Working with the CIA, the New York Police Department (NYPD) maintained a list of “ancestries of interest” and dispatched undercover officers to monitor Muslim businesses and social groups, according to new documents that offer a rare glimpse inside an intelligence program the NYPD insists does not exist.
The documents add new details to an Associated Press (AP) investigation that demonstrated how undercover NYPD officers singled out Muslim communities for surveillance and infiltration.
The Demographics Unit, a squad of 16 officers fluent in a total of at least five languages, was told to map ethnic communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and identify where people socialize, shop and pray.
Once that analysis was complete, according to documents obtained by the AP, the NYPD would “deploy officers in civilian clothes throughout the ethnic communities.”
The architect of this programs was a veteran CIA officer who oversaw the program while working with the NYPD on the CIA payroll. It was an unusual arrangement for the CIA, which is prohibited from spying in the US.
After the report, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the NYPD has kept the city safe and does not take religion into account in its policing. The NYPD denied the Demographics Unit exists.
“There is no such unit,” police spokesman Paul Browne said before the first story ran. “There is nothing called the Demographics Unit.”
An NYPD presentation, delivered inside the department, described the mission and makeup of the Demographics Unit. Undercover officers were told to look not only for evidence of terrorism and crimes, but also to determine the ethnicity of business owners and eavesdrop on conversations inside cafes.
A police memorandum from 2006 described an NYPD supervisor rebuking an undercover detective for not doing a good enough job reporting on community events and “rhetoric heard in cafes and hotspot locations.”
How law enforcement agencies, both local and federal, can stay ahead of Islamic terrorists without using racial profiling techniques has been hotly debated since Sept. 11, 2001. Singling out minorities for extra scrutiny without evidence of wrongdoing has been criticized as discriminatory. Not focusing on Muslim neighborhoods has been equally criticized as political correctness run amok. The documents describe how the nation’s largest police force has come down on that issue.
Working out of the police department’s offices at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the Demographics Unit maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with “American Black Muslim,” it considered “ancestries of interest.”
Police used census data and government databases to map areas it considered “hot spots” as well as the ethnic neighborhoods of New York’s tri-state area, the documents show.
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