Watchdog group sues CIA for information on collaboration with NYPD surveillance program

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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From left to right, David Cohen, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and former CIA agent; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and NYPD chief Ray Kelly (Photo: EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT)

The government watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the Central Intelligence Agency to release a report that provided details about the agency’s collaboration with the New York Police Department’s spying program.

The October 2011 report, written by the CIA Inspector General, reportedly concludes that the agency did no wrong and did not break any laws when it assisted the NYPD’s program of surveillance of Muslim communities across the Northeast. The IG report also “faulted the agency for sending an officer to New York with little oversight after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and then leaving him there too long, according to officials who have read or been briefed on the inquiry,” according to the Associated Press. But the Inspector General’s report has yet to be released, and now EPIC is trying to make sure the CIA’s assessment of the program does reach the public.

The news was first reported by The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge, who quotes EPIC staffer Ginger McCall as saying that the 2011 CIA investigation into their collaboration with the NYPD was “never made public…I can’t see what’s actually in the report unless I have it in my hand.”

Under U.S. law, the CIA is prohibited from collecting intelligence on Americans. A presidential order cited by NYPD chief Ray Kelly allows the intelligence agency to assist local police forces, but not to engage in spying. And an AP article last year discovered that “the CIA’s top lawyer never approved sending a veteran agency officer to New York, where he helped set up police spying programs.” Such approval is “required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment.”

The EPIC suit stems from a March 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by EPIC that sought to compel the CIA to release the internal report. The group says the CIA has violated FOIA by not releasing the records in a timely manner and that it is unlawful for the CIA to refuse to release the report.

The lawsuit asks for the federal court in Washington, D.C. to compel the CIA to release the Inspector General’s report.

This lawsuit is the latest to be filed related to the NYPD’s vast surveillance program targeting Muslim communities across the Northeast. A lawsuit filed in New Jersey in June by the organization Muslim Advocates goes after the NYPD for violating the constitutional rights of Muslims.

The legal actions are a reaction to the NYPD’s spy program, which was first revealed by the Associated Press in a series of articles that eventually won the Pulitzer Prize. In August 2011, the first of these stories was published. The AP story reported that the surveillance program, which targeted innocent Muslim students, mosque goers and business owners, was “built with help from the CIA.” The man at the center of this collaboration was David Cohen, a 35-year CIA veteran who went to work for the NYPD after the September 11 attacks. Cohen tapped another CIA agent, Larry Sanchez, to work with the NYPD.

Sanchez left the NYPD in 2012 after the Inspector General report criticized the CIA’s assistance to the NYPD while simultaneously finding the CIA did not break any laws.

The CIA collaboration with the NYPD’s surveillance program is only one example of how the NYPD has turned into a global force. Under Cohen’s direction, the NYPD sent officers around the globe in the run-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. The NYPD’s Intelligence Unit spied on left-wing protesters in cities such as Montreal, San Francisco and Miami. And the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit also targeted Palestine solidarity activists in 2008. In addition, the NYPD has set up shop in London, Hamburg and Toronto. And in September, the NYPD opened a police branch in Israel to facilitate coordination with the Israeli police.

The Associated Press investigation into the NYPD’s surveillance program targeting Muslims reported that it was “modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank, a former police official said.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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5 Responses

  1. marc b.
    January 3, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Last week, Digital Journal reported that the documents obtained by PCJF detailed how the FBI cooperated with the Department of Homeland Security, US military and private corporations to monitor and investigate Occupy Wall Street protesters as “domestic terrorists” and “criminals.” The documents prove that federal agencies are “functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and corporate America,” PCJF said.

    “Thorough analyses of the documents has now revealed a heavily redacted file that clearly mentions a plan to use snipers to assassinate Occupy protesters. The names of the groups or individuals involved in the murderous plot have been redacted, so it is impossible to identify them at this time. What is known is that the FBI never alerted any of the potential victims of the danger to their lives.”

    We’re talking heavily redacted text here, which strips out a bunch of details, but here’s the text that is available.

    “An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”

  2. DICKERSON3870
    January 3, 2013, 5:14 pm

    RE: “The Associated Press investigation into the NYPD’s
    surveillance program targeting Muslims reported that it was ‘modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank, a former police official said’.”
    ~ Alex Kane

    ● MY COMMENT: This is yet another reason that I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment! ! !

    “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
    LINK –
    ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
    LINK –
    “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi,, 7/05/12
    LINK –
    “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
    LINK –
    “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
    LINK –
    “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
    LINK –

    • DICKERSON3870
      January 3, 2013, 5:23 pm

      P.S. RE: “. . . I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an ‘existential threat’ to the values of The Enlightenment!” – me (above)

      “Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza”, By Glenn Greenwald,, 11/15/12
      The US was once part of the international consensus against extra-judicial assassinations. Now it is a leader in that tactic.

      [EXCERPTS] Israel’s escalating air attacks on Gaza follow the depressingly familiar pattern that shapes this conflict. Overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians . . .
      . . . Meanwhile, most US media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies. . .
      . . . Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car. . .
      Extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children – is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president’s favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel’s rogue behavior would be to condemn himself.
      It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at “terrorists”. From a 15 February 2001 Guardian article by Brian Whitaker on the targeted killing by Israel of one of Yasser Arafat’s bodyguards [emphasis added]:

      “International opprobrium was directed at Israel yesterday for its state-approved assassinations of suspected terrorists – a practice widely regarded as illegal. . .
      . . . “The United States, while also condemning Palestinian violence, made clear its disapproval of the assassinations. . .
      “State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: ‘The use of Israeli helicopter gunships, Palestinian attacks against settlements and motorists, the use of mortars by Palestinians and the targeted killings by the Israeli Defence Force … are producing a new cycle of action or reaction which can become impossible to control. . .

      . . . As the Council on Foreign Relations documented in April of this year:

      “The United States adopted targeted killing as an essential tactic to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have employed the controversial practice with more frequency in recent years. . .

      In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process. . .


  3. thetumta
    January 3, 2013, 9:04 pm

    I fear Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an ‘existential threat’ to the values of The Enlightenment!” So, what is to be done?

    • pabelmont
      January 4, 2013, 6:58 am

      I’m not sure what the “values of the enlightenment” are, but the present USA heads toward a fascism where police power and spying on citizens is rampant (both by police, CIA, FBI, military, EZ-PASS surveillance of travel, and surveillance cameras everywhere — and also by corporations via internet purchases, credit-card use, and so forth) and where the purpose of government becomes the aggrandizement of big business (especially it seems multi-national corporations) and of billionaire individuals. BIG BANKS and BIG ARMS and BIG FOSSIL-FUELS (and BIG-ZION) are high in the saddle, subduing the “sovereign” American people much as the barons forced King John to sign Magna Carta (establishing the freedoms of barons!) in 1215.

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