DMV, Department of Muslim Verification (AP exposes NYPD/CIA community infiltration program)

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
on 14 Comments

With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas,” reports the Associated Press, in an expose on the growing ties between the two agencies.

Well, not surprising, except that in this case, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was conducting this operation a couple of public transit stops out of its jurisdiction in New Brunswick, NJ, the home of Rutgers University (my alma mater! – I wonder if I was put on the surveillance list as a “useful idiot” of the Islamists?). Rutgers, coincidentally, has a significant Muslim student body, as does the surrounding area.

The other surprising detail is that the CIA (and apparently, not the FBI, though they have their own like-minded programs) was helping the NYPD carry out this action – which, as AP reporter Adam Goldman notes, was only one part of a much larger domestic surveillance program the two agencies have been collaborating on – even though one is a federal intelligence agency charged with overseas intelligence gathering and the other is a metropolitan police department. Both are nominally under “civilian” control.

The CIA is generally prohibited by law from spying on American citizens – the idea behind this being that an intelligence agency with both domestic and foreign surveillance capacities (like the Stasi) would have a little too much totalitarian potential for the U.S.

Of course, theory and practice are two different things. The CIA has indeed conducted domestic operations against U.S. citizens over the years. Apparently, though, while it was pretty good at monitoring American journalists and congresspeople during the Cold War, some “hawks” hold that the “internal reforms” foisted upon the agency after Nixon’s resignation resulted in an organizational culture that, years on, failed to effectively monitor people entering the country in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In other words, the story goes, while the CIA was at fault, the people who forced it to “reform” back in the 70s were the root problem. Hence, since 9/11, there have been calls within and without for the CIA to take a more active role in domestic affairs (and the CIA has done so).

Particularly telling is this passage from the AP:


“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.

Max Blumenthal, among others, has compared the NYPD tactics to Israeli police tactics in the West Bank, and so too did an unnamed NYPD source in the AP article. There is a well-established link between the two nations’ law enforcement apparatuses. I think a comparison could also be made with the tactics of the “Security Branch” of the South African Police (SAP) during apartheid operating in the “Bantustans,” since the white Afrikaner-dominated agency made extensive use of individuals who could “blend in” to conduct espionage, just as the NYPD is doing:

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.

Continuing the South African analogy, the SAP was more or less trained to regard all “blacks” as potential criminals and terrorists. (Of his “Criminology and Ethnology” training, SAP Security Branch whistleblower Paul Erasmus said, “If that didn’t turn you into a racist then nothing on God’s earth would have”). The arguments that the SAP and NYPD put forth for their actions are also broadly similar: you go into the neighborhoods where the crimes are (or may be) happening, and that isn’t profiling. Except, well, it is. Especially when the training promotes a mentality that everyone in those areas is a potential criminal/terrorist.

The CIA-NYPD effort (the officers sent in were said to be part of a “Demographic Unit” or “Terrorism Interdiction Unit”) was helped along, according to the AP, when a law from the 1970s that limited the amount of espionage work the NYPD could conduct was struck down after 9/11. Interestingly, that law was focused on protecting anti-war protesters, and  the NYPD-CIA program’s top brain trustee, David Cohen, is now in hot water for taking action to infiltrate informants into anti-war groups during the Bush Administration. “Cohen’s affidavit,” writes Christoper Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “dramatically and starkly illustrated the extent to which the NYPD was prepared to conflate political activity with terrorism.” Words that could be equally said of the SAP under apartheid, or the Israeli response to Palestinian political activism.

The CIA-NYPD actions, while indicative of the way Americans view Muslims (is a South African-inspired “Department of Muslim Affairs” next?), is also indicative of the increasingly incestuous relationships among the U.S.’s “intelligence” and “security” apparatuses. The comeback from those agencies: well, we haven’t had another 9/11 since 9/11, now have we? Or as another CIA hand at the NYPD put it in the AP article, “We’ve been given the public tolerance and the luxury to be very aggressive on this topic.”

I have long believed that being an American means that you regard possessing civil liberties is a trade-off for absolute security, and that having these liberties is worth living with fear and uncertainty because the alternative – the pursuit of the illusion of absolute security – is living with the omnipresent fear and uncertainty of the surveillance state. Of the police becoming terrorists, as an LAPD official told the AP.

Americans, though (or at least their elected officials), are increasingly willing to disregard that trade-off and bleat for the illusion of absolute security, even if it means sacrificing civil liberties.

But it isn’t just Americans that are responding to the threat of terrorism this way. NYPD. CIA. The Mishteret Yisrael. SAP. They all share the same wavelength. People wonder if it is possible for the U.S. to become a “surveillance state“; but if you are Muslim, you are not asking that question. You are living that reality.

14 Responses

  1. longliveisrael
    August 25, 2011, 12:07 am

    Typical leftist anti-Israel hogwash somehow connecting NYPD trying to protect people by catching terrorists before they act, and somehow tying this to Israel.

    Yes Paul, America is terrible, just like Iran says. You should try that place out for a while.

    • alexpsu
      August 25, 2011, 7:06 am

      I think there may be an Israeli connection here.
      In the AP article it says:

      “The AP has agreed not to disclose details of either the FBI or NYPD operations because they involve foreign counterintelligence.”

      In this quote they are referring to the UN. Below is a link to an article of Israeli intelligence officers posing as American intelligence calling Muslims trying to get information. They were operating out of the Israeli Mission in UN.
      “Israeli spies wooing U.S. Muslims, sources say”
      link to voices.washingtonpost.com

    • Citizen
      August 25, 2011, 7:11 am

      We don’t live in Iran, longliveisrael. We have a constitution and bill of rights and we Americans don’t like this dilution of our basic civil rights under the banner of homeland security. Muslim Americans are full citizens. And we have a right to protest government actions. And we also don’t like the fact that 3% of our population is getting 80% of our homeland security funds: link to jta.org

      • Ellen
        August 25, 2011, 8:47 am

        Citizen, the DHS was a honey pot for beltway bandits from the very start. I was working in Washington as the first pile of funding for DHS went through. (BTW, Chertoff, who wrote the initial legislation had last minute language changes to protect Israeli firms bidding on DHS stuff from US litigation.)

        Within weeks office space all over the city was rented out by new entities established just to bid on the government RFPs. The money was flowing! You just needed an office and computer and know-how to answer those proposals to catch the dough. It is still a great gig!

        More Muslim American groups have suffered attacks and threats than Jewish Groups, or Christian Groups or any other groups. But could we imagine Muslim community groups getting funds for new blast proof windows, etc. from DHS?

        From your link:

        $19 million in new grants, 80 percent of which will go to Jewish institutions.

        The Jewish Federations of North America praised the announcement.
        “The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting the Jewish American community,” said Cheryl Fishbein, chairwoman of the Federations’ Domestic Affairs Cabinet.

        This is such robbery of the public.

      • karen
        August 25, 2011, 4:51 pm

        We don’t live in Iran, longliveisrael. We have a constitution and bill of rights and we Americans don’t like this dilution of our basic civil rights ”

        But Iranians like this dilution of basic civil rights?

    • Cliff
      August 25, 2011, 9:10 am

      longliveisrael, stop copy-pasting your lame insults from LittleGreenFootballs/JihadWatch/Debbie Scheussal’s blog/etc.

      ‘typical leftist anti-Israel’ – yes, we’re liberals. yes, we don’t believe in ethno-religious States that colonize and ethnically cleanse and practice apartheid.

      Get over it. These labels you assign to us, are a badge of honor.

      • Chaos4700
        August 25, 2011, 9:27 am

        It’s kind of amusing (and rewarding) when somebody from an apartheid police states mocks us for disapproving intensely when our government breaks its own mandate to protect its citizens to target a specific religious group. Jews in Germany could have desperately needed this sort of reporting in the media at the time.

      • Ellen
        August 25, 2011, 10:12 am

        Cliff…I don’t know if most would call me a “liberal.” In fact I do not even really know what that means. It is an empty label. So LLI and others throwing that out as disparaging a description sound rather stupid.

        I hope to fall under the description, “one of conscience. “

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 25, 2011, 9:47 am

      Typical leftist anti-Israel hogwash somehow connecting NYPD trying to protect people by catching terrorists before they act, and somehow tying this to Israel.

      Typical knee-jerk reactionary power-worship. Here in America, unlike Israel, there are some people (not enough, though) who actually value personal liberty and aren’t so racist as to fall for the old Zionist trick of restricting liberties while yelling “terrorism” because a brown person or a Muslim walked by. Sadly, as to judge by things like the hate directed at the Park 51 development by the Israeleo-philes like Geller, it seems that the mental poison that is rotting the Israeli society has infected the US.

  2. Exiled At Home
    August 25, 2011, 12:09 am

    Very, very troubling. Entrapment stings in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens have already ‘netted’ some very questionable “would-be terrorists.” I wonder if this program had anything to do with these. I have a lot of Muslim friends in Brooklyn. They speak passionately about Israel and about US foreign policy. Such activism should be encouraged here in the United States, not something to be feared, and labeled as “subversive.”

  3. Chaos4700
    August 25, 2011, 12:38 am

    “With CIA help.” Talk about skirting the hard and fast rules of what’s legal for the American government to do, and what isn’t. Anything else the CIA helped the NYPD with? Like, say, interrogation techniques?

  4. Andy Stepanian
    August 25, 2011, 2:31 am

    Hi Paul,

    As someone who has invested myself greatly in researching fusion centers and repression of activists I think its a little bit off-putting to try to tie in Israel on this. This type of function is happening everywhere, with many different inter-governmental bodies. Some of it is benign and in the interest of safety, and some of it is grossly abused and leads to entrapment and preemptive prosecutions.

    If you look into the Miami Model you can see an example of how the US exports its policing strategies (in the case of Miami, Ray Kelly specifically coached Israel) and the private counterpart to police policy. This is just one example of many where a unified theme will show a largely privatized fusion of government & specialized intelligence gathering.

    These issues are very real, and I am not trying to cut down anything you said in this article, but I get concerned that jumps to connect dots between Israel and an NYPD fusion operation allow our opposition to paint all of our legitimate arguments as biased.

    Andy

  5. Bumblebye
    August 25, 2011, 8:14 am

    They’d likely uncover far more crime if they infiltrated Shomrim.

  6. longliveisrael
    August 26, 2011, 1:25 pm

    Christian Zionists bomb a UN compound in Nigeria

    link to latimes.com

    Hmm, sorry, turns out it was Muslims. Who knew? Might have been a false flag Mossad operation.

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