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Civil rights probe sought in NYPD-CIA collaboration claims

NYC pro-Muslim rally, Sept. 11, 2010
Viktor Nagornyy

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called for a federal investigation and Senate hearings into an Aug. 24 Associated Press report asserting that the CIA helped the New York Police Department (NYPD) in spying on the city's Musilm communities. CAIR said it suspects the intelligence gathering described in the report violates the US Constitution, and the US Privacy Act of 1974, which bars the CIA from domestic spying. The report claims undercover NYPD officers known as "rakers" were sent into Musilm neighborhoods to monitor bookstores and cafes, while informants known as "mosque crawlers" were used to monitor sermons.

NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne said "we don't apologise" for aggressive techniques developed since the 9-11 attacks. He said "those techniques have helped thwart 13 plots on the city." Preston Golson, a CIA spokesman, said the AP story had mischaracterised the nature and scope of the agency's support to the NYPD. "Our co-operation, in co-ordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is exactly what the American people deserve and have come to expect," he said. "The agency's operational focus, however, is overseas and none of the support we have provided to NYPD can be rightly characterised as 'domestic spying' by the CIA. Any suggestion along those lines is simply wrong." (AlJazeera, Aug. 25)

Golson failed to say why the operations failed to qualify as "domestic spying," however. In the absence of a credible distinction being offered, we are left to assume that it was exactly that. We have noted before that David Cohen, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence who was appointed after 9-11, was a 30-year veteran of the CIA. We have also noted that the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counter-terrorism, also appointed after 9-11, is Michael Sheehan—a former US army Special Forces commander who served as a counter-insurgency advisor in El Salvador.

We heartily endorse CAIR's call for a civil rights investigation. We say it is about 10 years overdue.

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