2011-09-03 New York City Police Department's secret CIA force targeted minorities

U.S. media outlets have recently been abuzz about new documents showing that, for the past decade, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) ran a secret anti-terrorism unit headed by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials. Not only did this "Intelligence Division" -- which some have described as the NYPD's "own version of the CIA" -- blur the lines previously separating domestic law enforcement and national security, but the Division's "Demographics Unit" deliberately targeted racial minorities as part of a "human mapping" system modeled on Israel's operations in the West Bank.

The Huffington Post reported:

"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. ...

"The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as 'rakers,' into minority neighborhoods ... 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."

Although the CIA is legally prohibited from conducting intelligence-gathering operations domestically, retired CIA veteran David Cohen was tapped to run the NYPD's secret program. Police department spokesman Paul Browne at first denied that the program existed; that, however, was before the Associated Press released copies of internal NYPD documents describing the Demographics Unit and its mission. According to these documents, the unit's main objectives were to "Identify and map ethnic residential concentrations" in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and to "Identify and map ethnic hot spots."

The documents show that the Demographics Unit used statistical data to identify New York's "ethnic" neighborhoods, then sent in undercover officers to visit local businesses, strike up conversations with store owners, and determine their ethnicities and political leanings. Police specifically targeted businesses heavily staffed by certain minority groups, such as taxi companies that employed Pakistanis. When asked by the U.S. Senate "how the NYPD spots signs of radicalization," Intelligence Division official and CIA agent Larry Sanchez replied that "the key was viewing innocuous activity, including behavior that might be protected by the First Amendment, as a potential precursor to terrorism."

Among the list of 28 (mostly Islamic) "Ancestries of Interest" to the Demographics Unit were India, Somalia, Albania, and "American Black Muslim." In response to these revelations, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke stated that "Americans would be outraged if police infiltrated Baptist churches looking for evangelical Christian extremists." The Intelligence Division has gone to great lengths to keep information about these programs out of court; former officials stated that the NYPD "regularly shredded documents discussing rakers."

Congresswoman Clarke has called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Intelligence Division and its Demographics Unit. Joining in Clarke's request are The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the New York Civil Liberties Union, and other civil rights and Muslim organizations. Their request is reportedly under review.

An interesting article

A marraige made in heaven/

..or hell. Depending on how one views the Rule of Law. The same story was detailed by William Fisher on Prism. http://prism-magazine.com/2011/08/cia-caught-training-new-york-police-to...

The part that both articles overlook, is the motivations of NYPD.
Publicly funded, not for obvious profit, public service organizations will always seek to expand their mandates, and to entrench the justification for their funding. Anti terrorism investigations were an obvious avenue for the NYPD given the emotional impact of 911. And the chances of repercusions are much lower than if the police were to devote the same efforts to white collar or organized political crime.

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