NYPD, under fire, to end CIA collaboration program

The New York Police Department, under fire from New York City Muslims, has announced that it is ending its program of NYPD-CIA collaboration launched after 9-11. Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the CIA officer working as a special assistant to the department's intelligence program will leave his post in April after nine months. The program has been under scrutiny since it was revealed in a series of stories by the Associated Press, prompting the CIA's own Inspector General to conduct an investigation. The Inspector General's probe found there was insufficient oversight of the program, which included sending plainclothes "rakers" into mosques and Muslim communities. Muslims not suspected of any wrongdoing were put in intelligence databases.

The CIA officer apparently on loan to the NYPD, Lawrence Sanchez, is an agency veteran who spent 15 years overseas in the Middle East, South Asia and ex-Soviet republics. Working with the NYPD while on the CIA payroll from 2002 to 2004, he later formally joined the NYPD while on a leave of absence from the CIA. But in addition to ambiguity as to who he was actually answerable (the cops or "The Company"?), it also appears there were two CIA guys loaned to the NYPD—and the second, unnamed one is the one now getting the boot. WritesAP, Jan. 27:

Sanchez left the NYPD in 2010. Then, last July, the CIA sent one of its most senior clandestine operatives to work out of the NYPD. That's the officer who now is leaving.

Not exactly crystal clarity as to what is going on here, even now that the collaboration has been "exposed" and "investigated." But it sure smells bad—with a nasty undertone of deja vufor past anti-immigrant scares and dirty tricks campaigns in US history. Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York told AP: "We the people find ourselves facing the specter of a 21st century COINTELPRO, once again in the name of safety and security."

The CIA collaboration program is officially ending as calls mount for Kelly to resign over his role in the lugubrious propaganda film The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America. Even amid all the outrage, Kelly's name is still the first one listed under "Featured Interviews" on the film's official website. And it was notoriously used for internal NYPD indoctrination. From the New York Times, Jan. 28

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Friday that "The Third Jihad,” a film depicting many American Muslim leaders as extremists, "should not have been shown" to New York City officers. The New York Times disclosed that at least 1,489 police officers had seen it. The film was played on a loop for officers during 2010 in a waiting area outside a counterterrorism training course, Mr. Kelly said. He placed responsibility for the decision to show the film on a sergeant, whom Mr. Kelly did not identify.

Kelly has also notoriously flip-flopped about whether he had personally cooperated with the filmmakers. From New York Times, Jan. 24:

Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne told The New York Times on Monday that the filmmakers had relied on old interview clips and had never spoken with the commissioner.

On Tuesday, the film's producer, Raphael Shore, e-mailed The Times and provided a date and time for their 90-minute interview with the commissioner at Police Headquarters on March 19, 2007. Told of this e-mail, Mr. Browne revised his account.

"He's right," Mr. Browne said Tuesday of the producer. "In fact, I recommended in February 2007 that Commissioner Kelly be interviewed."

Oops. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is sticking by Kelly. "You know, Ray Kelly probably visits more mosques than a lot of other people who believe in the faith and practice there," he indiscreetly told the Daily News Jan. 26.

The astute blog Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, which doggedly follows such unappetizing arcana, provides some background on The Third Jihad:

As was widely reported, the Third Jihad was produced by the Clarion Fund, which was also responsible for the documentary Obsession (the Fund also promoted the "Islam doll" conspiracy theory). At least one of the "experts" featured in the Obsession film—namely Walid Shoebat—has been known to promote the conspiracy theory that Obama is "really" a Muslim, and the Third Jihad DVD includes footage of Glenn Beck.

The Clarion Fund's website informs us that their advisory board includes professional Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. The "Islam doll" hysteria, for those who don't recall, concerned a Mattel Fisher-Price Toys talking baby doll whose gurglings, like a Rorschach test, were interpreted in paranoid quarters as "Islam is the light" and "Satan is king." Readers will recall that Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West was prominently aired by Fox News a few years back. Walid Shoebat, for those not in the know, is a professional ex-Muslim who happily provides propaganda ammo to the Islamophobes. But numerous skeptics have raised questions concerning his possibly invented past

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is one of the organizations portrayed inThe Third Jihad as spawn of the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization now has a press release on its website, "Dispelling Rumors About CAIR" (PDF), which wryly notes:

CAIR is not is "the Wahhabi lobby," a "front-group for Hamas," a "fund-raising arm for Hezbollah," "…part of a wider conspiracy overseen by the Muslim Brotherhood…" or any of the other false and misleading associations our detractors seek to smear us with. That we stand accused of being both a "fundraising arm of Hezbollah" and the "Wahhabi lobby" is a significant point in demostrating that our detractors are hurling slander not fact. Hezbollah and the Salafi (Wahhabi) movement represent diametrically opposed ideologies.

Oops again. CAIR is also one of the organizations demanding Kelly's resignation. Kelly has apologized for airing The Third Jihad within police HQ—but he has not apologized for appearing in it. And his apology for airing it was slightly equivocal. Gothamist provides the verbatim:

While it never became part of the Department's curriculum, and was not authorized for any training, regrettably it was shown in a room where officers who were filling out paperwork or on break from actual training had an opportunity to view it over an extended period in 2010. I offer my apologies to members of the Muslim community, in particular, who would find the film inflammatory and its airing on Department property, though unauthorized, to be inappropriate.

In other words, another weasily pseudo-apology of the type beloved of politicians—subtly placing the blame on the aggrieved party for taking offense. Cyrus McGoldrick, the civil rights manager for CAIR, calls Kelly out on this in an interview with the Village Voice:

It was as if I said to my wife, "I'm sorry that your feelings were hurt by me cheating on you," instead of apologizing for the cheating. I think the police department and the mayor's office think that if they keep repeating themselves, that eventually the news media will get tired of the story, and move on—which unfortunately is often true. So it was bad enough that the film was shown in training, worse that they covered it up, and even worse than that, we now find out that it's been shown to 1500 people, and the commissioner knowingly had a role in it. He lied about it until they were caught in the act, and only just now have they decided to address the issue. It's an unbelievable situation, and I think if this were happening to any other community in this city, heads would have rolled a year ago. This is a bigger issue now than propaganda or police training—this is an issue about the integrity of public officials.

The countdown to Kelly's resignation has begun…

See our last posts on Islamophobia and the struggle in New York City.

  1. NYPD: national intelligence agency?
    It now appears the NYPD’s program of spying on Muslim communities extended beyond the city’s borders, to several places in the Northeast (at least) and especially New Jersey. From WYNC, Feb. 24:

    Former New Jersey Governor Dick Codey refuted a report that he was the one who gave the NYPD permission to spy in New Jersey residents.

    Codey said he signed two executive orders (below) in 2005 that would allow the NYPD to collaborate with local law enforcement to operate on the railroads and ferry terminals in the wake of the London terror attacks. He said any operations beyond that were in violation of the order.

    “Anything in regard to espionage. … had nothing to do with the executive order and would be in violation of that,” Codey told WNYC on The Brian Lehrer Show.

    On Friday, The Star-Ledger reported that Codey’s executive orders gave authority for the NYPD to operate in the state without the need to get the greenlight from local authorities.

    Earlier this week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he was not told about the surveillance, and Governor Chris Christie, who was then the state’s top prosecutor, said he didn’t remember being told about the operation.

  2. NYPD designates moques ‘terrorist organizations’

    You thought this crap was over? From AP, Aug. 28:

    NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

    Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

    Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

    Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.