NYPD gives big middle finger to good intelligence practice and civil liberties

The NYPD is a force unlike any other.  With 40,000 members it’s larger than the armed forces of many nations.  After 9/11, the NYPD began sending liaisons all over the world to work with foreign law enforcement agencies.

And, they began a program to track all the brown people in the world.  Stop and Frisk and the ‘Demographics Unit‘ are two examples of that but recently it was uncovered that the NYPD has also been spending time hanging out in Muslim Student Associations in a number of universities.

Undoubtedly tracking those dangerous Muzlims that are probably spending all their time making suicide bomb vests, right?They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

One autumn morning in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email and found a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto.

Khan clicked “forward,” sent it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University at Buffalo, and promptly forgot about it.

But that simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department, 300 miles away, who combed through her post and put her name in an official report. Marked “SECRET” in large red letters, the document went all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s office.

Supposedly all this nonsense ended in 2007 but they also said they never did this sort of surveillance when, in fact, they were doing it so who knows.

In any case, it reflects a deeply flawed sense of threat, prioritization and resource allocation.  This was, in short, a huge fishing operation.  A hope that if you flail around long enough eventually you’ll hit the pinata.

And the NYPD don’t seem to dispute that:

Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations…

So, because some people ‘arrested or convicted on terrorism charges’ (and we’ve seen how empty that category can be) were members of a student association we should go undercover at those places?  I suspect almost 100% of people arrested or convicted of terrorism charges ate food.  Let’s set up surveillance at all the T.G.I.Fridays in the country and we’ll catch ALL the terrorists!

In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

“In addition to the regularly scheduled events (Rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature,” the report says.

You can see one such report here. (nypd-msa-report)

There are some interesting things to note about it.

First, check out the classification markings:  ‘NYPD Secret’.  What the fuck is that? Is that like ‘Super duper pinkie swear secret’?  The federal government has the authority to classify documents, not municipalities (even the Big Apple).  Now, you might be inclined to let every agency have their own delusions of grandeur but there is a bigger issue here.

If you look on page 2 of the document you’ll see they dropped the ‘NYPD’ and just labeled the document ‘Secret’.  Well, now you’ve got all sorts of potential for madcap hijinks.  Might people confuse this with a real secret document and be compelled to treat it with the same restrictions and considerations?  Or, more worrying, does this mean that real secret documents might get mixed up with these bogus ones, thereby increasing the chance of an unauthorized disclosure.

Look, if NYPD wants to play ‘Secret Squirrel’ that’s all well and good but they should pick terms that don’t infringe on real work.

Other than that, take a moment and look at the report.  I can’t comment on it’s content or analysis because it’s totally devoid of anything that could be considered relevant to homeland security, terrorism or crime.

Who thought this was a good idea?

I’m not sure what I should be more frustrated about with this document; the fact that it’s a complete waste of time or the fact that someone got paid to gather these *ahem* facts and report them.



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