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The Associated Press reveals today that New York Police Department (NYPD) intelligence agents traveled around the country and spied on a number of social justice groups and individuals, including those in the Palestine solidarity movement.
The revelation, based on a 2008 police document the AP obtained, is the latest in their months-long investigation into New York Police Department spying. The AP series has exposed the NYPD's massive surveillance of Muslims communities in the Northeast. (Read more Mondoweiss coverage of the NYPD spying operation here.)
In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People's Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists — Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies — were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.
"One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City," officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD's top intelligence officer. "Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine."
The document detailing the surveillance activities can be downloaded here. Flaherty wasn't the only activist involved in Palestine-related work that caught the attention of the NYPD. The police memo also reads:
There may be a counter demonstration by a Palestinian organization held near Washington Square Park on May 8,2008 against the 60 year independence of Israel...
The second counter demonstration pertains to the celebration of the Nakba (destruction) being held at the Civic Center of San Francisco. The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (AL-A WDA) is sponsoring the event to be held on May 10, 2008.
These revelations could also be further proof that the NYPD is operating outside federal guidelines on counter-terrorism operations, as weak as they are. These guidelines allowed the NYPD to "attend any public event or gathering on the same basis as another member of the public," according to Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law. But the guidelines also "say that the NYPD can't retain the information it gathers from such public events unless it is connected to suspected criminal or terrorist activity."