Image: People pass below a New York Police security camera.
Bebeto Matthews  /  AP
In this photo made public in August, people pass below a NYPD security camera, upper left, situated above a mosque on Fulton St. in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. After Sept. 11, the New York Police Department has dispatched undercover officers into minority neighborhoods and used informants to monitor mosques, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.
updated 8/25/2011 4:33:09 PM ET 2011-08-25T20:33:09

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 Central Intelligence Agency 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.

Story: Post-9/11, NYPD targets ethnic communities, partners with CIA

"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, referring to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Undercover officers in minority neighborhoods
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."

Story: How did 9/11 change you?

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.

Partners or a suspicious community?
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 counter-terrorism.

"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 cell phone 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.

Video: AP report: NYPD targeting ethnic communities (on this page)

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."

Muslim community leaders upset
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."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: AP report: NYPD targeting ethnic communities

  1. Closed captioning of: AP report: NYPD targeting ethnic communities

    >>> former governor howard dean , former d.c. mayor adrian fenty all back with us at the table. in the ten years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks the new york city police department has turned into one of the nation's most aggressive and sophisticated domestic intelligence agencies . the associated press is out just this morning with a monthlong investigation into the nypd 's intel division , exploring its methods and the controversies surrounding it, joining is matt acuso, thanks for being with us.

    >> thanks for having me.

    >> nypd changed the way it did business after the attacks on september 11th . what did you find?

    >> it not only changed the way it did business, it created a very deep connection with the cia . they started to -- the nypd started to build these intelligence programs that really infiltrated muslim communities in ways that if the federal government did it would totally go against rules that have been set up to protect civil liberties and they did it with this unusual partnership with the cia . a very senior cia officer was dispatched by cia director george tenet to be his personal representative to the nypd and really helped create these intelligence -gathering programs, directed the intelligence gathering , supervised the intelligence gathering and that's relationship that continues today. recently the cia sent one of its most senior undercover officers to work out of one police plaza in new york as a covert officer.

    >> so, we're talking about former cia agents now working within the new york police department , traveling --

    >> they're current cia officers.

    >> on the cia payroll, working with the new york police department , traveling abroad and using intelligence to work in conjunction with the nypd . we should point out the new york police department has put out a statement saying the new york police department is doing everything it can to assure that there's not another 9/11 here and more innocent new yorkers are killed by terrorists. we have nothing to apologize for in that regard. that from nypd spokesman paul broune. what's the biggest complaint with this program that you found in your investigation?

    >> one of the things that is little known that they do, they have this program called the demographics program. it was described to us by officers involved as they were mapping the human terrain of the city. they were putting undercover officers, ethnic officers, inside middle eastern neighborhoods of stocity and their job is to hang out and blend in and look for things that are suspicion. and that could be something as simple as who is looking at radical books in a bookstore and who is looking at al jazeera and applaud about a report about an ied in iraq and that could be enough to get you in a report at the nypd , they also have informants that they call mosque crawlers who as the name suggest just go to the mosques and are eyes and ears for the nypd inside mosques. the fbi puts informants in mosques but there's a bar that says there has to be specific information related to criminal activity and that bar isn't there at the nypd , the nypd said it just follows leads, but we've talked to a number of people involved in the mosque crawler program who say we just have them there as our eyes and ears.

    >> how does the nypd get away with that, then, if they don't have the legal right to do it as you suggest, how are they getting away with it?

    >> so, there's the federal laws that the federal government has to apply and then, you know, obviously nypd is subject to city and state laws. but what's really interesting here while, you know, the real question of the past decade at the federal level has been do we have to give up civil liberties in the name of security and that debate has kind of focused on the fbi and the cia , warrantless wiretapping that sort of thing. there hasn't been that kind of debate in new york . there isn't the level of oversight on the nypd 's intelligence division that there is in washington on, say, the cia or fbi . you know, the -- the tactics that they use don't get the kind of scrutiny by the city council , and the federal government has given the nypd about $1.6 billion since 9/11, but there's very little federal oversight when it comes to what exactly the nypd is doing as far as intelligence gathering .

    >> katty kay ?

    >> during your reporting, did you come across any officers within the nypd who had qualms about the legality of this? ever since 9/11 there has been a trend here for people to be prepared to give up civil liberties in the name of security, but i was just wondering whether you met people, you know, who knew about the program, within the police force who said we're not quite sure if this is really what we're meant to be doing?

    >> there were. it was interesting, there were people who said they felt uncomfortable, but those people didn't tend to be in the -- in the inner circle , the people who were directly involved in these programs. i mean, there's a close hold sort of a shudder of secrecy around a lot of what happens. the people who were directly involved, and we talked to a number of them, said almost to a person, look, we need to -- we need to be doing this. i mean, we have to be out in the muslim community because that's where the -- that's the community that is, you know, that's sending terrorists to attack us. and they compared it to, like, well, we would map drug dealing . we would map murders. the difference is in this instance you're not mapping crimes, you're mapping people. and that's -- that's the difference here. is they're saying it's no different than we would go to where the robberies are, we'd put undercovers there, here they're just saying we're going where the muslims are.

    >> are there any court cases pending on this issue? you would think somebody would complain that this is a violation of at least the fourth amendment and who knows what else.

    >> it's interesting because there is a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit, related to the nypd intelligence division intilltration of anti-war groups ahead of the republican national convention in new york . but what's unique about this, in order to bring a lawsuit about this, you have to kind of know about it. you have to know that you were -- you were surveilled. and if you don't know, then it's kind of hard to bring standing. i mean, in a lot of ways as we were doing this reporting, i kept going back to the nsa wiretapping program and the people who said, well, i'm going to sue about this, and the government says, you can't sue because you don't know if you were wiretapped, and we can't tell you if you were wiretapped because that would, you know, jeopardize national security .

    >> are these people being wiretapped? is that one of the things they're doing routinely?

    >> we don't have any information about any sort of wiretapping, you know, blanket wiretapping programs. but we know the nypd did push years ago to try to get fisa authority which was, you know, seen at the justice department as a real -- a real grab to try to have the ability to do wiretapping. you know, that was unsuccessful, but we didn't uncover any information about that.

    >> adrian fenty , as mayor of washington , d.c. , another city that, of course, was attacked on september 11th , anything similar to this within the washington police department?

    >> you know, we have a much smaller police department . 50,000 here in new york , 4,000 down in d.c. but d.c. absolutely has the counterintelligence units, but there's also the federal government in d.c. , so the fbi and homeland security is in d.c. and in the d.c. region is doing probably a lot of the new york that this new york police department unit does up here. from what i understand about it, it's essential, because the only way that you're going to know about communication around the new york region and what's happening overseas is to be in and around it, and the federal government doesn't have the resources. so, you got to give bloomberg and his team a lot of credit for setting this up, for being so aggressive. from what i understand, the federal government really relies on the nypd to bring back intelligence . one thing was interesting was how many threats come against new york and washington , d.c. my police chief down in d.c. was briefed daily on threats, and they had to follow them and track them to make sure that they didn't escalate into something.

    >> and, matt, how much of this is done because the people of new york city say do what you have to do to prevent another terrorist attack ? i mean, you said sanchez, larry sanchez, went in front of the federal government , he was up on capitol hill and said we've been given the public tolerance and the luxury to be very aggressive on this topic. they're going to keep going until they're told otherwise, aren't they?

    >> absolutely. and i think -- i think everybody acknowledges new york is different. and what, you know, mayor fenty said is absolutely right, i mean, nobody else has the -- nobody else has the resources. no other police department has the resources to do what the nypd is doing. i mean, i think the question is if this is a model for policing and counterterrorism, well, new york isn't the only -- isn't the only threat in the country. why aren't other police departments doing this? and what we've seen is there are instances where police departments have said, no, we don't want to do that. i mean, you know, in new york one of the things they did -- first things they did was said, you know, run me a report of all the pakistani cabdrivers so they could look for people who maybe got their taxi shields fraudulently so that they can maybe turn them into -- use that as leverage to turn them into an inform amendment. in cambridge, massachusetts, the police chief told us, yeah, we got a very similar request from boston pd for a list of all our somali cabdrivers and we said, no way, we don't do that, unless you have a specific criminal investigation or a cause. and in los angeles , you know, bill bratton , the police commissioner out there, i mean, just got skewered in 2007 for saying i would like to map my muslim community just so i know where this is. and civil rights groups just, you know, just hit the roof. so, i think, look, i think new york is unique. i think they do have a unique background given the -- given 9/11. they certainly have a deep relationship with the cia . the cia trained a police detective at the farm, you know, which is -- i mean, that's an unprecedented thing. so, it's -- they have that. they have 9/11. they have a lot of money. they have a low crime rate . these sorts of things are uniquely new york .

    >> matt, were there any instances you were given where the demographics unit, where the intelligence that are gathered have actually prevented some sort of terrorist attack ? a specific example of where it had worked?

    >> well, we know that the intelligence division has had successes. you know, the herald square plot ahead of the republican convention is a perfect example. it didn't show the depth of the program, but, i mean, they used an undercover officer living in brooklyn and hanging out and they used an informant who before he was involved in this investigation had been basically a mosque crawler. so, they prevented a -- they prevented a terrorist attack on the subway. they got convictions. i mean, there was also an instance where they were able to -- the intelligence division undercover operating in new jersey was key to -- to arresting two people who were on their way to somalia to train for -- for terrorism. so, i mean, no question the intelligence division has had successes and has disrupted -- disrupted plots. i mean, what we were trying to do is say, look, let's have the discussion. let's -- let's be able to have the discussion about what the -- if there are trade-offs for that security, what are they. because i think that discussion has happened in washington , d.c. , on federal programs, but it hasn't happened in new york .

    >> you know, a lot of this is going to be -- depend on the success or failure of this and the backlash if there is some, is going to depend on how the people in power use the authority. the reason the constitutional prohibited -- prohibitions exist and this is on the margins of that is so the government doesn't abuse its power in dealing -- in using this for political reasons, and if they never do that, then this is probably going to fly, i guess. and if they start using it for political reasons, then there will be a problem. but i think this is going to be -- this program is going to be widely supported by the american people and certainly even by many muslim-americans. as long as the government doesn't use it to oppress muslims as a group, most muslim americans don't want muslim terrorists either in the united states .

    >> but, i mean, doesn't that raise the question if that's the case, why don't we give the fbi this authority? why do we specifically say the fbi can't do this? i mean, the fbi certainly has its own checkered history with surveillance programs.

    >> exactly, they have their own checkered history.

    >> so does the nypd , in the '60s and '70s they were using the precursor of the intelligence division to spy a anti-war groups. it's a discussion that's been had at the federal level , it's not a discussion that's been had at the local level. and this -- the -- making the -- you know, making the wall more porous between what the cia can do overseas and domestically is a big aspect here, because if it is something we want from the cia , then why is it just happening in new york ? i mean, why don't we put -- why doesn't the cia direct the intelligence gathering of every police department ?

    >> i think it's a really important debate because we have a checkered past of using this information for political reasons as j. edgar hoover did and nixon did as president and others.

    >> matt apuzzo, thank you so much. it's a well-researched piece. people can read it at the associated press and draw their own conclusions. thanks a lot.

    >> thanks a lot for having


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