The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for an investigation into an alleged “secret NYPD-CIA program to spy on Muslims.” The outrage is based on an Associated Press report about NYPD counter-terrorism efforts that sound explosive, but are actually common-sense measures that aren’t anything new. This is just another example of CAIR’s campaign to convince Muslims that they are being victimized and CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood fronts are their protectors.
The AP report claims that after 9/11, the NYPD went to the CIA to help it build its intelligence-gathering capabilities. David Cohen, a 35-year CIA veteran, went to the NYPD. As a former CIA operations chief, he was an understandable choice. Cohen then asked CIA Director George Tenet for more support and he sent Larry Sanchez in March 2002. The loaning of operatives between government agencies happens regularly and is nothing new, but the receiving agency is supposed to pay the tab of the loaned officer. To the shock of the AP and CAIR, Sanchez remained on the CIA payroll.
The fact that the CIA shared expertise to the NYPD when it was reforming its counter-terrorism strategy is a good thing, and even if Sanchez’s salary shouldn’t have been paid by the CIA, that is not a violation of civil liberties. That’s a problem for the accountants to handle. The outrage over the program makes it sound like the CIA was engaged in domestic spying, which would indeed be a clear violation, but that’s not what is happening. The CIA, including the CIA officers on loan to the NYPD, did not engage in the intelligence-gathering. The agency simply provided guidance. It remained an NYPD operation.
It is alleged that the NYPD hired informants as “mosque crawlers” to infiltrate mosques without any evidence of a crime. To the chagrin of CAIR, Pakistani personnel would even become part of Pakistani communities. Palestinian personnel became part of Palestinian communities. They visited stores and restaurants and if they saw something suspicious, they reported it. The report says that police officers in such neighborhoods would pull over vehicles for speeding, broken tail lights and other reasons and use the opportunity to find evidence of other crimes, including ones related to terrorism. If an undercover officer in a book store noticed someone reading extremist texts, he might talk to the store owner who decided to sell the literature. If someone at a restaurant was overheard expressing joy about the killing of U.S. forces, the NYPD would take note of it.
None of this is a violation of civil liberties, and isn’t different than long-standing law enforcement practices. In fact, if they didn’t perform the above actions, that would be an outrage. There would be justifiable outcry if the NYPD didn’t have undercover officers, and if they didn’t take note of when someone glees at the deaths of U.S. soldiers or sells extremist literature. Furthermore, police officers have always pulled over vehicles for legitimate reasons and watched for indications of other crimes. It isn’t news when a police officer pulls over someone for a broken tail light late at night and then tries to see if the driver is drunk. Yet, when a Muslim immigrant is pulled over for speeding, and the officer is on the look-out for evidence of other illegal activity, CAIR protests.
CAIR says the AP report is “shocking.” Zaheer Udin of New York’s Islamic Leadership Council says, “It seems to many of the leadership here, there are two kinds of authorities they are playing---one is in the forefront which is very cooperative. And there is another authority, which is playing against Islam and Muslims, going against the First Amendment and the security of the country.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is standing by the NYPD. Paul Browne, NYPD spokesman, says there are parts of the AP report that are “marked by outright fiction.” He says, “We don’t apologize for it and we’re not deterred by petit jealousies that success made breed.”
Patrick Dunleavy, former Deputy Inspector General of the Criminal Intelligence Division of the New York State Department of Corrections is in a position to know the truth. He worked with the NYPD’s Intelligence Division from 2002 to 2005 and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism’s Prison Connection.
In his debate with CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas, Dunleavy made the point that there was nothing said when Hispanic officers were used to gather information in Hispanic communities to fight Latin American drug cartels. He explains in an editorial that police departments across the U.S. use mapping to identify areas where they should devote more resources to covering. It shouldn’t be surprising that the NYPD’s counter-terrorism efforts would naturally bring them to Muslim areas. Retired NYPD officer John Cutter, who served under David Cohen, said “It’s not profiling. It’s like, after a shooting, do you go 20 blocks away and interview guys or do you go to the neighborhood where it happened?”
Dunleavy also says he never heard of the “Demographic Unit” that the AP report says was in charge of spying on innocent Muslims, and nor has his former colleagues in the NYPD Intelligence Division. The NYPD denies it exists. However, the AP has published an NYPD document about the unit. Even if it does exist, none of the conduct mentioned should be unexpected.
This isn’t the first time that CAIR and its Muslim Brotherhood-tied partners have tried to raise hysteria about a legitimate counter-terrorism program, and it won’t be the last. This is how they remain relevant, solicit donations, pursue their Islamist agenda and hold onto their dwindling amount of supporters.