The New York Police Department insists that allegations of a “Demographics Unit” that spies on Muslims in the tri-state region are without merit, but a report released today shows hard evidence of the NYPD’s top-secret troop.
Earlier this month The Associated Press made claims that New York’s boys in blue were working hand-in-hand with CIA operatives to go undercover in Muslim communities and seek out information that could be used to prevent acts of terrorism. A proactive approach, perhaps; but even if the NYPD could thank the undercover agents for thwarting terror attempts, it would show that they’d be ethnically profiling followers of Islam. Following the AP’s report issued earlier this month, the New York Police Department denied any such unit within their force. Now, however, the AP has obtained specifics documents and a presentation relating to the operatives.
The new documents attest that 16 officers made up the Demographics Unit squad, and amongst the crew of cops the agents spoke five languages. Led by a veteran CIA officer who remained on the Central Intelligence Agency’s payroll while working alongside the NYPD, the team would infiltrate “ancestries of interest” to monitor groups of Muslims and look for reasons to suspect wrongdoing.
Those communities included locales in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and the AP suggests that operatives even worked abroad. While continuing the operations, the FBI was kept in the dark, as were the local law enforcement agencies that the NYPD dispatched members of the Demographics Unit into, despite the locales being outside of their jurisdiction. The ties with the CIA operative that organized the coalition would also raise questions of legalist, as the CIA is prohibited from spying within the United States.
Even still, documents obtained by the AP attest that the NYPD would “deploy officers in civilian clothes throughout the ethnic communities.” There they’d eavesdrop in cafes frequented by Muslims, scour bulletin boards inside houses of worship and linger communities and neighborhoods for any chance at setting up a sting. The AP says these agents that would go as far as to participate in cricket matches with identified Muslims were called “rakers,” but the NYPD refuses to admit they exist.
While “criminal activity” may be a valid indicator of unlawful actions (by definition, actually), it is listed in the AP-obtained document as an significant factor to be on the lookout , alongside “transient housing” (which includes mosques), “houses of worship” and “religious schools.”
The report released today also suggests that the Demographic Unit operated out of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, not the usual hub for NYPD intelligence. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed this and other information, including the obtained documents, to the Associated Press.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, however, has refused to confirm these allegations made by the AP, disputing the original story that ran earlier this August. Before they released their report today, Browne told the AP that "We do not employ undercovers or confidential informants unless there is information indicating the possibility of unlawful activity.”
A presentation unearthed by the AP, however, shows that the Police Department’s Intelligence Division employed the Demographics Unit to explicitly “identify and map ethnic residential concentrations within the Tri-State area,” “map ethnic hot spots” and “monitor current events.” Further, officers were asked to “analyze religious institutions” and seek out businesses “indicative of a specific ethnicity,” specifically noting the large volume of Pakistani cab drivers in New York.
The document also lists 28 groups of interest, including those of Somalia, Albanian and Turkish descent, as well as the “American Black Muslim.”
Earlier this month, Browne defended the NYPD, and said that the 1,200 officers on the unit fight a war every day to prevent another 9/11. They don’t, he insists, however, ethnically profile. Despite his denial, the internal presentation obtained by the AP and confirmed by a former official asks agents to report activity of daily visits of people, such as the American Black Muslim, at places like houses of worship.
Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has asked for a Justice Department investigation into the NYPD Intelligence Division that the Demographics Unit is allegedly a part of. Her district includes Brooklyn, NY and she says that the NYPD can do their job without profiling, but says American’s shouldn’t be as quick to shrug off the Police Department going undercover to spy on their own citizens. Speaking to the AP, Clarke brings into memory the case of the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War 2, which she says Americans “look back on . . . with disdain” today.