Mortimer Zuckerman, the media mogul who owns the New York Daily News, is so well-connected that he once had New York Police Department (NYPD) intelligence agents conduct “counter-surveillance” of people who were following him (see Phil Weiss’ post for more).
Considering the Daily News’ non-stop praise for whatever the NYPD does, it’s worth asking this question: does the Daily News’ love for the NYPD have something to do with the preferential treatment showered on Zuckerman?
Leonard Levitt, the independent journalist who broke the story, writes:
Ever wonder why the Daily News runs all those editorials deifying the NYPD, even as the department arrested the paper’s own reporters during the Occupy Wall Street protests?
Or why these editorials praise the NYPD’s fight against terrorism in such slavish terms that not even the News’s own readers believe them? [See NYPD Confidential, Dec. 19, 2011.]
The answer may lie in documents (pdf here) provided to NYPD Confidential that show the lengths the NYPD has gone to cultivate and indulge powerful media figures such as the Daily News’s owner and Fox News’s president.
But even without the NYPD’s personal favors to Zuckerman (which is itself outrageous), the Daily News would probably still sing the praises of the NYPD’s constitutionally suspect practice of spying on Muslims. The praise for the spying aimed at Muslims (and left-wing activists) dovetail with Zuckerman’s neoconservative views on the Middle East and national security.
In light of Levitt’s report showing that the NYPD conducted “counter-surveillance” for Zuckerman, it’s a good time to examine the Daily News’ “slavish” (in Levitt’s words) praise for the NYPD’s spying on Muslims–and where they’re wrong.
Zuckerman’s paper has lauded Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for pronouncing the “NYPD not guilty of spying on Muslims”; described the intelligence division’s efforts as simply “checking out facts that are in the public record”; and mocked the Associated Press investigation into the NYPD tactics as “hilarious” instead of disturbing.
The distortions of what the NYPD spy program is go on and on.
In those editorials, the Daily News repeatedly characterizes the NYPD’s surveillance targeting day to day aspects of Muslim life in the city as innocuous. And the paper lambastes anyone who characterizes such efforts as “spying.”
NYPD intelligence agents simply, in the News’ world, collect public information to keep tabs on potential terrorists. But we know that’s not the full story.
It’s absurd to see the paper mock those who call the NYPD intelligence unit activities what they are: spying. What else do you call it when intelligence agents infiltrate mosques and record the content of sermons to be kept in a secret dossier?
Some of the information the NYPD collected was indeed public, as the Daily News notes, but the retaining of that information is legally suspect under the guidelines the NYPD operate under.
Additionally, as Glenn Greenwald noted, “much of the information was not at all ‘public’ but was compiled through infiltration and spying.” An undercover agent joining a Muslim student group’s trip to go rafting, and recording their activities in a secret dossier to be kept on file, is not simply collecting public information. Similarly, NYPD officers “eavesdropping” on conversations in mosques cannot be categorized as collecting public information. It’s about destroying “the private lives of Muslim citizens,” as Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi told the AP.
Zuckerman’s chummy relationship with the NYPD should cast doubt on the accuracy of Daily News editorializing about spying on Muslims. At the very least, people should know that Zuckerman has a personal interest in pleasing the NYPD.