lost her eye. We’ll go to Birmingham, Alabama. Stay with us.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Find this story at 17 September 2013
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
NYPD secrets: How the cops launched a spy shop to rival CIA; After 9/11, the NYPD wanted an intelligence unit to investigate threats to the city. This is how it began
6 september 2013
Adapted from “Enemies Within”
Note: After a long career in Washington, David Cohen, a former CIA official, was, according to the authors, “one of most unpopular and divisive figures in modern CIA history.”
[CIA Director George] Tenet sent Cohen packing for New York, a plum pre-retirement assignment that made him the CIA’s primary liaison with Wall Street titans and captains of industry. After three decades in Washington, he had become one of the most unpopular and divisive figures in modern CIA history. He left feeling that the agency was hamstrung by the people overseeing it. The White House micromanaged operations, slowing down everything. And Congress used its oversight authority to score political points. The CIA was stuck in the middle, an impossible position.
Now [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly was offering a chance to start something new in the New York Police Department, without any of the bureaucratic hand-wringing or political meddling. The World Trade Center attacks had changed the world. Cohen was being given an opportunity to change policing in response.
He didn’t need a couple days to think about it. He called Kelly back two hours later and took the job.
[Mayor] Bloomberg and Kelly introduced Cohen as the deputy commissioner for intelligence at a city hall press conference on January 24, 2002. Cohen spoke for just two minutes, mostly to praise the NYPD. He had been raised in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood, and though he’d been gone for decades, he still spoke with a heavy accent.
“We need to understand what these threats are, what form they take, where they’re coming from, and who’s responsible,” Cohen said.
The new deputy commissioner offered no specifics about what he had planned. Weeks before his sixtieth birthday, he even declined to give his age, telling reporters only that he was between twenty-eight and seventy. The brief remarks from behind the lectern would amount to one of Cohen’s longest media appearances ever.
“I look forward to just getting on with the job,” he said.
Cohen’s appointment was not front-page news. The New York Times put the story on page B3. The Daily News ran a 165-word brief on page 34. It was four months after 9/11, and the country was focused on doing whatever it took to prevent another attack. Nobody questioned the wisdom of taking someone trained to break the laws of foreign nations and putting him in a department responsible for upholding the rule of law. Nobody even checked out Cohen’s hand-prepared résumé, which said he had a master’s degree in international relations from Boston University. In fact, his degree was in government.15 The misstatement itself was inconsequential. That it went entirely unquestioned was indicative of the lack of media scrutiny Cohen could expect in his new job.
It didn’t take him long to realize that he was not walking back into the CIA. The NYPD had an intelligence division, but in name only. Working primarily out of the waterfront offices of the old Brooklyn Army Terminal, across the Hudson River, facing New Jersey, the detectives focused on drugs and gangs. They were in no way prepared to detect and disrupt a terrorist plot before it could be carried out. Mostly, they were known as the glorified chauffeurs who drove visiting dignitaries around the city.
Cohen knew that more was possible.
Force of will alone, however, would not transform a moribund division into something capable of stopping a terrorist attack. If Cohen wanted to remake the NYPD into a real intelligence service, there were four men—four graying hippies—standing in his way.
* * *
Martin Stolar first began hearing stories about the NYPD Intelligence Division in 1970 while working as a young lawyer for the New York Law Commune. A recently formed law firm for leftists, hippies, radicals, and activists, the commune operated entirely by consensus. It didn’t take a case unless everyone agreed. They saw themselves as part of the New Left, lawyers who didn’t merely represent their clients but who fully embraced their politics and were part of their struggle. They represented Columbia University students who’d taken over campus buildings during a protest in 1968. They stood beside members of the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, and other radical groups, and activists such as Abbie Hoffman. And they never, ever, represented landlords in disputes with tenants.
It was a new way of thinking about the law. The firm pooled all its fees and then paid one another based on need, not ability or performance. Operating out of a converted loft in Greenwich Village, the lawyers paid the bills thanks to well-to-do parents who hired them to keep their sons out of Vietnam. But about half their time was dedicated to political, nonpaying clients.
Every now and again, one of the lawyers would come across something—a news clipping, a document, or a strong hunch—that suggested the NYPD was infiltrating activist groups and building dossiers on protesters. When they did, they’d add it to a plain manila folder, as something to revisit.
Stolar had no problem questioning government authority. In 1969 he applied for admission to the bar in Ohio, where he was an antipoverty volunteer. When asked if he’d ever been “a member of any organization which advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States by force,” Stolar refused to answer. Nor would he answer when asked to list every club or organization he’d ever joined. The questions were holdovers from the Red Scare days of the 1950s. Stolar, a liberal New York lawyer, would have none of it. He took his case to the United States Supreme Court, which, in 1971, declared such questions unconstitutional. “[W]e can see no legitimate state interest which is served by a question which sweeps so broadly into areas of belief and association protected against government invasion,” Justice Hugo Black wrote.
Stolar had moved back to New York by then and never bothered to return to Ohio to take the bar exam. He’d proven his point.
In 1971 he was among the many lawyers working on the Panther 21 case, the trial of Black Panther Party members accused of conspiring to bomb police stations, businesses, and public buildings. While preparing their defense, the Law Commune attorneys came across something unusual: The case against the Panthers was built largely on the testimony of some of the earliest members of the New York chapter of the Black Panthers. There was Gene Roberts, a former security guard for Malcolm X who was present on February 21, 1965, when the Nation of Islam leader was assassinated in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. There was Ralph White, the head of the Panther unit in the Bronx who’d once represented the entire New York chapter at a black power conference in Philadelphia. And there was Carlos Ashwood, who’d sold Panther literature in Harlem.
They were founding fathers of the New York Panthers. And all three, it turned out, were undercover detectives. The NYPD had essentially set up the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party and built files on everyone who signed up.
That convinced Stolar that something had to be done with his manila folder. He called another young lawyer, Jethro Eisenstein, who taught at New York University. The two knew each other from their work with the liberal National Lawyers Guild, and Stolar regarded Eisenstein as a brilliant legal writer. If they were going to have a shot at challenging the NYPD, the lawsuit had to sing.
Together they put out the word to their clients and friends that they were looking for stories about the NYPD. The anecdotes came pouring in, both from activists and from other lawyers who, it turned out, had been keeping folders of their own. The mass of materials described a police department run amok. There was evidence that police were collecting the names of people who attended events for liberal causes. Detectives posed as journalists and photographed war protesters. Police infiltrated organizations that they considered suspect and maintained rosters of those who attended meetings.
* * *
On May 13, 1971, the Panthers were acquitted of all charges. At the time, it was the longest criminal trial in New York history, spanning eight months. Closing arguments alone had stretched over three weeks. But the jury was out only three hours before voting for acquittal. And the first hour was for lunch.
In the courthouse lobby, jurors milled about, congratulating the Panthers and their lawyers. Some exchanged hugs. Jurors said there wasn’t enough evidence that the conspiracy was anything more than radical talk. Defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt called the verdict “a rejection of secret government all the way from J. Edgar Hoover down to the secret police of New York City.”
The New York Times editorial page read:
It is not necessary to have any sympathy whatever with Panther philosophy or Panther methods to find some reassurance in the fact that—at a time when the government so often confuses invective with insurrection—a New York jury was willing to insist on evidence of wrong-doing rather than wrong-thinking.
Five days after the verdict, Stolar and Eisenstein filed a twenty-one-page federal lawsuit against the NYPD. It accused the department of widespread constitutional violations.
The plaintiffs represented a grab bag of the New Left. There were Black Panthers, members of the War Resisters League, and gay-rights advocates. There were well-known figures such as Abbie Hoffman and obscure groups like the Computer People for Peace. One young man, Stephen Rohde, sued because when he applied for admission to the New York bar, he’d been asked whether he’d ever opposed the Vietnam War. He had once signed a petition in a basement at Columbia University, and his views had ended up in a police file.
The lawsuit became known as the Handschu case, after lawyer and activist Barbara Handschu, who was listed first among the plaintiffs. Stolar and Eisenstein argued that the NYPD was using its surveillance tactics to squelch free speech. Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy did not deny using those tactics. Rather, he said, they were necessary to protect the city. Murphy devoted eighteen pages to explaining to the court why the NYPD needed an effective intelligence division. He said the effort began in the early 1900s as a response to the Black Hand Society, an extortion racket run by new Sicilian immigrants. As the threat evolved over the decades, so did the unit. The 1960s, Murphy said, was a dangerous time to be in New York. Along with antiwar protests, student unrest, and racial conflicts, he cited a list of terrorist bombings and what he called “urban guerrilla warfare.”
In response to that threat, Murphy explained, the NYPD stepped up its investigations of political groups that “because of their conduct or rhetoric may pose a threat to life, property, or governmental administration.” It was true, Murphy conceded, that a portion of that rhetoric might be political speech, protected by the Constitution. But that was the reality of a world in which some people used violence to achieve political goals. The police needed informants and undercover officers to figure out whether political groups were planning criminal acts.
“Without an effectively operating intelligence unit, the department would be unable to deal effectively with the many problems that arise each day in the largest, most complex, and most unique city in the world,” Murphy wrote.
It would take nearly another decade before the lawsuit over the NYPD’s surveillance was resolved. In 1985 the city settled the Handschu case and agreed to court-established rules about what intelligence the NYPD could collect on political activity. Under the rules, the department could investigate constitutionally protected activities only when it had specific information that a crime was being committed or was imminent. Undercover officers could be used only when they were essential to the case, not as a way to keep tabs on groups. Police could no longer build dossiers on people or keep their names in police files without specific evidence of criminal activity.
To ensure that the rules were being followed, the court created a three-person oversight committee. Two senior police officials and one civilian appointed by the mayor would review each police request for an investigation. Only with the majority approval of that board could an investigation proceed into political activity.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Intelligence Division detectives rushed to Lower Manhattan, but when they arrived, they realized their helplessness. They stood there on the street for hours, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. “Stand by” was all they heard. They stood by as World Trade Center 7 collapsed in a plume of dust and smoke and they waited as darkness began to fall on New York. Some were sent toward ground zero to escort surgeons onto the pile, where they conducted emergency amputations or other lifesaving procedures. Others gathered at the Police Academy, where Deputy Chief John Cutter, the head of the Intelligence Division, put them on twelve-hour shifts. He told them to contact their informants.
It was both the right command and a useless one. Nobody there had informants plugged into the world of international terrorism. But the detectives did what they were told. They called dope dealers and gang members and asked what they knew about the worst terrorist attack in US history.
They worked alongside the FBI out of makeshift command centers aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier and museum USS Intrepid and in an FBI parking garage, where some detectives sat on the concrete floor. They responded to the many tips called in by a jittery public. They questioned Muslims whose neighbors suddenly deemed them suspicious and visited businesses owned by Arab immigrants.
This was exactly the kind of reactive, aimless fumbling that Cohen wanted to do away with when he came aboard. He envisioned a police force that was plugged into the latest intelligence from Washington and that generated its own intelligence from the city. If an al-Qaeda bomber were ever to set his sights on New York again, Cohen wanted his team to be able to identify the plot and disrupt the plan. The rules needed to change.
* * *
Stolar, the attorney who’d brought the Handschu lawsuit decades earlier, listened on September 20, 2001, as President George W. Bush went to Congress and declared war on terrorism. He knew things were about to change. The way he saw it, once the government declares war on something—whether it be poverty, drugs, crime, or terrorism—the public quickly falls in line and supports it.
But this former radical, who witnessed police fire tear gas and beat antiwar demonstrators during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic National Convention and who was part of some of New York’s most turbulent times, was surprisingly naive about what was to come. He talked to his wife, Elsie, a public defense lawyer, and told her it was only a matter of time before the FBI hunted down the people who planned the World Trade Center attacks. They would be prosecuted in Manhattan’s federal court, he said, and they would need lawyers. Even the worst people in the world deserved a fair hearing and staunch defense. If the choice presented itself, Stolar and his wife agreed, he should take the case. As it turned out, there would never be any criminal trials. The suspected terrorists would be shipped to a military prison in Guantánamo Bay, where the government created a new legal system.
Stolar and his fellow Handschu lawyers also misjudged the NYPD’s response to the attacks. In early 2002, Eisenstein wrote to the city and said that, despite the tragedy, the Handschu guidelines represented an important safeguard of civil liberties. Eisenstein said that he and his colleagues were available if the city wanted to discuss the rules in light of the attacks. The city lawyers said they would consider it. Eisenstein didn’t hear anything for months. Then, on September 12, 2002, a twenty-three-page document arrived from someone named David Cohen.
Cohen’s name wasn’t familiar to Stolar, but as he skimmed the document, it didn’t take long to reach a conclusion: “This guy wants to get rid of us completely.”
The document, filed in federal court in Manhattan, had been months in the making, and Cohen had chosen his words carefully. He explained his background; his thirty-five-year career in the analytical and operational arms of the CIA. Invoking the recent attacks on the World Trade Center, he said the world had changed.
“These changes were not envisioned when the Handschu guidelines were agreed upon,” he wrote, “and their continuation dangerously limits the ability of the NYPD to protect the people it is sworn to serve.”
Like Commissioner Murphy’s affidavit about NYPD surveillance on radical groups in the 1960s, Cohen painted a picture of a nation—in particular a city—under siege from enemies within. Terrorists, he said, could be lurking anywhere. They could be your classmates, your friends, or the quiet family next door.
“They escape detection by blending into American society. They may own homes, live in communities with families, belong to religious or social organizations, and attend educational institutions. They typically display enormous patience, often waiting years until the components of their plans are perfectly aligned,” Cohen said.
He recounted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the attacks on embassies in Africa, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and plots against landmarks in New York. America’s freedoms of movement, privacy, and association gave terrorists an advantage, he said.
“This success is due in no small measure to the freedom with which terrorists enter this country, insinuate themselves as apparent participants in American society, and engage in secret operations,” he wrote, adding, “The freedom of our society has also made it possible for terrorist organizations to maintain US‑based activities.”
The stakes, Cohen said, could not be higher.
“We now understand that extremist Muslim fundamentalism is a worldwide movement with international goals. It is driven by a single-minded vision: Any society that does not conform to the strict al‑Qaeda interpretation of the Koran must be destroyed. Governments such as ours which do not impose strict Muslim rule must be overthrown through Jihad,” he said.
Faced with this threat, Cohen said, the police could no longer abide by the Handschu guidelines. Terrorists, like the violent radicals of the previous generation, often cloaked themselves behind legitimate organizations. The police had to be able to investigate these groups, even when there was no evidence that a crime was in the works.
“In the case of terrorism,” Cohen wrote, “to wait for an indication of crime before investigating is to wait far too long.”
Sunday, Sep 1, 2013 01:30 PM +0200
By Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman
Find this story at 1 September 2013
Copyright © 2013 by A&G Books, Inc.
NYPD: The Domestic CIA?
6 september 2013
Just days after the release of our investigation of the FBI’s use of informants in Muslim communities around the US comes a probe by the AP into the NYPD’s collaboration with the CIA to spy on Muslims in the greater New York area. The AP’s Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo reveal that the “NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government.”
Some background: In 2002, the NYPD hired former CIA official David Cohen to run their civilian intelligence program. Cohen got help from a CIA official to train and run a surveillance program in Muslim-American communities in the New York City area. Under Cohen, the NYPD utilized the diversity of its force to dispatch undercover officers in ethnic neighborhoods where they could “blend in.” Officers were looking for “hot spots,” areas needing further investigation, like a bookstore selling “radical” literature. They still call this investigative team the “Demographic Unit.”
The Demographic Unit, according to the AP investigation, monitors “daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as ‘mosque crawlers,’ to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.”
Sound familiar? The FBI has engaged in similar activities with the help of a former CIA official, Phil Mudd. Mudd helped create a program called “Domain Management” to strategically focus the FBI’s resources on particular communities. A New York Times reporter once described how Mudd “displayed a map of the San Francisco area, pocked with data showing where Iranian immigrants were clustered—and where, he said, an F.B.I. squad was ‘hunting.'” When asked to comment, an FBI spokesperson told the AP: “If you’re sending an informant into a mosque when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, that’s a very high-risk thing to do…You’re running right up against core constitutional rights. You’re talking about freedom of religion.”
In our own year-long investigation into the FBI’s activities with informants in Muslim communities, reporter Trevor Aaronson notes: “Informants have said in court testimony that FBI handlers have tasked them with infiltrating mosques without a specific target or ‘predicate’—the term of art for the reason why someone is investigated. They were, they say, directed to surveil law-abiding Americans with no indication of criminal intent.”
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There are other similarities between the NYPD’s actions and the FBI’s intelligence operations in Muslim-American communities, like the NYPD’s method of gathering informants for its investigations. In one instance, the AP finds that the NYPD “asked the taxi commission to run a report on all the city’s Pakistani cab drivers, looking for those who got licenses fraudulently and might be susceptible to pressure to cooperate, according to former officials who were involved in or briefed on the effort.”
And the NYPD isn’t limiting itself to investigations in New York City alone. They have expanded with, the AP reports, “officers deputized as federal marshals,” who are allowed to work out of state, such as in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. According to the investigation, the information the NYPD obtains is sometimes passed on to the CIA. The AP notes that “the NYPD was looking more and more like a domestic CIA.”
Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, says the program is potentially against the law. “Selecting neighborhoods for infiltration and surveillance as the NYPD has done is, at bottom, ethnic or religious profiling. Such discrimination runs afoul of our nation’s commitment to ‘liberty and justice for all.’ To the extent that the NYPD is monitoring the exercise of Muslims free speech rights and their right to practice their religion, it may also be running afoul of the First Amendment.”
According to Patel, the NYPD’s program is the wrong use of the department’s resources. She said, “New York City has approximately 800,000 thousand Muslims—monitoring all of these people in the hopes of identifying suspicious activity is simply not effective. It would be more effective to build solid relations with the communities so that they would be comfortable reporting suspicious activity to the NYPD.”
—By Hamed Aleaziz
| Thu Aug. 25, 2011 3:40 AM PDT
Find this story at 25 August 2013
©2013 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress.
New York Police Ends Practice of Keeping Innocent New Yorkers in Stop-and-Frisk Database
6 september 2013
In a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York City Police Department agreed to stop storing the names of people who were arrested or issued a summons after being stopped and frisked — and later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. For years, police have used the database to target New Yorkers for criminal investigations, even though it includes people who were victims of unjustified police stops. Since 2002, the police department has conducted more than five million stops and frisks. The vast majority of those stopped have been black and Latino. According to the police department’s own reports, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers stopped and frisked have been innocent. We speak to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with a major development for opponents of New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program. In a settlement announced Wednesday, the NYPD agreed to stop storing the names of people who were arrested or issued a summons after being stopped and frisked, and later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
For years, police have used the database to target New Yorkers for criminal investigations, even though it includes people who were victims of unjustified police stops. Since 2002, the police department has conducted over five million stops and frisks. The vast majority of those stopped have black and Latino. According to the police department’s own reports, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers stopped and frisked have been innocent.
Two of the people at the center of the case spoke about what happened to them in 2010 in this video produced by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the case that was just settled. First we hear from Daryl Kahn, who was pulled over by two police officers in an unmarked van and issued a summons for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. That summons was later dismissed. We also hear from Clive Lino, who was issued a summons for spitting in public and possessing an open container. His charges were also dismissed.
DARYL KAHN: If I, riding my bike, legally, on the streets of New York, can end up in a database, some kind of secret police database with my private information in it, for doing nothing wrong, then anyone in the city can end up in that database.
CLIVE LINO: I’ve been stopped so many times that now I’ve lost count. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s an embarrassment, especially when you haven’t done anything at all. I get stopped just coming out of my building. [inaudible] and intimidated, harassed. I feel—I get, like, kind of on edge now when I see officers. I feel like I’m going to be stopped, like a hostage in my own neighborhood.
DARYL KAHN: I was running an errand for my sister in Brooklyn. I was riding my bike, when I was pulled over by a couple of members of the NYPD.
CLIVE LINO: Usually I’m not doing anything when I get stopped. And it proves it, because I’m usually let go.
DARYL KAHN: They started asking me a series of questions, none of which I felt comfortable with, since I hadn’t done anything wrong. When I protested, the—it counter-escalated. More police officers were called over.
CLIVE LINO: When I get a disorderly conduct summons, I’m just usually speaking up for myself, and the officers usually don’t like that.
DARYL KAHN: I was wrenched off the bicycle I was riding. I was slammed up against the van, had my arms wrenched behind my back. I was handcuffed, had my head slammed against the van repeatedly.
CLIVE LINO: No, I’m not a bad person. I don’t have a felony. I’ve never been to prison. I’m an honest, paying-tax citizen, and I hold a job. I just finished up my master’s degree at Mercy College. So, no, I’m not a bad guy.
AMY GOODMAN: The voices of Clive Lino and Daryl Kahn, who sued the New York Police Department over its stop-and-frisk database.
In related news, a federal judge is soon expected to issue a ruling in a major case challenging the constitutionality of the overall stop-and-frisk program.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. The New York Police Department did not response to our request for comment.
Donna Lieberman, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Explain this settlement.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Well, this settlement follows a couple of years of litigation, and it’s an important victory for all New Yorkers because it really closes the last loophole in the NYPD stop-and-frisk database. A law was passed in 2010, signed into law by Governor Paterson, that prohibits the police department from maintaining the names and addresses of individuals who were stopped and frisked and not arrested. But people who were arrested and cleared of criminal wrongdoing have their names kept in the police department database, even though there’s a statute that says you have—when somebody has their charges dismissed or is exculpated, the database has to—all government databases have to be cleared with regard to the incident. So, the police department was doggedly holding onto this information, so we had to go to court. And finally, they agreed to settle it, after an appeals court said that we had valid claims.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain exactly who is in this database and how many people are in it.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Well, there were millions, five, six million people in the NYPD database. And the police department—Ray Kelly, in a letter to Pete Vallone a couple years ago, said, “And this is important for us to have, because it helps us to investigate crimes,” translates into rounding up the usual suspects. And there were many who believed that in fact the proliferation of stop and frisk of hundreds of thousands, millions of New Yorkers, who were so innocent that they walked away without even a summons, was prompted by the police department’s desire to get a database of all black and brown New Yorkers. Now, that may be a little bit extreme, but who knows? And who knows really how it was being used? What we do know is that the collateral damage of this stop-and-frisk program that targeted people of color, that is totally out of control, was this police database of innocent New Yorkers, and there’s no reason why there should be a permanent police file of innocent people by virtue of stop and frisk.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, as I said, we invited the New York Police Department on. The deputy commissioner, Paul Browne, couldn’t join us, but he did send the following comment. He wrote, quote, “As to the substance of the NYCLU’s claim today, the reality is that the NYPD had been in full compliance with the relevant law since it was passed by the New York State Legislature in 2010. Accordingly, there was no practical reason to continue this litigation. In other words, it’s been a moot point for three years.”
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Funny the court didn’t think so. And there are actually two laws at issue. One is the law that required the striking of personal information about people who weren’t arrested, and the other was an already existing law that required the sealing of records with regard to peoples who were—people who were arrested and who were exonerated through the court proceedings. And it was that law that the police department was not complying with. And if the police department wasn’t doing it, it’s sort of surprising that they didn’t decide to settle it a long time ago.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting. In The New York Times, a senior lawyer for the city, Celeste Koeleveld said that some of the information was already accessible to police officers through other databases. And she said, “At the end of the day, it just didn’t make sense to continue this particular litigation.” So, what does that mean? You can get the information anyway?
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, the 250s, the forms that the police are required to fill out, remain, you know, available to the police department, but they’re not an electronic database. What we had here was an electronic, easily searchable database that could pull up information in seconds. And that was the problem here. Of course, the police hold onto their, you know, records that they maintain on paper.
And, of course, by the way, the database is really, really important. It’s just not the personally identifiable information that’s important. The database tells us how many stop-and-frisks are going on and who they’re targeting. That’s how we have found out, that’s how New Yorkers know, that the program is out of control. So it’s really important to keep the information, but to keep it in an epidemiological kind of way, without personally identifiable information, so that—so that we can track this epidemic and not hurt people whose privacy rights are being impacted.
You know, stop-and-frisk hurts when it happens. And people are sometimes physically brutalized. People are subject to humiliation. Their dignity is just, you know, disrespected. And it’s a traumatic experience. The database is kind of the silent pain. It’s the silent harm of stop-and-frisk, because if by virtue of walking while black you’re put into a permanent police database of usual suspects, well, then that’s a scar that can hurt you at any time in your life.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s look at these numbers. In 2012, you have well over a half a million stops and frisks.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s two years after the law. This doesn’t change the number of stops and frisks. And, of course, what, something like 90 percent were totally innocent, and 55 percent were African American, 32 percent Latino. This doesn’t change the stops and frisks; it’s just how they collect data on them.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Exactly. I mean, there are a lot of challenges going on to the NYPD stop-and-frisk program. There are three major class action lawsuits now pending in federal court: one that challenges the whole—the abuses in the stop-and-frisk program overall; one that challenges the—what’s called the Clean Halls program, which is stop-and-frisk abuse in the—in residential buildings, where landlords sign up for particular police protection, and the police have used this as a pretext to subject residents to all sorts of constitutional violations; and one that challenges a comparable program in public housing. We expect a ruling from the federal court, you know, about the constitutional violations that are part of the NYPD stop-and-frisk program any day, any week now, and that will be very, very important.
And, of course, there’s another aspect of the work that’s going on to rein in this out-of-control police department, which is the legislation that’s pending in the City Council. The City Council passed an inspector general bill, a racial profiling bill, with a supermajority on both. The mayor has promised to strong-arm one vote, so that his veto will not be overridden. And I think we’re convinced that the City Council is going to hold firm, and these historic pieces of legislation will override the veto, and that we’ll have a better framework for fair and just policing—and safe streets, by the way—in New York City at the end of the day.
AMY GOODMAN: What about Mayor Bloomberg’s response, who has said there aren’t enough stops and frisks?
DONNA LIEBERMAN: It’s hard to take that seriously. You know, even the RAND Corporation, which was commissioned to do the police department’s bidding in a report a few years ago, said that in a city this size you would expect maybe 250,000, 300,000 stop-and-frisks. You know, that was at a time when we only had like 400,000 or 500,000 going on. It’s like—it’s glib. It’s ludicrous. And you know what it says about the mayor? It says about the mayor that he just doesn’t get it, that he’s not black, he doesn’t understand the experiences of black parents who have to train their kids how to survive an encounter with the police, where they’re dissing you and you haven’t done anything wrong. I mean, he just doesn’t get it. And I’m confident that, you know, we’ll see major changes.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, his quote is quite something: “The numbers are the numbers, [and] the numbers clearly show [that] the stops are generally proportionate with suspects’ descriptions. And for years now critics have been trying to argue [that] minorities are stopped disproportionately,” he said. He said, “If you look at the crime numbers, that’s just not true. The numbers don’t lie,” he says, because these people who are stopped match descriptions. I mean, if you say, well, the word “black,” you arrest a lot of people in New York City, or you stop and frisk them.
DONNA LIEBERMAN: Sure, but you know what? The myth about stop-and-frisk is that it’s about stopping suspicious people. About 15 percent—I think my number is right—of the stops are of people who fit a suspect description. You know, the overwhelming majority are police-initiated on the street. And when so many of the people walk away from a stop, that’s supposed to be based on suspicious activity, without so much as a summons, in an era of broken-windows policing where they would—where they arrest people and give them a ticket for an open container or spitting on the sidewalk, like Clive Lino, that just—it’s hollow. This isn’t a program about stopping criminals. It’s not a program about frisking people with guns. This is a program about stopping and frisking people who are innocent, innocent New Yorkers who commit the crime of walking while black. And last I heard, that’s not a crime.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Donna Lieberman, for being with us. Donna Lieberman is the executive director of the New York City Civil Liberties Union. Stay with us.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Find this story at 12 August 2013
Judge Rules NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Practice Violates Rights; Outside Monitor Is Ordered to Oversee Changes to the Legally Challenged Practice
6 september 2013
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacts to a federal court’s decision on the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice, and outlines the reasons for appealing. Photo: Getty Images.
The New York Police Department violated the Constitution with its practice of stopping and searching people suspected of criminal activity, a federal judge ruled Monday in a decision likely to lead police departments across the country to take a close look at their crime-fighting tactics.
Finding that New York City’s so-called stop-and-frisk program amounted to “indirect racial profiling” by targeting blacks and Hispanics disproportionate to their populations, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the installation of the department’s first-ever independent monitor to oversee changes to its practices. City officials have argued that stop-and-frisk is a key component in their largely successful efforts to fight crime, but opponents have criticized it as a blatant violation of civil rights.
New York City officials immediately criticized the decision. “No federal judge has ever imposed a monitor over a city’s police department following a civil trial,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said the city didn’t receive a fair trial, citing comments from the judge that he said “telegraphed her intentions,” and he said the city would seek an immediate stay while appealing the decision.
Mr. Bloomberg credited stop-and-frisk with helping drive crime in New York City to record lows. Murders in the city are at levels not seen in more than five decades, for instance. The mayor, who leaves office at year-end after three terms, predicted that should the judge’s decision stand, it could reverse those crime reductions “and make our city, and in fact the whole country, a more dangerous place.”
While New York’s stop-and-frisk practice is much more widely used than those in most other cities, police experts said the ruling is likely to lead police in other cities to tread more carefully in their own tactics.
“It’s definitely a wake-up call to any police chief in the country to be mindful to constitutional rights,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He added that “whether you do [stop-and-frisk] a little or a lot, because of this ruling, you have to be very cautious” about not violating those rights.
Pearl Gabel for The Wall Street Journal
Police stop a group in the Bronx in September 2012.
Police experts said the practice is larger and more coordinated in New York City, where on a daily basis extra patrol officers are sent into neighborhoods where crime patterns have been identified.
While officials in some cities said they wouldn’t be directly affected by the ruling, experts said the order for monitoring and other remedies in New York, including a pilot program in which officers will be equipped with “body-worn cameras,” is likely to be watched by city and police officials elsewhere.
“Even though the decision itself only applies to the NYPD, the fact that it’s the largest police department in the country and it is the NYPD means there will be a lot of publicity,” said Samuel Walker, a criminal-justice professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska Omaha, who testified as a plaintiffs’ expert on police monitors at the trial.
Under the pilot camera program, officers in the precinct in each of the city’s five boroughs with the highest number of stops in 2012 will be required to wear the body cameras for a year. After that, the federal monitor will weigh whether the cameras reduced what the judge calls unconstitutional stops and if their benefits outweigh their costs.
The ruling has the potential to embolden civil-liberties groups to confront police departments in other urban areas where officers are stopping minority residents at a rate disproportionate to their population. Stop-and-frisk advocates say that could mean broader scaling back of what they view as a powerful crime-fighting tactic.
A federal court judge ruled the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice in violation of the United States Constitution, why small talk is actually a big deal, and will protein bars made with cricket flour sell in the U.S.? Photo: AP.
A federal court judge ordered an independent monitor to oversee reforms to the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice after ruling it violated the U.S. Constitution. Tom Namako reports on Lunch Break. Photo: AP.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterates the success of stop-and-frisk and claims that New York is a “poster child” that the rest of the country looks up to. Photo: Getty Images.
The civil-rights lawsuit challenging the policy, one of three class actions before Judge Scheindlin, was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of plaintiffs who had been stopped by the NYPD. “They did this because they believed what the NYPD was doing was wrong and they wanted it to stop,” said Darius Charney, an attorney at the center.
The judge’s decision Monday came three months after she heard nine weeks of trial testimony as part of the suit challenging the policy, in which officers have stopped and sometimes frisked about five million people since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. One of the plaintiffs who testified in the trial, David Ourlicht, said he cried when he learned of the decision.
“It’s a big victory for New York. As far as America as a whole, it shows the polarization,” he said.
The other two class actions regarding the stop-and-frisk policy are pending trial.
Stops, by law, must be based on reasonable suspicion of a crime, a standard that city officials insist that NYPD officers have met. During testimony, it was revealed that more than 80% of those stopped were black or Hispanic, approximately 90% of whom were released after being found not to have committed any crimes.
The city argued during testimony that it focused a disproportionate share of its resources in minority neighborhoods with high crime rates and that its practices were “not racially biased policing.”
Judge Scheindlin stated in her decision that the city adopted a “policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data.” The result, she said, is “the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause” of the Constitution.
Judge Shira Scheindlin named a monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk.
Under a landmark 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Terry v. Ohio, police officers are allowed to stop those they have reasonable suspicion committed a crime or are about to commit a crime and frisk them if they have reasonable belief to think them armed or an imminent danger.
Police including the NYPD have been practicing stop-and-frisk for decades, but the practice has come under more scrutiny in New York since 2003, when the NYPD began to be required to report to the City Council the total stops made quarterly. That number had steadily escalated to more than 685,000 a year by 2012 before drastically dipping this year.
Police departments elsewhere say they are trying to balance the rights of citizens with their responsibility to fight crime.
Adam Collins, Chicago Police Department director of news affairs, said all police departments have procedures to question potential suspects when appropriate. He said the Chicago department “uses contact cards to document these interactions and does not engage in any form of racial profiling.”
Over the past two years, he said the CPD “has instituted additional training, mandatory for all officers, around how they are to interact with these individuals and the community to ensure a full understanding of the questioning and potential search.”
The New Orleans Police Department recently updated its stop-and-frisk policy. The tactic allows police officers to “frisk the outer clothing” of a person they believe to be involved in a crime, according to a statement from the office of New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu. If an officer “reasonably suspects the person possesses a dangerous weapon, he may search the person,” according to the statement.
—Meredith Rutland, Jacob Gershman and Tamer El-Ghobashy contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared August 12, 2013, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Judge Reins In Frisking By Police.
August 12, 2013
By SEAN GARDINER
Find this story at 12 August 2013
Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
6 september 2013
The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.
An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports:
In 2002, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 97,296 times.
80,176 were totally innocent (82 percent).
In 2003, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 160,851 times.
140,442 were totally innocent (87 percent).
77,704 were black (54 percent).
44,581 were Latino (31 percent).
17,623 were white (12 percent).
83,499 were aged 14-24 (55 percent).
In 2004, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 313,523 times.
278,933 were totally innocent (89 percent).
155,033 were black (55 percent).
89,937 were Latino (32 percent).
28,913 were white (10 percent).
152,196 were aged 14-24 (52 percent).
In 2005, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 398,191 times.
352,348 were totally innocent (89 percent).
196,570 were black (54 percent).
115,088 were Latino (32 percent).
40,713 were white (11 percent).
189,854 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).
In 2006, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 506,491 times.
457,163 were totally innocent (90 percent).
267,468 were black (53 percent).
147,862 were Latino (29 percent).
53,500 were white (11 percent).
247,691 were aged 14-24 (50 percent).
In 2007, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 472,096 times.
410,936 were totally innocent (87 percent).
243,766 were black (54 percent).
141,868 were Latino (31 percent).
52,887 were white (12 percent).
223,783 were aged 14-24 (48 percent).
In 2008, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 540,302 times.
474,387 were totally innocent (88 percent).
275,588 were black (53 percent).
168,475 were Latino (32 percent).
57,650 were white (11 percent).
263,408 were aged 14-24 (49 percent).
In 2009, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 581,168 times.
510,742 were totally innocent (88 percent).
310,611 were black (55 percent).
180,055 were Latino (32 percent).
53,601 were white (10 percent).
289,602 were aged 14-24 (50 percent).
In 2010, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 601,285 times.
518,849 were totally innocent (86 percent).
315,083 were black (54 percent).
189,326 were Latino (33 percent).
54,810 were white (9 percent).
295,902 were aged 14-24 (49 percent).
In 2011, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 685,724 times.
605,328 were totally innocent (88 percent).
350,743 were black (53 percent).
223,740 were Latino (34 percent).
61,805 were white (9 percent).
341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 percent).
In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times
473,644 were totally innocent (89 percent).
284,229 were black (55 percent).
165,140 were Latino (32 percent).
50,366 were white (10 percent).
About the Data
Every time a police officer stops a person in NYC, the officer is supposed to fill out a form to record the details of the stop. Officers fill out the forms by hand, and then the forms are entered manually into a database. There are 2 ways the NYPD reports this stop-and-frisk data: a paper report released quarterly and an electronic database released annually.
The paper reports – which the N.Y.C.L.U. releases every three months – include data on stops, arrests, and summonses. The data are broken down by precinct of the stop and race and gender of the person stopped. The paper reports provide a basic snapshot on stop-and-frisk activity by precinct and are available here.
The electronic database includes nearly all of the data recorded by the police officer after a stop. The data include the age of person stopped, if a person was frisked, if there was a weapon or firearm recovered, if physical force was used, and the exact location of the stop within the precinct. Having the electronic database allows researchers to look in greater detail at what happens during a stop. Below are CSV files containing data from the 2011 electronic database.
Click here to download a compressed (.zip) CSV file of the 2012 database. This file is easily imported into most statistical packages, including the freeware R. It contains 101 variables and 532,911 observations, each of which represents a stop conducted by an NYPD officer. Variables include race, gender and age of the person stopped as well as the location, time and date of the stop.
Click here to download a PDF file of documents and notes that may clarify the dataset. The PDF includes a list and description of variables, a blank stop-and-frisk reporting form (UF-250) and other notes provided by the NYPD.
Find this story at 12 August 2013
And a pdf of the story
Judge Rules NYPD “Stop and Frisk” Unconstitutional, Cites “Indirect Racial Profiling”
6 september 2013
In a historic ruling, a federal court has ruled the controversial “stop-and-frisk” tactics used by New York City Police officers are unconstitutional. In a harshly critical decision, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said police had relied on what she called a “policy of indirect racial profiling” that led officers to routinely stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” Since 2002, the police department has conducted more than five million stop-and-frisks. According to the police department’s own reports, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers stopped and frisked have been innocent. In her almost 200-page order Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life. … Targeting young black and Hispanic men for stops based on the alleged criminal conduct of other young black or Hispanic men violates the bedrock principles of equality.” She also appointed a federal monitor to oversee reforms, with input from community members as well as police. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted angrily to the ruling and accused the judge of denying the city a fair trial. We’re joined by Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel on the case. “This is a victory for so many hundreds of thousands of people who have been illegally stopped and frisked over the last decade,” Patel says.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: We begin with a historic ruling in federal court that the stop-and-frisk tactics used by New York police officers are unconstitutional. In a harshly critical decision, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin said police had relied on what she called a “policy of indirect racial profiling” that led officers to routinely stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” Since 2002, the police department has conducted more than five million stop-and-frisks. According to the police department’s own reports, nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers [who] have been stopped and frisked have been innocent.
AMY GOODMAN: In her almost 200-page order, Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote, quote, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life. … Targeting young black and Hispanic men for stops based on the alleged criminal conduct of other young black or Hispanic men violates the bedrock principles of equality,” she wrote.
The ruling came after several months of testimony, much of it from eight plaintiffs who were all African American or Latino. Together they described a total 19 incidents in which they were stopped and, in some cases, searched and frisked unlawfully. Shortly after the decision was announced, the plaintiffs in the case held a news conference alongside their lawyers.
DAVID OURLICHT: When I got the call this morning, the first thing I did was cry. And it wasn’t—wasn’t because I was sad or necessarily happy, but because it was so—you know, I put everything to—you know, it’s important, and to know that it was recognized is just—it’s hard to explain. I think, actually, there is something else I have to say. I think it’s a really good picture of what’s going on in society. I mean, this is a big thing for New York, but as far as America as a whole, it shows the polarization of people of color in this country as how we’re viewed, you know, and I think it—I think it just needs to be recognized.
NICHOLAS PEART: You know, our voices do count, and count toward something, you know, greater. And, you know, this has been a long time coming, this case, and all the time that has been put into it and the sacrifices, you know, just taking off work and coming here and giving our testimony to, you know, a big issue that has transcended beyond communities of black and brown people. You know, this is an issue that folks in Tribeca now understand and folks in Soho now understand and have a really, really accurate understanding of this. You know, so I’m grateful for that and the attention that it has received. And, you know, I think it’s clear, you know, the psychological consequences of “stop and frisk” and it being a rites of passage for so many black and brown boys, and, you know, having this experience and being criminalized and, you know, how that carries on to their adult years. So I think we are taking some tremendous steps forward, and I’m definitely grateful for that.
DEVIN ALMONOR: I just feel glad that my—my lawyers, I commend them, and the judge, for doing an outstanding job on my behalf and the other plaintiffs’. And it’s just the beginning of, like, reparations. And with my case, I could have, like—I could have been like Trayvon Martin, because each—it was just too unbearable, and I could have been in his same place. And my heart goes out to his family. And it’s just—it’s just very hard to get through this, but with the help of my parents and my friends and my lawyers, they’ve done all that they can for me, and I love them so very much.
LALIT CLARKSON: In thinking about it, the reason why I joined on to this case was because many of us, including myself, feel like “stop and frisk” is police abuse, and that that’s the lowest level of police abuse. And once police abuse power when it comes to “stop and frisk,” then they can do it in terms of falsely arresting people, then they can do it in terms of planting evidence. And at the most extreme cases, they can do it in terms of killing people. So I think, for many of us here, including myself, this is important, because if we can find remedies to stop officers from violating our constitutional rights, then maybe other forms of police abuse, as it relates to people in my community and other community members, maybe some of that begins to stop.
LEROY DOWNS: Just really thankful for the people that believed in us, you know, that we weren’t making up these stories. We didn’t fabricate anything. We came to the table and said, “This is our experiences, and we’re speaking for millions of other people that are going through the same thing in this city.” And I’m just hopeful that—I know it’s premature, but I’m hopeful that the monitor—it’s not too much bureaucracy with the other city—court-appointed monitors, that we can really have some teeth in the legislation and really make changes to stop-question-and-frisk, and that the policies can actually change, man, like not just talk about change, but really change, really make those adjustments so that people can walk down the street or can stand in front of their house on a cellphone and not have to worry about, you know, being accused of being a drug dealer or something like that. So, I’m thankful to that. Thank you.
AARON MATÉ: Those are the voices of LeRoy Downs, Lalit Clarkson, Devin Almonor, Nicholas Peart, David Ourlicht, all plaintiffs in the stop-and-frisk lawsuit. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin found, quote, “the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.” She also appointed a federal monitor to oversee reforms, with input from community members as well as police. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted angrily to the ruling and accused the judge of denying the city a fair trial.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge that I think just does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court. We believe we have done exactly what the courts allow and the Constitution allow us to do, and we will continue to do everything we can to keep this city safe. Throughout the case, we didn’t believe that we were getting a fair trial. And this decision confirms that suspicion. And we will be presenting evidence of that unfairness to the appeals court.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. For more, we’re joined by Sunita Patel, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, co-counsel on the case.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! Your response to Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling?
SUNITA PATEL: It’s an astounding victory for everyone in New York City. She has very correctly and smartly decided that the city is engaging in racial profiling. And this is—it’s a victory for so many hundreds of thousands of people who have been illegally stopped and frisked over the last decade.
AMY GOODMAN: And to those who say that this is the reason crime is down and that the number of lives that have been saved from some—what did I hear one pundit quoting today?—3,000 in a year now down to 300 murders in a year, particularly in black and brown communities, that the number of black and brown lives saved is a result of this racial profiling?
SUNITA PATEL: Well, for one thing, there’s no empirical evidence linking “stop and frisk” to crime reduction generally. Secondly, you know, this is a tactic, that this murder rate reduction has been quoted in the news—I think it’s a little bit blurry. When this administration—that’s a statistic that spans the course of, you know, 15 years. It’s not something—it’s not within the time period that we’re talking about. When Mayor Bloomberg came into office, the murder rate was already down to some—to a very small number. So, they’re taking credit for something that happened way before them, and they’re blurring the math on this issue. In addition, the crime rates have been going down nationally for the last two decades, and there just isn’t a link between the two.
AARON MATÉ: Can you explain what Judge Scheindlin ruled in determining that “stop and frisk” violates the Fourth and 14th Amendment? And also talk about the remedies that she’s ordered.
SUNITA PATEL: Yes. In the Fourth Amendment claim, she’s saying that—she said that the city has a practice, a widespread practice, of going out and stopping people without individualized suspicion that there is crime afoot, which is what is required by the Supreme Court law in Terry v. Ohio. In the 14th Amendment claim, she’s saying that, look, many of these stops are not only based on—lack reasonable suspicion, but they’re on the basis of race. The city and the New York Police Department is using race as a proxy for crime. Rather than looking at what is this person doing specifically that would allow the police to stop them, they’re saying, “Because they’re black or brown in this area, we’re just going to stop them to try to prevent crime,” which is not—is not constitutional, it’s illegal.
And then, in terms of remedies, what she’s done is she said that she’s going to appoint a federal court monitor, which is very common in policing systemic reform cases to oversee the day-to-day activity of reforms. And she’s also said she wants a second phase of the reform, where community members get to have a stake in what reforms are going to happen. And she’s calling for a joint reform process that will have a facilitator, that allows—also allows the New York Police Department to have a seat at the table to say, “Hey, this is what we think would work. This is what we think wouldn’t work.” I mean, you know, this really should be seen as an opportunity by the police department.
AMY GOODMAN: Who will be the court-appointed monitor?
SUNITA PATEL: Someone named Peter Zimroth. He’s a partner at Arnold & Porter. We don’t know—you know, the plaintiffs’ counsel doesn’t—we didn’t have anything to do with this selection of the monitor, but we do know it sounds like he’s going to be very fair-minded. He’s a former corp counsel and just—attorney, and he’s a former district attorney. So, you know, in my mind, I would think that this is someone that the police department and the city should embrace working with, and we really hope that they will do that and decide not to appeal the judge’s very well-reasoned decision.
AMY GOODMAN: During a news conference Monday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly blasted the ruling and insisted New York City police officers do not engage in racial profiling.
COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY: What I find most disturbing and offensive about this decision is the notion that the NYPD engages in racial profiling. That simply is recklessly untrue. We do not engage in racial profiling. It is prohibited by law. It is prohibited by our own regulations. We train our officers that they need reasonable suspicion to make a stop, and I can assure you that race is never a reason to conduct a stop. The NYPD is the most racially and ethnically diverse police department in the world. In contrast with some societies, New York City and its police department have focused their crime-fighting efforts to protect the poorest members of our community, who are disproportionately the victims of murder and other violent crime—disturbingly so. To that point, last year 97 percent of all shooting victims were black or Hispanic and reside in low-income neighborhoods. Public housing, in just—with 5 percent of the city’s population, resides—experiences 20 percent of the shootings. There were more stops for suspicious activity in neighborhoods with higher crime because that’s where the crime is.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speaking Monday. President Obama has indicated he may consider appointing Kelly the new secretary of homeland security, to which Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor, said, “Ray Kelly needs to be the Homeland Security secretary like Paula Deen needs to run the United Nations World Food Program.” He wrote, “Commissioner Kelly is the poster child for the most racially insensitive police practice in the United States, stop and frisk. During his term in office, the number of times police stop people on the street for questioning increased from about 100,000, in 2002, to almost 700,000 in 2011.” But Commissioner Kelly is saying that they are doing this in high crime communities and saving lives in those communities.
SUNITA PATEL: Well, you know, this is something that was analyzed ad nauseam by the court. We had two statistical experts that testified multiple times in the case, and she said, “This is just absolutely false.” She gave very little weight to this argument, because, in reality, the number of times that officers actually check the box on the UF-250 form, that says that they’re stopping someone based on a suspect description, is not that high. It’s between 10 and 15 percent, depending on the year. Instead, they check this box that says “high crime area.” And when our statistical expert analyzed each incident, from 2002 to June 2012, when that box was checked, you know, we found that when you control for all other factors, race is what is determinative, not—it’s not actually the area and the crime rate.
AMY GOODMAN: What about cameras?
SUNITA PATEL: So the judge has ordered the city to test out in a—and to do a study in an evaluation of body-worn cameras. This is something that has been done in, you know, a few small jurisdictions around the country and has had a favorable impact on the—reducing the number of complaints against police officers. Again, this is something that the police department, if it’s doing its job correctly and is actually not engaging in racial profiling, would actually help and support police officers when there are complaints filed against them. You would actually have a contemporaneous record of what’s going on. It’s similar in some ways to traffic cameras, that are becoming standard in many large urban jurisdictions where there are complaints against police officers.
AARON MATÉ: Now, the term itself, “stop and frisk,” can sound kind of harmless, you know, a “stop and frisk” or—it implies a pat-down. But what is the reality of this practice, that you see from talking to your clients?
SUNITA PATEL: I mean, the reality is—I mean, that’s a great question, because I think a lot of people think of it as a very just like blasé—it’s just a frisk, it’s just a pat-down. What we heard in the trial was testimony from 12 people who said, “Look, this is humiliating, this is degrading. This is something that no one should have to go through.” And even worse, it’s something that is—that an entire generation of black and brown people is becoming desensitized to.
We’re talking about something that is physically invasive and degrading. You know, this is an officer that’s saying, “Hey, put your hands against the wall,” and aggressively putting their hands over their bodies, down their waist, down their pant legs, both sides. And one of our plaintiffs—or one of our witnesses even testified about, you know, being grabbed in the groin area. And he felt—on his 18th birthday. And he just felt that this was so humiliating. He filed a complaint. And, you know, at that young age, to even—to bring that forward and to make that kind of claim and then feel that that was—that the officer was not held accountable, I mean, it really has a lasting detrimental impact on the relationship between the police and the community.
AMY GOODMAN: So what happens from here? The city says they’ll appeal.
SUNITA PATEL: The city says they’ll appeal. As I said earlier, I really hope that after they carefully consider the decision, they’ll decide not to. However, you know, they may appeal. Apparently, Michael Cardozo said that they’re considering when they can appeal. It’s not clear if they can appeal yet. And they will likely file a stay, which is something asking for the court—they’ll ask Judge Scheindlin to stay her injunction, so that they don’t have to do anything right now.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Sunita, for joining us. Sunita Patel is a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, co-counsel on the stop-and-frisk federal action lawsuit. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a Democracy Now! exclusive. Stay with us.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Find this story at 13 August 2013
Brooklyn Is Not Baghdad: What Is the CIA Teaching the NYPD?
30 augustus 2013
Most Americans think that the CIA works overseas while the FBI and local police protect them at home. But the agency has long worked domestically, and in the last decade it has become involved in counterterrorism operations with local police as well.
A recent report by the CIA’s inspector general shows that such cooperation can easily go wrong. Between 2002 and 2012 the CIA sent four agents to help the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit (which is led by a former agency official) without making sure that they knew the limits of what they could and couldn’t do. According to the inspector general, this type of “close and direct collaboration with any local domestic police department” could lead to the perception that the agency had “exceeded its authorities.”
Faiza Patel is co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Centre for Justice. She is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries. Full Bio
But the problem goes far beyond one of perception. We should be concerned that CIA involvement with local police will influence them to adopt a counterinsurgency mentality that is simply not warranted on home turf. When deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, the agency has to assume that it is working in a hostile environment. It’s operations are necessarily covert. It is not restrained by the full panoply of constitutional rules that apply at home.
One cannot help but wonder whether a CIA mentality helped shape the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program. A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Associated Press has shown that police officers monitored every aspect of the lives of Muslim New Yorkers [since 9/11]. They secretly mapped out Muslim communities, noting the details of bookstores, barbershops and cafes. Informants in mosques reported on religious beliefs and political views that had nothing to do with terrorism. Muslim student groups across the Northeast were watched. All of this information, however innocuous or irrelevant to its purported counterterrorism purpose, landed in police files. It sure sounds like a program directed at a hostile population rather than a community with an exemplary record for cooperating with law enforcement.
One counterinsurgency lesson that the CIA apparently failed to teach the NYPD was how aggressive tactics could alienate local populations. The NYPD’s surveillance program has severely damaged the police’s relationship with the Muslim community, leading to protests and lawsuits. The CIA’s involvement can only make American Muslims feel that they are being targeted by the entire U.S. government. Such perceptions undermine everyone’s safety. Decades of policing research shows that communities that do not trust law enforcement are less likely to come forward and share information.
There is also good reason for the perception that the CIA exceeded its authorities during its NYPD partnership. When the CIA was created in 1947, lawmakers instructed it not to exercise “police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers or domestic security functions.” Congress’s aim to prevent Agency operations at home is plain, but the exact nature of forbidden “domestic security functions” is now defined in large part by secret rules.
What is known about the CIA’s authority is mostly contained in Executive Order 12333, first issued by President Ronald Reagan and updated by later presidents. This order allows the agency to perform some domestic functions, including assisting federal agencies and local police. For example, the CIA is allowed to “participate in law enforcement activities to investigate or prevent” international terrorism. This should mean that CIA agents are kept away from purely domestic investigations. But according to the inspector general’s report, a loaned CIA agent overseeing NYPD investigations “did not receive briefings on the law enforcement restrictions” and believed there were “no limitations” on his activities. Another CIA operative admitted receiving “unfiltered” reports containing information about U.S. citizens unrelated to international terrorism.
The rules governing the agency’s involvement in domestic matters are very flexible, but the few safeguards that are in place should be taken seriously. The inspector general’s report showed that these standards were not met, but shied away from calling out illegality and from holding anyone responsible. Indeed, the inspector general did not even believe a full investigation was warranted. Congress might want to ask why.
Nor did the inspector general address the risk that CIA tactics honed in wars abroad could influence police operations at home. The agency should seriously evaluate this likelihood before assigning its personnel to police departments, as should the Congressional committees responsible for overseeing the intelligence community. Brooklyn is not Baghdad. American Muslim communities deserve to be treated as partners in the fight against terrorism and crime, not as hostile foreign populations.
Faiza Patel is co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Centre for Justice. She is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries.
Daniel Michelson-Horowitz is a legal intern with the Brennan Center for Justice.
Faiza Patel and Daniel Michelson-Horowitz
August 15, 2013
Find this story at 15 August 2013
© 2013 by National Journal Group, Inc.
NYPD secretly branded entire mosques as terrorist organisations to allow surveillance of sermons and worshippers
30 augustus 2013
NYPD has opened at least 12 ’terrorism enterprise investigations’ since 9/11
Police spied on countless innocent Muslims and stored information on them
No Islamic group has been charged with operating as a terrorism enterprise
Investigations are so potentially invasive even the FBI has not opened one
Comes as NYPD fights lawsuits accusing it of engaging in racial profiling
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organisations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen ’terrorism enterprise investigations’ into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents.
The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.
Spied on: Dr Muhamad Albar (far left) speaks during Jumu’ah prayer service at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge mosque, which was targeted by the New York Police Department under controversial anti-terror laws
Members of the Bay Ridge mosque in prayer: Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends services is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organisation with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files.
Embarrassed NYPD officer who mistakenly thought a woman was catcalling him and not the man he had pulled over is being sued after ‘he took his jealousy out on the man and threw him in jail for 48-hours’
‘Sentenced to death for being thirsty’: Christian woman tells of moment she was beaten and locked up in Pakistan after ‘using Muslim women’s cup to drink water’
As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.
The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn, whose executive director has worked with city officials, including Bill de Blasio, a front-runner for mayor.
Linda Sarsour, the executive director, said her group helps new immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. It was not clear whether the police were successful in their plans.
NYPD Secretly labeled mosques as terrorist organizations
Under suspicion: Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen ’terrorism enterprise investigations’ into mosques, including the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn
‘I have never felt free in the United States. The documents tell me I am right’: Zein Rimawi, founder of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge pictured (left) reviewing the NYPD files which reveal his mosque had been under surveillance and (right) on a protest March in New York in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi
Sarsour, a Muslim who has met with Kelly many times, said she felt betrayed.
‘It creates mistrust in our organisations,’ said Sarsour, who was born and raised in Brooklyn. ‘It makes one wonder and question who is sitting on the boards of the institutions where we work and pray.’
The revelations about the NYPD’s massive spying operations are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.
The book by AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.
Among the mosques targeted as early as 2003 was the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge.
‘I have never felt free in the United States. The documents tell me I am right,’ Zein Rimawi, one of the Bay Ridge mosque’s leaders, said after reviewing an NYPD document describing his mosque as a terrorist enterprise.
On the Defence: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (left) and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly (right) have previously denied accusations that the force engaged in racial profiling while combating crime
Rimawi, 59, came to the U.S. decades ago from Israel’s West Bank.’Ray Kelly, shame on him,’ he said. ‘I am American.’
The NYPD believed the tactics were necessary to keep the city safe, a view that sometimes put it at odds with the FBI.
In August 2003, Cohen asked the FBI to install eavesdropping equipment inside a mosque called Masjid al-Farooq, including its prayer room.
Al-Farooq had a long history of radical ties. Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheik who was convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks, once preached briefly at Al-Farooq.
Invited preachers raged against Israel, the United States and the Bush administration’s war on terror.
One of Cohen’s informants said an imam from another mosque had delivered $30,000 to an al-Farooq leader, and the NYPD suspected the money was for terrorism.
Former CIA chief Michael Hayden (above) said a terror attack similar to the Boston Marathon bombing could not have been executed in New York because of the NYPD’s extensive spying on Muslims
But Amy Jo Lyons, the FBI assistant special agent in charge for counterterrorism, refused to bug the mosque. She said the federal law wouldn’t permit it.
The NYPD made other arrangements. Cohen’s informants began to carry recording devices into mosques under investigation. They hid microphones in wristwatches and the electronic key fobs used to unlock car doors.
Even under a TEI, a prosecutor and a judge would have to approve bugging a mosque.
But the informant taping was legal because New York law allows any party to record a conversation, even without consent from the others.
Like the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, the NYPD never demonstrated in court that al-Farooq was a terrorist enterprise but that didn’t stop the police from spying on the mosques for years.
The disclosures come as the NYPD is fighting off lawsuits accusing it of engaging in racial profiling while combating crime. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the department’s use of the stop-and-frisk tactic was unconstitutional.
The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups have sued, saying the Muslim spying programs are unconstitutional and make Muslims afraid to practice their faith without police scrutiny.
Both Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have denied those accusations. They say police do not unfairly target people; they only follow leads.
‘As a matter of department policy, undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead,’ Kelly wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal.
‘We have a responsibility to protect New Yorkers from violent crime or another terrorist attack – and we uphold the law in doing so.’
An NYPD spokesman declined to comment.
In May, former CIA chief Michael Hayden said a terror attack similar to the Boston Marathon bombing could not have been executed in New York City because of the NYPD’s extensive spying on Muslim communities.
HOW NYPD PERSUADED A JUDGE TO TARGET MOSQUES AS TERROR GROUPS
Before the NYPD could target mosques as terrorist groups, it had to persuade a federal judge to rewrite rules governing how police can monitor speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The rules stemmed from a 1971 lawsuit, dubbed the Handschu case after lead plaintiff Barbara Handschu, over how the NYPD spied on protesters and liberals during the Vietnam War era.
David Cohen, a former CIA executive who became NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence in 2002, said the old rules didn’t apply to fighting against terrorism.
Cohen told the judge that mosques could be used ’to shield the work of terrorists from law enforcement scrutiny by taking advantage of restrictions on the investigation of First Amendment activity.’
NYPD lawyers proposed a new tactic, the TEI, that allowed officers to monitor political or religious speech whenever the ‘facts or circumstances reasonably indicate’ that groups of two or more people were involved in plotting terrorism or other violent crime.
The judge rewrote the Handschu rules in 2003. In the first eight months under the new rules, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division opened at least 15 secret terrorism enterprise investigations, documents show. At least 10 targeted mosques.
And under the new Handschu guidelines, no one outside the NYPD could question the secret practice.
Martin Stolar, one of the lawyers in the Handschu case, said it’s clear the NYPD used enterprise investigations to justify open-ended surveillance.
The NYPD should only tape conversations about building bombs or plotting attacks, he said.
‘Every Muslim is a potential terrorist? It is completely unacceptable,’ he said. ‘It really tarnishes all of us and tarnishes our system of values.’
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 12:43 GMT, 28 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:04 GMT, 28 August 2013
Find this story at 28 August 2013
© Associated Newspapers Ltd
CIA NYPD IG
30 augustus 2013
just some parts
The CIA inspector general’s report — completed in late 2011, but just declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times — raises concerns about the relationship between the organizations.
The investigation found “irregular personnel practices” and “inadequate direction and control” by CIA managers “responsible for the relationship.”
“As a consequence, the risk to the Agency (CIA) is considerable and multifaceted,” said a memo from Inspector General David Buckley to David Petraeus, who was the CIA director at the time.
“While negative public perception is to be expected from the revelation of the agency’s close and direct collaboration with any local domestic police department, a perception that the agency has exceeded its authorities diminishes the trust place in the organization.”
The Associated Press reported that the NYPD Intelligence Division dispatched CIA-trained undercover officers into minority neighborhoods to gather intelligence on daily life in mosques, cafes, bars and bookstores.
It said police have used informers to monitor sermons during religious services and police officials keep tabs on clerics and gather intelligence on taxi cab drivers and food-cart vendors, who are often Muslim, in New York.
The New York Police Department blasted the report as “fictional.”
“Even for a piece driven by anonymous NYPD critics, it shows that we’re doing all we reasonably can to stop terrorists from killing more New Yorkers,” said police spokesman Paul Browne.
The CIA has also previously said that suggestions that it engaged in domestic spying were “simply wrong.”
Find this document at
Fresh questions for NYPD as CIA collaboration revealed in new report
30 augustus 2013
Civil liberties groups express concern over ‘deeply troubling’ report that sets out surveillance of New Yorkers since 9/11
The NYPD has steadfastly argued that its counter-terrorism operations have stopped 14 terrorist plots since September 11. Photograph: Colleen Long/AP
Campaigners for greater accountability at New York’s powerful police force have seized on a report that details for the first time the extent of the collaboration between the CIA and the NYPD in the years after 9/11.
The formerly classified inspector-general’s report also raises new questions over whether the spy agency’s partnership with the nation’s largest police department amounted to unofficial cover for CIA officers to operate in the US in ways that could otherwise be deemed unlawful.
The 12-page document, first described in a New York Times article published on Wednesday night, contains the December 2011 findings of an investigation into the CIA’s training and support of the NYPD that included embedding four officers in the department in the decade following the September 11 attacks.
According to the report, one of the individuals engaged in surveillance operations on US soil and believed there were “no limitations” on his activities. The report said another officer was given “unfiltered” access to police reports that had nothing to do with foreign intelligence.
The partnership led to “irregular personnel practices” devoid of “formal documentation in some important instances”, CIA inspector David Buckley found. While the review found no agency employees in violation of the law and Buckley determined “an insufficient basis to merit a full investigation” into the partnership, the inspector-general said the “risks associated with the agency’s relationship with NYPD were not fully considered and that there was inadequate direction and control by the agency managers responsible for the relationship”.
The inquiry was prompted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of investigative stories by the Associated Press into the NYPD’s intelligence division. David Cohen, a veteran CIA officer with no police experience, was the architect of the NYPD’s spy programme and remains the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence. The AP found that under Cohen and commissioner Ray Kelly, the intelligence division targeted more than 250 mosques along the east coast, infiltrated student groups and mapped Muslim neighbourhoods for surveillance.
The NYPD has steadfastly defended its efforts, arguing that its counterterrorism operations have stopped 14 terrorist plots since 2001, although that claim has been contested in the case of almost every alleged plot.
“We’re proud of our relationship with CIA and its training,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Times. Terrorists “keep coming and we keep pushing back”, he said.
In an extended interview with the Wall Street Journal in April, Kelly was asked if changes had been made to the NYPD’s surveillance programs in the wake of the AP series. “No,” he said.
Speaking to the Guardian on Thursday, NYPD critics expressed concern over the details revealed in the IG report.
“This is deeply troubling because, at the very least, it’s clear that there was insufficient legal guidance and oversight for this relationship,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, said. Shamsi is a lead attorney on a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of several Muslims and Islamic organisations accusing the NYPD of unlawful surveillance.
“A key question is what information went back and forth between people even if they, at least formally, appear to have severed their relationship with the CIA,” she said. “It is very clear that there was insufficient legal guidance and oversight and that what should be a clear firewall between the CIA and local law enforcement, in terms of law enforcement and intelligence gathering, appears to be porous.”
Shamsi said “the extent to which these people who were from the CIA had access to CIA databases, operations and information while they were embedded with the NYPD” remained murky. “That’s the thing the report doesn’t address,” she said.
Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said in an email to the Guardian that the report confirmed much of what had been reported or suspected in previous years, but expressed fear that the police department had internalised the worldview of an intelligence agency.
“We already knew that the CIA inspector-general was concerned about irregularities in the assignment of CIA officers to the NYPD. The IG report shows that the concern was more serious than personnel issues, but touched on the agency’s involvement in purely domestic intelligence operations,” she said.
Patel said that “at least one CIA analyst claimed that he was given unfettered access to NYPD intelligence reports” but said “the bigger issue, in my mind, is the extent to which the CIA’s way of working influenced the NYPD’s intelligence program”.
“Brooklyn is not Baghdad,” Patel said. “All New Yorkers have a stake in the city’s safety and should be treated as partners in fighting crime and terrorism. The CIA, of course, operates in very different environments. My concern is that a mindset forged in counter-insurgency operations unduly shaped the NYPD’s intelligence operations, especially its Muslim surveillance program.”
The Freedom of Information Act that eventually resulted in the disclosure of the inspector-general’s report was filed on 28 March 2012 by Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC.
The IG report showed the CIA had been dishonest in describing its relationship with the NYPD, McCall told the Guardian.
“The report indicates that the CIA was not forthright with the American public about its activities,” she said, noting that the review detailed the work of four CIA employees with the department. Previous reporting had indicated there were only two. Some of those individuals, McCall said, “did have the opportunity to participate in domestic surveillance and domestic-focused investigations”.
Attorney Jethro Eisenstein has been at the head of a four-decade lawsuit accusing the NYPD of violating a set of department rules prohibiting the investigation of political activity in the absence of an indication of illegal activity. Known as Handschu, the rules were developed in response to the department’s past surveillance of radical and activist groups. The rules are now at the heart of the legal debate over the NYPD’s CIA-backed surveillance of Muslim communities.
Speaking to the Guardian, Eisenstein paraphrased the CIA’s assessment of its work with the NYPD, as described in the IG report as: “‘We were very sloppy in dealing with the NYPD, and maybe we got too deep in bed with them, and maybe we shouldn’t be doing that.'”
Eisenstein said Cohen’s appointment to the department brought about a dangerous shift. “Once Cohen came aboard, the whole ethos of the place changed,” he said. “They stopped being cops. They started being an intelligence agency. As far as intelligence agencies are concerned, the more information about the more people, the better. And that’s contrary to what the Handschu rules say.”
“It’s a whole different mindset. Law enforcement is about identifying, stopping illegal activity or apprehending people who have engaged in illegal activity. It’s a totally different model from intelligence gathering,” he said. Eisenstein said the shift represented “a huge danger”.
A veteran NYPD reporter and author of the book NYPD Confidential, Leonard Levitt, said Michael Bloomberg’s successor as mayor should launch an independent commission to investigate the police department.
“Somebody needs to look at what’s gone on in these 12 years,” Levitt said.
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NYPD secretly labels mosques as terror groups and spies on them
28 Aug 2013
Confidential police documents uncovered by the AP show at least a dozen terrorism investigations into mosques since 9/11
22 Aug 2013
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Ryan Devereaux in New York
theguardian.com, Thursday 27 June 2013 23.29 BST
Find this story at 27 June 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
How the CIA Aided the NYPD’s Surveillance Program
30 augustus 2013
In the years after the attacks on September 11th, 2001, the NYPD had at least four “embedded” CIA officers in their midst. And because at least one of the officers was on unpaid leave at the time, the officer was able to bypass the standing prohibition against domestic spying for the agency and help conduct surveillance for the police force. In his words, he had “no limitations.”
The news comes from a FOIA request by the New York Times for a 2011 review by the CIA’s inspector general of the embedded analysts. The report, published Wednesday by the paper, criticized the program’s “irregular personnel practice,” “inadequate direction and control,” and risks posed to the agency’s practice and reputation. The existence of the review is public knowledge — it followed the Pulitzer-winning series of reports on NYPD spying on Muslims, which reported on the CIA’s assistance to the NYPD, and vice versa:
“Though the CIA is prohibited from collecting intelligence domestically, the wall between domestic and foreign operations became more porous. Intelligence gathered by the NYPD, with CIA officer Sanchez overseeing collection, was often passed to the CIA in informal conversations and through unofficial channels, a former official involved in that process said. By design, the NYPD was looking more and more like a domestic CIA.”
As the Times notes, the public statement on the CIA’s review of the program stated that no laws had been broken. But the actual document shows that the agency had a much more mixed response to the program, and reveals more details on how the program worked:
“The report shows that the first of the four embedded agency officers began as an adviser in 2002 and went on an unpaid leave from the agency from 2004 to 2009. During that latter period, it said, he participated in — and directed — “N.Y.P.D. investigations, operations, and surveillance activities directed at U.S. persons and non-U.S. persons.”
C.I.A. lawyers signed off on the arrangement because the officer was on a “leave without pay” status at the agency and was “acting in a personal capacity and not subject to C.I.A. direction.” As a result, the official “did not consider himself an agency officer and believed he had ‘no limitations’ as far as what he could or could not do,” the report said.”
Earlier this month, the ACLU sued the NYPD over the domestic spying program, which targeted Muslims. Meanwhile, the CIA itself isn’t having the best news day either — but at least the Times story wasn’t the result of a leak.
Jun 26, 2013
Find this story at 26 June 2013
© 2013 by The Atlantic Monthly Group
Informant: NYPD paid me to ‘bait’ Muslims
30 augustus 2013
This handout photo provided by Jamill Noorata, taken May 3, 2012, shows Shamiur Rahman, left, sitting with Siraj Wahhaj at John Jay Community College in New York. Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bengali descent who has now denounced his work, was a paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit was under orders to “bait” Muslims into saying bad things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Jamill Noorata)
NEW YORK — A paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit was under orders to “bait” Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.
Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.
“We need you to pretend to be one of them,” Rahman recalled the police telling him. “It’s street theater.”
Rahman said he now believes his work as an informant against Muslims in New York was “detrimental to the Constitution.” After he disclosed to friends details about his work for the police — and after he told the police that he had been contacted by the AP — he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, “Steve,” and his handler’s NYPD phone number was disconnected.
Rahman’s account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.
The AP corroborated Rahman’s account through arrest records and weeks of text messages between Rahman and his police handler. The AP also reviewed the photos Rahman sent to police. Friends confirmed Rahman was at certain events when he said he was there, and former NYPD officials, while not personally familiar with Rahman, said the tactics he described were used by informants.
Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD’s wide-ranging programs to monitor life in Muslim neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police officers have eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses, trained video cameras on mosques and collected license plates of worshippers. Informants who trawl the mosques — known informally as “mosque crawlers” — tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there’s no evidence they committed a crime.
The programs were built with unprecedented help from the CIA.
Police recruited Rahman in late January, after his third arrest on misdemeanor drug charges, which Rahman believed would lead to serious legal consequences. An NYPD plainclothes officer approached him in a Queens jail and asked whether he wanted to turn his life around.
The next month, Rahman said, he was on the NYPD’s payroll.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Tuesday. He has denied widespread NYPD spying, saying police only follow leads.
In an Oct. 15 interview with the AP, however, Rahman said he received little training and spied on “everything and anyone.” He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams. By his own measure, he said he was very good at his job and his handler never once told him he was collecting too much, no matter whom he was spying on.
Rahman said he thought he was doing important work protecting New York City and considered himself a hero.
One of his earliest assignments was to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. The speaker was Ali Abdul Karim, the head of security at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn. The NYPD had been concerned about Karim for years and already had infiltrated the mosque, according to NYPD documents obtained by the AP.
Rahman also was instructed to monitor the student group itself, though he wasn’t told to target anyone specifically. His NYPD handler, Steve, told him to take pictures of people at the events, determine who belonged to the student association and identify its leadership.
On Feb. 23, Rahman attended the event with Karim and listened, ready to catch what he called a “speaker’s gaffe.” The NYPD was interested in buzz words such as “jihad” and “revolution,” he said. Any radical rhetoric, the NYPD told him, needed to be reported.
John Jay president Jeremy Travis said Tuesday that police had not told the school about the surveillance. He did not say whether he believed the tactic was appropriate.
“As an academic institution, we are committed to the free expression of ideas and to creating a safe learning environment for all of our students,” he said in a written statement. “We are working closely with our Muslim students to affirm their rights and to reassure them that we support their organization and freedom to assemble.”
Talha Shahbaz, then the vice president of the student group, met Rahman at the event. As Karim was finishing his talk on Malcolm X’s legacy, Rahman told Shahbaz that he wanted to know more about the student group. They had briefly attended the same high school in Queens.
Rahman said he wanted to turn his life around and stop using drugs, and said he believed Islam could provide a purpose in life. In the following days, Rahman friended him on Facebook and the two exchanged phone numbers. Shahbaz, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. more three years ago, introduced Rahman to other Muslims.
“He was telling us how he loved Islam and it’s changing him,” said Asad Dandia, who also became friends with Rahman.
Secretly, Rahman was mining his new friends for details about their lives, taking pictures of them when they ate at restaurants and writing down license plates on the orders of the NYPD.
On the NYPD’s instructions, he went to more events at John Jay, including when Siraj Wahhaj spoke in May. Wahhaj, 62, is a prominent but controversial New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a 3 ½-page list of people they said “may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged. In 2004, the NYPD placed Wahhaj on an internal terrorism watch list and noted: “Political ideology moderately radical and anti-American.”
That evening at John Jay, a friend took a photograph of Wahhaj with a grinning Rahman.
Rahman said he kept an eye on the MSA and used Shahbaz and his friends to facilitate traveling to events organized by the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. The society’s annual convention in Hartford, Connecticut, draws a large number of Muslims and plenty of attention from the NYPD. According to NYPD documents obtained by the AP, the NYPD sent three informants there in 2008 and was keeping tabs on the group’s former president.
Rahman was told to spy on the speakers and collect information. The conference was dubbed “Defending Religious Freedom.” Shahbaz paid Rahman’s travel expenses.
Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.
He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. He said wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.
“I was trying to get money,” Rahman said. “I was playing the game.”
Rahman said police never discussed the activities of the people he was assigned to target for spying. He said police told him once, “We don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. We just need to be sure.”
On some days, Rahman’s spent hours and covered miles (kilometers) in his undercover role. On Sept. 16, for example, he made his way in the morning to the Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn, snapping photographs of an imam and the sign-up sheet for those attending a regular class on Islamic instruction. He also provided their cell phone numbers to the NYPD. That evening he spied on people at Masjid Al-Ansar, also in Brooklyn.
Text messages on his phone showed that Rahman also took pictures last month of people attending the 27th annual Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan. The parade’s grand marshal was New York City Councilman Robert Jackson.
Rahman said he eventually tired of spying on his friends, noting that at times they delivered food to needy Muslim families. He said he once identified another NYPD informant spying on him. He took $200 more from the NYPD and told them he was done as an informant. He said the NYPD offered him more money, which he declined. He told friends on Facebook in early October that he had been a police spy but had quit. He also traded Facebook messages with Shahbaz, admitting he had spied on students at John Jay.
“I was an informant for the NYPD, for a little while, to investigate terrorism,” he wrote on Oct. 2. He said he no longer thought it was right. Perhaps he had been hunting terrorists, he said, “but I doubt it.”
Shahbaz said he forgave Rahman.
“I hated that I was using people to make money,” Rahman said. “I made a mistake.”
Staff writer David Caruso in New York contributed to this story.
By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO
Oct. 23, 2012
Find this story at 23 October 2012
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions apply. See AP.org for details.
With cameras, informants, NYPD eyed mosques
30 augustus 2013
NEW YORK (AP) — When a Danish newspaper published inflammatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, Muslim communities around the world erupted in outrage. Violent mobs took to the streets in the Middle East. A Somali man even broke into the cartoonist’s house in Denmark with an ax.
In New York, thousands of miles away, it was a different story. At the Masjid Al-Falah in Queens, one leader condemned the cartoons but said Muslims should not resort to violence. Speaking at the Masjid Dawudi mosque in Brooklyn, another called on Muslims to speak out against the cartoons, but peacefully.
The sermons, all protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, were reported back to the NYPD by the department’s network of mosque informants. They were compiled in police intelligence reports and summarized for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Those documents offer the first glimpse of what the NYPD’s informants — known informally as “mosque crawlers” — gleaned from inside the houses of worship. And, along with hundreds of pages of other secret NYPD documents obtained by The Associated Press, they show police targeting mosques and their congregations with tactics normally reserved for criminal organizations.
They did so in ways that brushed against — and civil rights lawyers say at times violated — a federal court order restricting how police can gather intelligence.
The NYPD Intelligence Division snapped pictures and collected license plate numbers of congregants as they arrived to pray. Police mounted cameras on light poles and aimed them at mosques. Plainclothes detectives mapped and photographed mosques and listed the ethnic makeup of those who prayed there.
“It seems horrible to me that the NYPD is treating an entire religious community as potential terrorists,” said civil rights lawyer Jethro Eisenstein, who reviewed some of the documents and is involved in a decades-old, class-action lawsuit against the police department for spying on protesters and political dissidents. The lawsuit is known as the Handschu case.
The documents provide a fuller picture of the NYPD’s unapologetic approach to protecting the city from terrorism. Eisenstein said he believes that at least one document, the summary of statements about the Danish cartoons, showed that the NYPD is not following a court order that prohibits police from compiling records on people who are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.
“This is a flat-out violation,” Eisenstein said. “This is a smoking gun.”
Kelly, the police commissioner, has said the NYPD complies with its legal obligations: “We’re following the Handschu guidelines,” Kelly said in October during a rare City Council oversight hearing about the NYPD surveillance of Muslims.
The AP has reported for months that the NYPD infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and monitored Muslim neighborhoods. New Muslim converts who took Arabic names were compiled in police databases.
Recently, the NYPD has come under fire for its tactics. Universities including Yale and Columbia have criticized the department for infiltrating Muslim student groups and trawling their websites. Police put the names of students and academics in reports even when they were not suspected of wrongdoing. And in Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker said he was offended by the NYPD’s secret surveillance of his city’s Muslims.
After the AP revelations, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the NYPD operation in Newark. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), said the NYPD shouldn’t be operating in New Jersey without notifying local and federal authorities.
In a statement, Pascrell said profiling was wrong: “We must focus on behavioral profiling rather ethnic or religious profiling.”
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to an email seeking comment. Browne has previously denied the NYPD used mosque crawlers or that there was a secret Demographics Unit that monitored daily life in Muslim communities.
At a press event on Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to answer questions about the NYPD’s activities.
The NYPD spying operations began after the 2001 terror attacks with unusual help from a CIA officer. The agency’s inspector general recently found that relationship problematic but said no laws were broken. Shortly after that report, the CIA decided to cut short the yearlong tour of an operative who was recently assigned to the NYPD.
Kelly, the police commissioner, and Bloomberg have been emphatic that police only follow legitimate leads of criminal activity and do not conduct preventive surveillance in ethnic communities.
“If there are threats or leads to follow, then the NYPD’s job is to do it,” Bloomberg said last year. “The law is pretty clear about what’s the requirement, and I think they follow the law. We don’t stop to think about the religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”
But former and current law enforcement officials either involved in or with direct knowledge of these programs say they did not follow leads. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret programs. But the documents support their claims.
Officials say that David Cohen, the deputy commissioner for intelligence, was at the center of the efforts to spy on the mosques.
“Take a big net, throw it out, catch as many fish as you can and see what we get,” one investigator recalled Cohen saying.
The effort highlights one of the most difficult aspects of policing in the age of terrorism. Solving crimes isn’t enough. Police are expected to identify would-be terrorists and move in before they can attack.
There are no universally agreed upon warning signs for terrorism. Terrorists have used Internet cafes, stayed in hostels, worked out at gyms, visited travel agencies, attended student groups and prayed at mosques. So, the NYPD monitored those areas. In doing so, they monitored many innocent people as they went about their daily lives.
Using plainclothes officers from the Demographics Unit, police swept Muslim neighborhoods and catalogued the location of mosques, identifying them on maps with crescent moon icons, the well-known symbol of Islam. The ethnic makeup of each congregation was logged as police fanned out across the city and outside their jurisdiction, into suburban Long Island and areas of New Jersey.
“African American, Arab, Pakistani,” police wrote beneath the photo of one mosque in Newark.
“Mosque in private house without any signs. Observed 25 to 30 worshipers exiting after Jumma prayers,” police wrote beneath another Newark mosque photo.
As the Demographics Unit catalogued Internet cafes, hostels, grocers and travel agencies, officers noted how close the businesses were to mosques.
Investigators looked at mosques as the center of Muslim life. All their connections had to be known.
Cohen wanted a source inside every mosque within a 250-mile radius of New York, current and former officials said. Though the officials said they never managed to reach that goal, documents show the NYPD successfully placed informants or undercovers — sometimes both — into mosques from Westchester County, N.Y., to New Jersey.
The NYPD used these sources to get a sense of the sentiment of worshippers whenever an event generated headlines. The goal, former officials said, was to alert police to potential problems before they bubbled up.
After the fallout from the Danish cartoons, for instance, the informants reported on more than a dozen conversations inside mosques.
Some suggested boycotting Danish products, burning flags, contacting politicians and holding rallies — all permissible under the law.
“Imam Shamsi Ali brought up the topic of the cartoon, condemning them. He announced a rally that was to take place on Sunday (02/05/06) near the United Nations. He asked that everyone to attend if possible and reminded everyone to keep their poise if they can make it,” according to a report prepared for Kelly.
At the Muslim Center Of New York in Queens, the report said, “Mohammad Tariq Sherwani led the prayer service and urged those in attendance to participate in a demonstration at the United Nations on Sunday.”
When one Muslim leader suggested they plan a demonstration, a person involved in the discussion to obtain a sound permit was, in fact, working for the NYPD.
All that was recorded in secret NYPD files.
The closest anyone in the report came to espousing violence was one man who, in a conversation with an NYPD informant, said the cartoons showed the West was at war with Islam. Asked what Muslims should do, he replied, “inqilab,” an Arabic word that means changing the political system. Depending on the context, that can mean peacefully or through an upheaval like a coup. The report, which spelled the word “Inqlab,” said the informant translated it as “fight” but the report does not elaborate further.
Even when it was clear there were no links to terrorism, the mosque informants gave the NYPD the ability to “take the pulse” of the community, as Cohen and other managers called it.
When New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed Oct. 11, 2006, when their small plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise apartment, fighter planes were scrambled. Within hours the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said it was an accident. Terrorism was ruled out.
Yet for days after the event, the NYPD’s mosque crawlers reported to police about what they heard at sermons and among worshippers.
At the Brooklyn Islamic Center, a confidential informant “noted chatter among the regulars expressing relief and thanks to God that the crash was only an accident and not an act of terrorism, which they stated would not be good either for the U.S. or for any of their home countries.”
Across the Hudson River in Jersey City, an undercover officer reported a pair of worshippers at the Al-Tawheed Islamic Center reacted with “sorrow.”
“The worshippers made remarks to the effect that ‘it better be an accident; we don’t need any more heat,'” the officer reported.
Another informant told his handler about a man who became agitated after learning about the crash. The man urged the informant not to go into Manhattan until it was clear what was going on, the informant said.
Five days after the crash, long after concerns that it was terrorism had passed, the NYPD compiled these reports into a memo for Kelly. The report promised to investigate the man who had appeared agitated.
“A phone dump will be conducted on subject’s phone for that day and time period,” the memo said.
In some instances, the NYPD put cameras on light poles and trained them on mosques, documents show. Investigators could control the cameras with their computers and use the footage to help identify worshippers. Because the cameras were in public space, police didn’t need a warrant to conduct the surveillance.
If the NYPD badly wanted to know who was attending the mosque, they could write down the license plates of cars in the mosque parking lots, documents show. In some instances, police in unmarked cars outfitted with electronic license plate readers would drive down the street and record the plates of everyone parked near the mosque.
Abdul Akbar Mohammed, the imam for the past eight years at the Masjid Imam Ali K. Muslim, a mosque in Newark that was cataloged in NYPD’s files, said of the program: “They’re viewing Muslims like they’re crazy. They’re terrorists. They all must be fanatics.”
“That’s not right,” he said.
In 2006, the NYPD ordered surveillance at the Masjid Omar, a mosque in Paterson, N.J., a document shows. There’s no indication that the surveillance team was looking for anyone in particular. The mosque itself was the target.
“This is reportedly to be a mosque that is attended by both Palestinian and Chechen worshipers,” the document reads. “This mosque has a long history in the community and is believed to have been the subject of federal Investigations.” Federal law enforcement officials told the AP that the mosque itself was never under federal investigation and they were unaware the NYPD was monitoring it so closely.
Police were instructed to watch the mosque and, as people came and went from the Friday prayer service, investigators were to record license plates and photograph and videotape those attending.
“Pay special attention to all NY State license plates,” the document said.
The brief file offered no evidence of criminal activity.
To conduct such broad surveillance as the NYPD did at Masjid Omar, FBI agents would need to believe that the mosque itself was part of a criminal enterprise. Even then, federal agents would need approval from senior FBI and Justice Department officials.
At the NYPD, however, such monitoring was common, former police officials said.
The Omar mosque sits in central Paterson in a neighborhood heavily populated by Palestinians, Egyptians and other Arabs. It’s about 20 miles west of Manhattan. About 2,000 worshippers meet regularly at the Sunni mosque, which was once a church.
On a recent Friday, the three-story high, cream-colored mosque bustled with activity.
About 200 men crowded the crimson carpet in the main hall as Imam Abdelkhaliq El-Nerib led prayers from a gold-painted pulpit at the front of the room. Wall hangings with Arabic script and geometric patterns hung on either side of the pulpit. Dozens more worshippers knelt on a blue tarp spread outside. The mosque has two services on Fridays to accommodate the large congregation.
“We’re not committing a crime, so of course we take issue with them spying on our people just because they’re praying in the mosque,” El Nerib said through a translator. “To track people who are frequent visitors to the mosque simply because they are coming to the mosque negates the freedom of religion that is a fundamental right enshrined in this country’s Constitution.”
Members of the mosque pointed out errors in the police document. The address, for instance, is wrong. And though the document says Chechens attended the mosque, worshippers said they had never heard of any. Most attendees are Palestinian, said El-Nerib, who’s Egyptian.
El-Nerib said he has a good relationship with local police. He, like others interviewed at the mosque, said they have nothing to hide.
“Whether it’s in public or private, we say the same thing: We are loyal American citizens,” El-Nerib said. “We are part and parcel of this society. We have lived here, we have found nothing but safety and security and protection of our rights.”
Associated Press writers Chris Hawley and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.
View the NYPD documents: www.ap.org/nypd
NYPD cartoons: http://apne.ws/zVwtCt
NYPD Omar: http://apne.ws/wsrSvN
NYPD crash: http://apne.ws/xB9kVM
ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO
Feb. 23, 2012
Find this story at 23 Februari 2012
Contact the Washington investigative team at DCinvestigations (at) ap.org
Follow Apuzzo and Goldman at http://twitter.com/mattapuzzo and http://twitter.com/goldmandc
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions apply. See AP.org for details.
Inside the spy unit that NYPD says doesn’t exist
30 augustus 2013
NEW YORK (AP) — From an office on the Brooklyn waterfront in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New York Police Department officials and a veteran CIA officer built an intelligence-gathering program with an ambitious goal: to map the region’s ethnic communities and dispatch teams of undercover officers to keep tabs on where Muslims shopped, ate and prayed.
The program was known as the Demographics Unit and, though the NYPD denies its existence, the squad maintained a long list of “ancestries of interest” and received daily reports on life in Muslim neighborhoods, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The documents offer a rare glimpse into an intelligence program shaped and steered by a CIA officer. It was an unusual partnership, one that occasionally blurred the line between domestic and foreign spying. The CIA is prohibited from gathering intelligence inside the U.S.
Undercover police officers, known as rakers, visited Islamic bookstores and cafes, businesses and clubs. Police looked for businesses that attracted certain minorities, such as taxi companies hiring Pakistanis. They were told to monitor current events, keep an eye on community bulletin boards inside houses of worship and look for “hot spots” of trouble.
The Demographics Unit, a team of 16 officers speaking at least five languages, is the only squad of its kind known to be operating in the country.
Using census information and government databases, the NYPD mapped ethnic neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Rakers then visited local businesses, chatting up store owners to determine their ethnicity and gauge their sentiment, the documents show. They played cricket and eavesdropped in the city’s ethnic cafes and clubs.
When the CIA would launch drone attacks in Pakistan, the NYPD would dispatch rakers to Pakistani neighborhoods to listen for angry rhetoric and anti-American comments, current and former officials involved in the program said.
The rakers were looking for indicators of terrorism and criminal activity, the documents show, but they also kept their eyes peeled for other common neighborhood sites such as religious schools and community centers.
The focus was on a list of 28 countries that, along with “American Black Muslim,” were considered “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim countries.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that the NYPD does not take religion into account in its policing. The inclusion of American black Muslims on the list of ancestries of interest suggests that religion was at least a consideration. On Wednesday, Bloomberg’s office referred questions to the police department.
How law enforcement agencies, both local and federal, can stay ahead of Islamic terrorists without using racial profiling techniques has been hotly debated since 9/11. Singling out minorities for extra scrutiny without evidence of wrongdoing has been criticized as discriminatory. Not focusing on Muslim neighborhoods has been equally criticized as political correctness run amok. The documents describe how the nation’s largest police force has come down on that issue.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department only follows leads and does not simply trawl communities.
“We do not employ undercovers or confidential informants unless there is information indicating the possibility of unlawful activity,” Browne wrote in an email to the AP.
That issue has legal significance. The NYPD says it follows the same guidelines as the FBI, which cannot use undercover agents to monitor communities without first receiving an allegation or indication of criminal activity.
Before The Associated Press revealed the existence of the Demographics Unit last week, Browne said neither the Demographics Unit nor the term “rakers” exist. Both are contained in the documents obtained by the AP.
An NYPD presentation, delivered inside the department, described the mission and makeup of the Demographics Unit. And a police memorandum from 2006 described an NYPD supervisor rebuking an undercover detective for not doing a good enough job reporting on community events and “rhetoric heard in cafes and hotspot locations.”
At least one lawyer inside the police department has raised concerns about the Demographics Unit, current and former officials told the AP. Because of those concerns, the officials said, the information gathered from the unit is kept on a computer at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, not in the department’s normal intelligence database. The officials spoke on condition of because they were not authorized to discuss the intelligence programs.
The AP independently authenticated the NYPD presentation through an interview with an official who sat through it and by reviewing electronic data embedded in the file. A former official who had not seen the presentation said the content of the presentation was correct. For the internal memo, the AP verified the names and locations mentioned in the document, and the content is consistent with a program described by numerous current and former officials.
In the two years following the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD Intelligence Division had an unusual partnership with Lawrence Sanchez, a respected veteran CIA officer who was dispatched to New York. Officials said he was instrumental in creating programs such as the Demographics Unit and met regularly with unit supervisors to guide the effort, all while on the CIA’s payroll.
Both the NYPD and CIA have said the agency is not involved in domestic spying. A U.S. official familiar with the NYPD-CIA partnership described Sanchez’s time in New York as a unique assignment created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
After a two-year CIA rotation in New York, Sanchez took a leave of absence, came off the agency’s payroll and became the NYPD’s second-ranking intelligence official. He formally left the agency in 2007 and stayed with the NYPD until last year.
Recently, the CIA dispatched another officer to work in the Intelligence Division as an assistant to Deputy Commissioner David Cohen. Officials described the assignment as a management sabbatical and said the officer’s job is much different from what Sanchez was doing. Police and the CIA said it’s the kind of counterterrorism collaboration Americans expect.
The NYPD Intelligence Division has unquestionably been essential to the city’s best counterterrorism successes, including the thwarted plot to bomb the subway system in 2004. Undercover officers also helped lead to the guilty plea of two men arrested on their way to receive terrorism training in Somalia.
“We throw 1,200 police officers into the fight every day to make sure the same people or similarly inspired people who killed 3,000 New Yorkers a decade ago don’t come back and do it again,” Browne said earlier this month when asked about the NYPD’s intelligence tactics.
Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat who represents much of Brooklyn and sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the NYPD can protect the city without singling out specific ethnic and religious groups. She joined Muslim organizations in calling for a Justice Department investigation into the NYPD Intelligence Division. The department said it would review the request for an investigation.
Clarke acknowledged that the 2001 terrorist attacks made Americans more willing to accept aggressive tactics, particularly involving Muslims. But she said Americans would be outraged if police infiltrated Baptist churches looking for evangelical Christian extremists.
“There were those who, during World War II, said, `Good, I’m glad they’re interning all the Japanese-Americans who are living here,'” Clarke said. “But we look back on that period with disdain.”
View the NYPD documents: http://bit.ly/q5iIXL and http://bit.ly/mVNdD
MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN
Aug. 31, 2011
Find this story at 31 August 2011
_Goldman contributed from Islamabad, Pakistan. Apuzzo and Goldman can be reached at dcinvestigations(at)ap.org or at http://twitter.com/mattapuzzo and http://twitter.com/goldmandc
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions apply. See AP.org for details.
With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas
30 augustus 2013
NEW YORK (AP) _ In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.
The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers.
From that apartment, about an hour outside the department’s jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.
Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what’s going on.
The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.
Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit.
A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency’s payroll, was the architect of the NYPD’s intelligence programs. The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency’s spy school in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States.
And just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside police headquarters.
While the expansion of the NYPD’s intelligence unit has been well known, many details about its clandestine operations, including the depth of its CIA ties, have not previously been reported.
The NYPD denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads. In a city that has repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, police make no apologies for pushing the envelope. NYPD intelligence operations have disrupted terrorist plots and put several would-be killers in prison.
“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”
But officials said they’ve also been careful to keep information about some programs out of court, where a judge might take a different view. The NYPD considers even basic details, such as the intelligence division’s organization chart, to be too sensitive to reveal in court.
One of the enduring questions of the past decade is whether being safe requires giving up some liberty and privacy. The focus of that debate has primarily been federal programs like wiretapping and indefinite detention. The question has received less attention in New York, where residents do not know for sure what, if anything, they have given up.
The story of how the NYPD Intelligence Division developed such aggressive programs was pieced together by the AP in interviews with more than 40 current and former New York Police Department and federal officials. Many were directly involved in planning and carrying out these secret operations for the department. Though most said the tactics were appropriate and made the city safer, many insisted on anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak with reporters about security matters.
The story begins with one man.
David Cohen arrived at the New York Police Department in January 2002, just weeks after the last fires had been extinguished at the debris field that had been the twin towers. A retired 35-year veteran of the CIA, Cohen became the police department’s first civilian intelligence chief.
Cohen had an exceptional career at the CIA, rising to lead both the agency’s analytical and operational divisions. He also was an extraordinarily divisive figure, a man whose sharp tongue and supreme confidence in his own abilities gave him a reputation as arrogant. Cohen’s tenure as head of CIA operations, the nation’s top spy, was so contentious that in 1997, The New York Times editorial page took the unusual step of calling for his ouster.
He had no police experience. He had never defended a city from an attack. But New York wasn’t looking for a cop.
“Post-9/11, we needed someone in there who knew how to really gather intelligence,” said John Cutter, a retired NYPD official who served as one of Cohen’s top uniformed officers.
At the time, the intelligence division was best known for driving dignitaries around the city. Cohen envisioned a unit that would analyze intelligence, run undercover operations and cultivate a network of informants. In short, he wanted New York to have its own version of the CIA.
Cohen shared Commissioner Ray Kelly’s belief that 9/11 had proved that the police department could not simply rely on the federal government to prevent terrorism in New York.
“If anything goes on in New York,” one former officer recalls Cohen telling his staff in the early days, “it’s your fault.”
Among Cohen’s earliest moves at the NYPD was making a request of his old colleagues at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. He needed someone to help build this new operation, someone with experience and clout and, most important, someone who had access to the latest intelligence so the NYPD wouldn’t have to rely on the FBI to dole out information.
CIA Director George Tenet responded by tapping Larry Sanchez, a respected veteran who had served as a CIA official inside the United Nations. Often, when the CIA places someone on temporary assignment, the other agency picks up the tab. In this case, three former intelligence officials said, Tenet kept Sanchez on the CIA payroll.
When he arrived in New York in March 2002, Sanchez had offices at both the NYPD and the CIA’s station in New York, one former official said. Sanchez interviewed police officers for newly defined intelligence jobs. He guided and mentored officers, schooling them in the art of gathering information. He also directed their efforts, another said.
There had never been an arrangement like it, and some senior CIA officials soon began questioning whether Tenet was allowing Sanchez to operate on both sides of the wall that’s supposed to keep the CIA out of the domestic intelligence business.
“It should not be a surprise to anyone that, after 9/11, the Central Intelligence Agency stepped up its cooperation with law enforcement on counterterrorism issues or that some of that increased cooperation was in New York, the site of ground zero,” CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said.
Just as at the CIA, Cohen and Sanchez knew that informants would have to become the backbone of their operation. But with threats coming in from around the globe, they couldn’t wait months for the perfect plan.
They came up with a makeshift solution. They dispatched more officers to Pakistani neighborhoods and, according to one former police official directly involved in the effort, instructed them to look for reasons to stop cars: speeding, broken tail lights, running stop signs, whatever. The traffic stop gave police an opportunity to search for outstanding warrants or look for suspicious behavior. An arrest could be the leverage the police needed to persuade someone to become an informant.
For Cohen, the transition from spying to policing didn’t come naturally, former colleagues said. When faced with a decision, especially early in his tenure, he’d fall back on his CIA background. Cutter said he and other uniformed officers had to tell Cohen, no, we can’t just slip into someone’s apartment without a warrant. No, we can’t just conduct a search. The rules for policing are different.
While Cohen was being shaped by the police department, his CIA background was remaking the department. But one significant barrier stood in the way of Cohen’s vision.
Since 1985, the NYPD had operated under a federal court order limiting the tactics it could use to gather intelligence. During the 1960s and 1970s, the department had used informants and undercover officers to infiltrate anti-war protest groups and other activists without any reason to suspect criminal behavior.
To settle a lawsuit, the department agreed to follow guidelines that required “specific information” of criminal activity before police could monitor political activity.
In September 2002, Cohen told a federal judge that those guidelines made it “virtually impossible” to detect terrorist plots. The FBI was changing its rules to respond to 9/11, and Cohen argued that the NYPD must do so, too.
“In the case of terrorism, to wait for an indication of crime before investigating is to wait far too long,” Cohen wrote.
U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. agreed, saying the old guidelines “addressed different perils in a different time.” He scrapped the old rules and replaced them with more lenient ones.
It was a turning point for the NYPD.
With his newfound authority, Cohen created a secret squad that would soon infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods, according to several current and former officials directly involved in the program.
The NYPD carved up the city into more than a dozen zones and assigned undercover officers to monitor them, looking for potential trouble.
At the CIA, one of the biggest obstacles has always been that U.S. intelligence officials are overwhelmingly white, their mannerisms clearly American. The NYPD didn’t have that problem, thanks to its diverse pool of officers.
Using census data, the department matched undercover officers to ethnic communities and instructed them to blend in, the officials said. Pakistani-American officers infiltrated Pakistani neighborhoods, Palestinians focused on Palestinian neighborhoods. They hung out in hookah bars and cafes, quietly observing the community around them.
The unit, which has been undisclosed until now, became known inside the department as the Demographic Unit, former police officials said.
“It’s not a question of profiling. It’s a question of going where the problem could arise,” said Mordecai Dzikansky, a retired NYPD intelligence officer who said he was aware of the Demographic Unit. “And thank God we have the capability. We have the language capability and the ethnic officers. That’s our hidden weapon.”
The officers did not work out of headquarters, officials said. Instead, they passed their intelligence to police handlers who knew their identities.
Cohen said he wanted the squad to “rake the coals, looking for hot spots,” former officials recalled. The undercover officers soon became known inside the department as rakers.
A hot spot might be a beauty supply store selling chemicals used for making bombs. Or it might be a hawala, a broker that transfers money around the world with little documentation. Undercover officers might visit an Internet cafe and look at the browsing history on a computer, a former police official involved in the program said. If it revealed visits to radical websites, the cafe might be deemed a hot spot.
Ethnic bookstores, too, were on the list. If a raker noticed a customer looking at radical literature, he might chat up the store owner and see what he could learn. The bookstore, or even the customer, might get further scrutiny. If a restaurant patron applauds a news report about the death of U.S. troops, the patron or the restaurant could be labeled a hot spot.
The goal was to “map the city’s human terrain,” one law enforcement official said. The program was modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank, a former police official said.
Mapping crimes has been a successful police strategy nationwide. But mapping robberies and shootings is one thing. Mapping ethnic neighborhoods is different, something that at least brushes against what the federal government considers racial profiling.
Browne, the NYPD spokesman, said the Demographic Unit does not exist. He said the department has a Zone Assessment Unit that looks for locations that could attract terrorists. But he said undercover officers only followed leads, disputing the account of several current and former police and federal officials. They do not just hang out in neighborhoods, he said.
“We will go into a location, whether it’s a mosque or a bookstore, if the lead warrants it, and at least establish whether there’s something that requires more attention,” Browne said.
That conflicts with testimony from an undercover officer in the 2006 trial of Shahawar Matin Siraj, who was convicted of planning an attack on New York’s subway system. The officer said he was instructed to live in Brooklyn and act as a “walking camera” for police.
“I was told to act like a civilian _ hang out in the neighborhood, gather information,” the Bangladeshi officer testified, under a false name, in what offered the first narrow glimpse at the NYPD’s infiltration of ethnic neighborhoods.
Officials said such operations just made sense. Islamic terrorists had attacked the city on 9/11, so police needed people inside the city’s Muslim neighborhoods. Officials say it does not conflict with a 2004 city law prohibiting the NYPD from using religion or ethnicity “as the determinative factor for initiating law enforcement action.”
“It’s not profiling,” Cutter said. “It’s like, after a shooting, do you go 20 blocks away and interview guys or do you go to the neighborhood where it happened?”
In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department was criticized for even considering a similar program. The police announced plans to map Islamic neighborhoods to look for pockets of radicalization among the region’s roughly 500,000 Muslims. Criticism was swift, and chief William Bratton scrapped the plan.
“A lot of these people came from countries where the police were the terrorists,” Bratton said at a news conference, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. “We don’t do that here. We do not want to spread fear.”
In New York, current and former officials said, the lesson of that controversy was that such programs should be kept secret.
Some in the department, including lawyers, have privately expressed concerns about the raking program and how police use the information, current and former officials said. Part of the concern was that it might appear that police were building dossiers on innocent people, officials said. Another concern was that, if a case went to court, the department could be forced to reveal details about the program, putting the entire operation in jeopardy.
That’s why, former officials said, police regularly shredded documents discussing rakers.
When Cohen made his case in court that he needed broader authority to investigate terrorism, he had promised to abide by the FBI’s investigative guidelines. But the FBI is prohibited from using undercover agents unless there’s specific evidence of criminal activity, meaning a federal raking program like the one officials described to the AP would violate FBI guidelines.
The NYPD declined to make Cohen available for comment. In an earlier interview with the AP on a variety of topics, Police Commissioner Kelly said the intelligence unit does not infringe on civil rights.
“We’re doing what we believe we have to do to protect the city,” he said. “We have many, many lawyers in our employ. We see ourselves as very conscious and aware of civil liberties. And we know there’s always going to be some tension between the police department and so-called civil liberties groups because of the nature of what we do.”
The department clashed with civil rights groups most publicly after Cohen’s undercover officers infiltrated anti-war groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. A lawsuit over that program continues today.
During the convention, when protesters were arrested, police asked a list of questions which, according to court documents, included: “What are your political affiliations?” “Do you do any kind of political work?” and “Do you hate George W. Bush?”
“At the end of the day, it’s pure and simple a rogue domestic surveillance operation,” said Christopher Dunn, a New York Civil Liberties Union lawyer involved in the convention lawsuit.
Undercover agents like the rakers were valuable, but what Cohen and Sanchez wanted most were informants.
The NYPD dedicated an entire squad, the Terrorist Interdiction Unit, to developing and handling informants. Current and former officials said Sanchez was instrumental in teaching them how to develop sources.
For years, detectives used informants known as mosque crawlers to monitor weekly sermons and report what was said, several current and former officials directly involved in the informant program said. If FBI agents were to do that, they would be in violation of the Privacy Act, which prohibits the federal government from collecting intelligence on purely First Amendment activities.
The FBI has generated its own share of controversy for putting informants inside mosques, but unlike the program described to the AP, the FBI requires evidence of a crime before an informant can be used inside a mosque.
Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s general counsel, would not discuss the NYPD’s programs but said FBI informants can’t troll mosques looking for leads. Such operations are reviewed for civil liberties concerns, she said.
“If you’re sending an informant into a mosque when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, that’s a very high-risk thing to do,” Caproni said. “You’re running right up against core constitutional rights. You’re talking about freedom of religion.”
That’s why senior FBI officials in New York ordered their own agents not to accept any reports from the NYPD’s mosque crawlers, two retired agents said.
It’s unclear whether the police department still uses mosque crawlers. Officials said that, as Muslims figured out what was going on, the mosque crawlers became cafe crawlers, fanning out into the city’s ethnic hangouts.
“Someone has a great imagination,” Browne, the NYPD spokesman, said. “There is no such thing as mosque crawlers.”
Following the foiled subway plot, however, the key informant in the case, Osama Eldawoody, said he attended hundreds of prayer services and collected information even on people who showed no signs of radicalization.
NYPD detectives have recruited shopkeepers and nosy neighbors to become “seeded” informants who keep police up to date on the latest happenings in ethnic neighborhoods, one official directly involved in the informant program said.
The department also has a roster of “directed” informants it can tap for assignments. For instance, if a raker identifies a bookstore as a hot spot, police might assign an informant to gather information, long before there’s concrete evidence of anything criminal.
To identify possible informants, the department created what became known as the “debriefing program.” When someone is arrested who might be useful to the intelligence unit _ whether because he said something suspicious or because he is simply a young Middle Eastern man _ he is singled out for extra questioning. Intelligence officials don’t care about the underlying charges; they want to know more about his community and, ideally, they want to put him to work.
Police are in prisons, too, promising better living conditions and help or money on the outside for Muslim prisoners who will work with them.
Early in the intelligence division’s transformation, police asked the taxi commission to run a report on all the city’s Pakistani cab drivers, looking for those who got licenses fraudulently and might be susceptible to pressure to cooperate, according to former officials who were involved in or briefed on the effort.
That strategy has been rejected in other cities.
Boston police once asked neighboring Cambridge for a list of Somali cab drivers, Cambridge Police Chief Robert Haas said. Haas refused, saying that without a specific reason, the search was inappropriate.
“It really has a chilling effect in terms of the relationship between the local police department and those cultural groups, if they think that’s going to take place,” Haas said.
The informant division was so important to the NYPD that Cohen persuaded his former colleagues to train a detective, Steve Pinkall, at the CIA’s training center at the Farm. Pinkall, who had an intelligence background as a Marine, was given an unusual temporary assignment at CIA headquarters, officials said. He took the field tradecraft course alongside future CIA spies then returned to New York to run investigations.
“We found that helpful, for NYPD personnel to be exposed to the tradecraft,” Browne said.
The idea troubled senior FBI officials, who saw it as the NYPD and CIA blurring the lines between police work and spying, in which undercover officers regularly break the laws of foreign governments. The arrangement even made its way to FBI Director Robert Mueller, two former senior FBI officials said, but the training was already under way and Mueller did not press the issue.
NYPD’s intelligence operations do not stop at the city line, as the undercover operation in New Jersey made clear.
The department has gotten some of its officers deputized as federal marshals, allowing them to work out of state. But often, there’s no specific jurisdiction at all. Cohen’s undercover squad, the Special Services Unit, operates in places such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, officials said. They can’t make arrests and, if something goes wrong _ a shooting or a car accident, for instance _ the officers could be personally liable. But the NYPD has decided it’s worth the risk, a former police official said.
With Police Commissioner Kelly’s backing, Cohen’s policy is that any potential threat to New York City is the NYPD’s business, regardless of where it occurs, officials said.
That aggressiveness has sometimes put the NYPD at odds with local police departments and, more frequently, with the FBI. The FBI didn’t like the rules Cohen played by and said his operations encroached on their responsibilities.
Once, undercover officers were stopped by police in Massachusetts while conducting surveillance on a house, one former New York official recalled. In another instance, the NYPD sparked concern among federal officials by expanding its intelligence-gathering efforts related to the United Nations, where the FBI is in charge, current and former federal officials said.
The AP has agreed not to disclose details of either the FBI or NYPD operations because they involve foreign counterintelligence.
Both Mueller and Kelly have said their agencies have strong working relationships and said reports of rivalry and disagreements are overblown. And the NYPD’s out-of-state operations have had success.
A young Egyptian NYPD officer living undercover in New Jersey, for example, was key to building a case against Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte. The pair was arrested last year at John F. Kennedy Airport en route to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Cohen has also sent officers abroad, stationing them in 11 foreign cities. If a bomber blows himself up in Jerusalem, the NYPD rushes to the scene, said Dzikansky, who served in Israel and is the co-author of the forthcoming book “Terrorist Suicide Bombings: Attack Interdiction, Mitigation, and Response.”
“I was there to ask the New York question,” Dzikansky said. “Why this location? Was there something unique that the bomber had done? Was there any pre-notification. Was there a security lapse?”
All of this intelligence _ from the rakers, the undercovers, the overseas liaisons and the informants _ is passed to a team of analysts hired from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. Analysts have spotted emerging trends and summarized topics such as Hezbollah’s activities in New York and the threat of South Asian terrorist groups.
They also have tackled more contentious topics, including drafting an analytical report on every mosque within 100 miles of New York, one former police official said. The report drew on information from mosque crawlers, undercover officers and public information. It mapped hundreds of mosques and discussed the likelihood of them being infiltrated by al-Qaida, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.
For Cohen, there was only one way to measure success: “They haven’t attacked us,” he said in a 2005 deposition. He said anything that was bad for terrorists was good for NYPD.
Though the CIA is prohibited from collecting intelligence domestically, the wall between domestic and foreign operations became more porous. Intelligence gathered by the NYPD, with CIA officer Sanchez overseeing collection, was often passed to the CIA in informal conversations and through unofficial channels, a former official involved in that process said.
By design, the NYPD was looking more and more like a domestic CIA.
“It’s like starting the CIA over in the post-9/11 world,” Cohen said in “Protecting the City,” a laudatory 2009 book about the NYPD. “What would you do if you could begin it all over again? Hah. This is what you would do.”
Sanchez’s assignment in New York ended in 2004, but he received permission to take a leave of absence from the agency and become Cohen’s deputy, former officials said.
Though Sanchez’s assignments were blessed by CIA management, some in the agency’s New York station saw the presence of such a senior officer in the city as a turf encroachment. Finally, the New York station chief, Tom Higgins, called headquarters, one former senior intelligence official said. Higgins complained, the official said, that Sanchez was wearing both hats, sometimes acting as a CIA officer, sometimes as an NYPD official.
The CIA finally forced him to choose: Stay with the agency or stay with the NYPD.
Sanchez declined to comment to the AP about the arrangement, but he picked the NYPD. He retired last year and is now a consultant in the Middle East.
Last month, the CIA deepened its NYPD ties even further. It sent one of its most experienced operatives, a former station chief in two Middle Eastern countries, to work out of police headquarters as Cohen’s special assistant while on the CIA payroll. Current and former U.S. officials acknowledge it’s unusual but said it’s the kind of collaboration Americans expect after 9/11.
Officials said revealing the CIA officer’s name would jeopardize national security. The arrangement was described as a sabbatical. He is a member of the agency’s senior management, but officials said he was sent to the municipal police department to get management experience.
At the NYPD, he works undercover in the senior ranks of the intelligence division. Officials are adamant that he is not involved in actual intelligence-gathering.
The NYPD has faced little scrutiny over the past decade as it has taken on broad new intelligence missions, targeted ethnic neighborhoods and partnered with the CIA in extraordinary ways.
The department’s primary watchdog, the New York City Council, has not held hearings on the intelligence division’s operations and former NYPD officials said council members typically do not ask for details.
“Ray Kelly briefs me privately on certain subjects that should not be discussed in public,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone. “We’ve discussed in person how they investigate certain groups they suspect have terrorist sympathizers or have terrorist suspects.”
The city comptroller’s office has audited several NYPD components since 9/11 but not the intelligence unit, which had a $62 million budget last year.
The federal government, too, has done little to scrutinize the nation’s largest police force, despite the massive federal aid. Homeland Security officials review NYPD grants but not its underlying programs.
A report in January by the Homeland Security inspector general, for instance, found that the NYPD violated state and federal contracting rules between 2006 and 2008 by buying more than $4 million in equipment through a no-bid process. NYPD said public bidding would have revealed sensitive information to terrorists, but police never got approval from state or federal officials to adopt their own rules, the inspector general said.
On Capitol Hill, where FBI tactics have frequently been criticized for their effect on civil liberties, the NYPD faces no such opposition.
In 2007, Sanchez testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and was asked how the NYPD spots signs of radicalization. He said the key was viewing innocuous activity, including behavior that might be protected by the First Amendment, as a potential precursor to terrorism.
That triggered no questions from the committee, which Sanchez said had been “briefed in the past on how we do business.”
The Justice Department has the authority to investigate civil rights violations. It issued detailed rules in 2003 against racial profiling, including prohibiting agencies from considering race when making traffic stops or assigning patrols.
But those rules apply only to the federal government and contain a murky exemption for terrorism investigations. The Justice Department has not investigated a police department for civil rights violations during a national security investigation.
“One of the hallmarks of the intelligence division over the last 10 years is that, not only has it gotten extremely aggressive and sophisticated, but it’s operating completely on its own,” said Dunn, the civil liberties lawyer. “There are no checks. There is no oversight.”
The NYPD has been mentioned as a model for policing in the post-9/11 era. But it’s a model that seems custom-made for New York. No other city has the Big Apple’s combination of a low crime rate, a $4.5 billion police budget and a diverse 34,000-person police force. Certainly no other police department has such deep CIA ties.
Perhaps most important, nobody else had 9/11 the way New York did. No other city lost nearly 3,000 people in a single morning. A decade later, police say New Yorkers still expect the department to do whatever it can to prevent another attack. The NYPD has embraced that expectation.
As Sanchez testified on Capitol Hill: “We’ve been given the public tolerance and the luxury to be very aggressive on this topic.”
MATT APUZZO AND ADAM GOLDMAN
Aug. 23, 2011
Find this story at 23 August 2011
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions apply. See AP.org for details.
What’s the CIA doing at NYPD? Depends whom you ask
30 augustus 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three months ago, one of the CIA’s most experienced clandestine operatives started work inside the New York Police Department. His title is special assistant to the deputy commissioner of intelligence. On that much, everyone agrees.
Exactly what he’s doing there, however, is much less clear.
Since The Associated Press revealed the assignment in August, federal and city officials have offered differing explanations for why this CIA officer — a seasoned operative who handled foreign agents and ran complex operations in Jordan and Pakistan — was assigned to a municipal police department. The CIA is prohibited from spying domestically, and its unusual partnership with the NYPD has troubled top lawmakers and prompted an internal investigation.
His role is important because the last time a CIA officer worked so closely with the NYPD, beginning in the months after the 9/11 attacks, he became the architect of aggressive police programs that monitored Muslim neighborhoods. With the earlier help from this CIA official, the police put entire communities under the microscope based on ethnicity rather allegations of wrongdoing, according to the AP investigation.
It was an extraordinary collaboration that at times troubled some senior CIA officials and may have stretched the bounds of how the CIA is legally allowed to operate in the United States.
The arrangement surrounding the newly arrived CIA officer has been portrayed differently than that of his predecessor. When first asked by the AP, a senior U.S. official described the posting as a sabbatical, a program aimed at giving the man in New York more management training.
Testifying at City Hall recently, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the CIA operative provides his officers “with information, usually coming from perhaps overseas.” He said the CIA operative provides “technical information” to the NYPD but “doesn’t have access to any of our investigative files.”
CIA Director David Petraeus has described him as an adviser, someone who could ensure that information was being shared.
But the CIA already has someone with that job. At its large station in New York, a CIA liaison shares intelligence with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, which has hundreds of NYPD detectives assigned to it. And the CIA did not explain how, if the officer doesn’t have access to NYPD files, he is getting management experience in a division built entirely around collecting domestic intelligence.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, mischaracterized him to Congress as an “embedded analyst” — his office later quietly said that was a mistake — and acknowledged it looked bad to have the CIA working so closely with a police department.
All of this has troubled lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has said the CIA has “no business or authority in domestic spying, or in advising the NYPD how to conduct local surveillance.”
“It’s really important to fully understand what the nature of the investigations into the Muslim community are all about, and also the partnership between the local police and the CIA,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Still, the undercover operative remains in New York while the agency’s inspector general investigates the CIA’s decade-long relationship with the NYPD. The CIA has asked the AP not to identify him because he remains a member of the clandestine service and his identity is classified.
The CIA’s deep ties to the NYPD began after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when CIA Director George Tenet dispatched a veteran officer, Larry Sanchez, to New York, where he became the architect of the police department’s secret spying programs.
While still on the agency payroll, Sanchez, a CIA veteran who spent 15 years overseas in the former Soviet Union, South Asia, and the Middle East, instructed officers on the art of collecting information without attracting attention. He directed officers and reviewed case files.
Sometimes, officials said, intelligence collected from NYPD’s operations was passed informally to the CIA.
Sanchez also hand-picked an NYPD detective to attend the “Farm,” the CIA’s training facility where its officers are turned into operatives. The detective, who completed the course but failed to graduate, returned to the police department where he works today armed with the agency’s famed espionage skills.
Also while under Sanchez’s direction, documents show that the NYPD’s Cyber Intelligence Unit, which monitors domestic and foreign websites, also conducted training sessions for the CIA.
Sanchez was on the CIA payroll from 2002 to 2004 then took a temporary leave of absence from the CIA to become deputy to David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer who became head of the NYPD intelligence division just months after the 9/11 attacks.
In 2007, the CIA’s top official in New York complained to headquarters that Sanchez was wearing two hats, sometimes operating as an NYPD official, sometimes as a CIA officer. At headquarters, senior officials agreed and told Sanchez he had to choose.
He formally left the CIA, staying on at the NYPD until late 2010. He now works as a security consultant in the Persian Gulf region.
Sanchez’s departure left Cohen scrambling to find someone with operational experience who could replace him. He approached several former CIA colleagues about taking the job but they turned him down, according to people familiar with the situation who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the department’s inner workings.
When they refused, Cohen persuaded the CIA to send the current operative to be his assistant.
He arrived with an impressive post-9/11 resume. He had been the station chief in Pakistan and then Jordan, two stations that served as focal points in the war on terror, according to current and former officials who worked with him. He also was in charge of the agency’s Counter Proliferation Division.
But he is no stranger to controversy. Former U.S. intelligence officials said he was nearly expelled from Pakistan after an incident during President George W. Bush’s first term. Pakistan became enraged after sharing intelligence with the U.S., only to learn that the CIA station chief passed that information to the British.
Then, while serving in Amman, the station chief was directly involved in an operation to kill al-Qaida’s then-No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri. But the plan backfired badly. The key informant who promised to lead the CIA to al-Zawahiri was in fact a double agent working for al-Qaida.
At least one CIA officer saw problems in the case and warned the station chief but, as recounted in a new book “The Triple Agent” by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, the station chief decided to push ahead anyway.
The informant blew himself up at remote CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009. He managed to kill seven CIA employees, including the officer who had warned the station chief, and wound six others. Leon Panetta, the CIA director at the time, called it a systemic failure and decided no one person was at fault.
ADAM GOLDMAN AND MATT APUZZO
ct. 17, 2011
Find this story at 17 August 2011
Contact the Washington investigative team at DCInvestigations(at)ap.org
Read AP’s previous stories and documents about the NYPD at: http://www.ap.org/nypd
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