Privacy SOS

Shocker: no accountability at CIA for role at NYPD

Adding to the long list of ways in which the NYPD has disappointed and frightened people over the past few years is the horrid and fundamentally anti-democratic NYPD practice of spying on Muslims simply because they are Muslims. The problem has been well documented in an Associated Press series worthy of a Pulitzer. The journalists involved, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, have been engaged in work exemplary of the height of journalistic ethics: they asked difficult questions of people in positions of power, and dug around for the truth when the official answers didn't suffice. National Public Radio and journalist Leonard Levitt have also reported on the issue.

Since the pair from AP exposed the CIA-NYPD collaboration and the massive anti-Muslim spying campaign, they've been writing about the fall-out and looking for accountability. Here's a short version of what they've found: there isn't any accountability, at least from the inside.

And there isn't any accountability to be found in New York, either. To give you a sense of just how little remorse Ray Kelly, NYPD commissioner, feels about the programs, consider this gem:

We see ourselves as very conscious and aware of civil liberties and we know that there’s always going to be tension between the police department and so-called civil liberties groups.

"So-called civil liberties groups" like the NYCLU beg to differ with the commissioner's version of events. The group has urged the New York City council to look into the NYPD's behavior, including allegations of

  • Deploying “mosque crawlers” to monitor hundreds, if not thousands, of prayer services.
  • Dispatching undercover officers to Muslim and Arab neighborhoods in New York City to monitor daily life, including at mosques, bookstores, restaurants and Internet cafes.
  • Monitoring neighborhoods for “angry rhetoric and anti-American comments” and targeting individuals based on their reading habits and Internet search histories.
  • Monitoring Muslim students associations at local colleges and universities.
  • Compiling dossiers on Muslim residents engaged in no wrongdoing.

The NYCLU went to a federal judge asking that the court force the NYPD's hand in turning over more documents about the spying:

The NYPD’s reported surveillance of local Muslim communities raises serious questions concerning whether the Police Department has violated court-ordered restrictions on its ability to spy on and keep dossiers on individuals…In order to know whether the NYPD is violating the court order, we need a more complete explanation of the NYPD’s surveillance practices.

No big deal though, right? Right, according not only to the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg, but also to the CIA, which has apparently said that its agent's involvement with the NYPD didn't violate any CIA rules, even though the agent did not follow the appropriate rules for authorizing his NYPD work. How is that? That's because the agent was never instructed to do what he did. Therefore it didn't break the rule saying the CIA could not authorize such behavior.

So as long as the CIA director doesn't instruct an agent to do something, the agent can do it and the CIA will not be held responsible? Basically, yeah:

The CIA's internal watchdog found nothing wrong with the partnership and concluded that the agency did not violate the executive order. U.S. officials have said that's in part because the CIA never instructed [the agent] to set up the NYPD spying programs.

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

But hey, maybe we shouldn't expect more from an agency found to have engaged in repeated kidnappings, renditions, extrajudicial assassinations, secret prison administration, and torture. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.