"The NYPD has been spying on entire neighborhoods based solely on who lives there and what their religious beliefs are,” Udi Ofer of the NYCLU said yesterday, just as NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was grilled by City Council members during an "often adversarial" hearing. "We know the NYPD is watching us: the question is, who is watching the NYPD?" That's a good question! The City Council does not have the power to subpoena the NYPD for its intelligence records, and the Federal government—which has invested more than $1.6 billion in the NYPD since 9/11—has no authority to monitor its intelligence operations, either. Don't worry, it's the honor system!
Kelly was questioned by Council members who are troubled by a recent Associated Press exposé about the NYPD's partnership with the CIA to spy on Muslims in NYC. Some Council members and others are concerned that the NYPD is racially profiling Muslims, and the NYPD has acknowledged that it is sending undercover officers into ethnic and Muslim neighborhoods to act like "a human camera" and "map the human terrain" in mosques, hookah bars, and Internet cafes.
The NYPD has been working closely with the CIA since 2002, when veteran CIA division head David Cohen came out of retirement to run a secretive police intelligence team. In a thorough 5,000 word article (that we can't find a link to anymore!), the AP reported that the division's counterterrorism tactics have gone further than what the FBI allows, and they're probably illegal. Yesterday, Councilman Daniel Dromm told Kelly, "I’m asking you a very specific question: do you have one of the Irish community, do you have one of the Greek community? How many communities have you mapped out in the same way that you’ve mapped out the Muslim community?"
"We don't do it ethnically, we do it geographically," said Kelly, NY1 reports. "We don't racially profile, we follow leads wherever those leads take us." But Pakistani and Bangladeshi cab drivers say they've been targeted by the NYPD as part of an attempt to get informants—according to the AP, cabbies who may have broken some law completely unrelated to terrorism have been asked to provide intelligence in exchange for letting them off the hook. "They're giving the tickets — unfair tickets," one Bangladeshi told NY1 yesterday.
The Times reports that during the hearing, Kelly "struck a defiant tone, defending his re-engineering of a municipal police force to address counterterrorism and surveillance." But he also made room for a little cop comedy. Councilman Robert Jackson, who said he was the Council’s only Muslim member, asked, "Have I been under surveillance by the New York Police Department?" Kelly said he didn't think so, but asked, "Do you pay all your summonses?"