Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flashback: NYPD confirms CIA officer works at department


New York's police commissioner confirmed Thursday that a CIA officer is  working out of police headquarters there, after an Associated Press  investigation revealed an unusual partnership with the CIA that has  blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying. But he and the CIA  said the spy agency's role at the department is an advisory one.

Speaking  to reporters in New York, commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged that  the CIA trains NYPD officers on "trade craft issues," meaning espionage  techniques, and advises police about events happening overseas. Kelly  also said he was unaware of any other U.S. police department with a  similar relationship with the CIA.

"They are involved in  providing us with information, usually coming from perhaps overseas and  providing it to us for, you know, just for our purposes," Kelly said.

CIA  spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the agency does not spy inside the  United States and also described the relationship with the CIA as  collaborative.

"Our cooperation, in coordination with the Federal  Bureau of Investigation, is exactly what the American people deserve  and have come to expect following 9/11," she said.

A months-long  investigation by the AP, published Wednesday, revealed that the NYPD 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 the 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 after the  September 2001 terror attacks.

The NYPD denied that it trolls  ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads. The mayor on  Thursday defended the police department's efforts.

"In the end  the NYPD's first job is prevention, and I think they've done a very good  job of that," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said when asked  about the police practices. "The law is pretty clear about what's the  requirement, and I think they've followed the law."

The  disclosures about the NYPD's activities provoked exasperation in the  city's Muslim neighborhoods, where government officials have sought to  build relationships in Muslim communities and pledged to ensure that  Muslims aren't targeted for discrimination.

"The NYPD's  credibility is bankrupt in our communities," Fahd Ahmed, legal and  policy director of the Desis Rising Up & Moving group, said in a  statement Thursday. "We need accountability, transparency and an  overhaul of tactics and policies."

Government outreach programs  have operated in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland,  Ore., and Washington — all cities with large Muslim communities — even  as law enforcement around the country has stepped up investigative  efforts to stave off attacks.

But the inherent tensions caused by  this duality of missions is perhaps most visible in New York. It is the  only U.S. city that al-Qaida has successfully attacked twice and  continues to be the target of terror plots. New York also is home to the  country's most aggressive local police department investigating  counterterrorism.

"It seems to many of the leadership here, there  are two kinds of authorities they are playing — one is in the forefront  which is very cooperative," said Zaheer Uddin of the Islamic Leadership  Council of New York. "And there is another authority, which is playing  against Islam and Muslims, going against the First Amendment and the  security of this country."

Uddin asked, "Are we partners, or are we a suspicious community?"

On Wednesday, the Justice Department said it will review a request by a Muslim advocacy group to investigate.

"These  revelations send the message to American Muslims that they are being  viewed as a suspect community and that their constitutional rights may  be violated with impunity," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the  Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asked for the  investigation. "The Justice Department must initiate an immediate  investigation of the civil rights implications of this spy program and  the legality of its links to the CIA."

In the decade since the  September 2001 attacks, government officials in New York also have met  with Muslim leaders and exchanged cellphone numbers. They've attended  religious services, dinners and teas, and spoken at community meetings.  The FBI recently hosted an event for 500 young Muslims in Brooklyn to  build trust and get to know federal law enforcement, with a  bomb-sniffing dog, scuba boat and helicopter on display.

"I go  and visit mosques on a regular basis," Kelly previously told the AP,  adding that he also holds question-and-answer sessions and planned to  attend several dinners with members of the Muslim community during the  holy month of Ramadan this year.

The police department in 2006  hired Sidique Wai, an African immigrant and member of the New York  Muslim community, to coordinate the NYPD's citywide community outreach  program. He said the interaction and outreach between the community and  police is unprecedented.

"The majority of the faith-based —  particularly the Muslim leaders throughout the city — are absolutely  appreciative of the unprecedented relationship with the police  department," Wai said. "I'm not aware of a deliberate effort on the part  of NYPD to profile people."

Some Muslim community leaders in New  York aren't satisfied. They have complained about aggressive tactics  the department uses to collect intelligence and about a video, "The  Third Jihad," shown earlier this year to some members of the NYPD during  a training session. Kelly, the police commissioner, explained in a  letter in March that the film was not part of the department's training  program and said it was shown in the background while members of the  NYPD were filling out administrative paperwork before a training  session.

The video includes images of terror attacks, Osama bin  Laden and U.S. Muslim leaders praising the 2001 hijackers, news reports  about terror plots and experts talking about the threat of radical  Islam. Muslim leaders were outraged by the film because they said it was  anti-Islam.

Wai said these issues have been raised and addressed  at the many forums held throughout the Muslim community. He said people  ask about profiling, and they get answers. "They may not be the answers  that they want to hear," he said.

Not all New York Muslim leaders are complaining.

"There  was a time when police would rush into the mosque with their boots on,"  Mustapha Senghor, chairman of the Harlem Islamic Cultural Center, said  during a July pre-Ramadan conference in New York. "They do not do that  anymore. Congratulations, commissioner. For that we thank you, very  much."

"We love you, commissioner," Senghor said. "You have imams  who are extensions of the police force. You include us, you talk to us,  you ask us what we are feeling. It makes us feel we are part of the  city, and not that people are against us."

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