White House Drug Czar Helps Pay for CIA-on-the-Hudson

In its latest update on NYC’s spying on Muslims, the AP reports the program is partially funded by the White House Drug Czar in grants associated with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.

Some of that money — it’s unclear exactly how much because the program has little oversight — has paid for the cars that plainclothes NYPD officers used to conduct surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods. It also paid for computers that store even innocuous information about Muslim college students, mosque sermons and social events.

When NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was filled in on these efforts, his briefings were prepared on HIDTA computers.

What the article notes but doesn’t emphasize–but which is the entire point of White House czar positions–is that there is little oversight over how these funds get used. Congress did not get to see a breakout of how the NYPD uses its “war on drugs” funds.

Congress, which approves the money for the program, is not provided with a detailed breakdown of activities. None of the NYPD’s clandestine programs is cited in the New York-New Jersey region’s annual reports to Congress between 2006 and 2010.

The problem with programs run by White House czars is that White Houses of both parties routinely argue that Congress has no legitimate oversight over them.

The White House, typically, refuses to comment.

The White House last week declined to comment on its grant payments.

And, as the AP has pointed out repeatedly in its reporting on this program, no one in New York City is exercising oversight either.

It’s unclear how much HIDTA money has been used to pay for the intelligence division, in part because NYPD intelligence operations receive scant oversight in New York.

The main point of the AP article is that the White House owns this ineffective, abusive spying, just as much as Ray Kelly.

But just as importantly, the use of Drug Czar funds for a program that is every bit as counterproductive and wasteful and stupid as the war on drugs symbolizes just how far those running this program have shielded it from any oversight.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. allan says:

    Slightly OT, but the extent to which Ray Kelly has intimidated the NYC political class is clear
    in this article from the AP. The Democratic mayoral candidates who don’t actually support the spying offer at most mild criticism, immediately followed by glowing praise for the NYPD, even using the same phrase “extraordinary job”.

  2. joanneleon says:

    I am so glad that you are on this story about the NYPD-on-the-Hudson.

    I have been meaning to do some more research and writing about it. I’m glad to know that you are looking at it closely. Reading your posts from the past week has given me some new motivation. It takes a lot to shock me but the way the NYPD just assumed jurisdiction in my state really surprised me. Who is giving them this authority? It seems obvious that it comes from a federal level. Yet when bloggers started making assumptions about the involvment of Homeland Security in the nationwide crackdown on OWS protests and encampments, there was enormous pushback and accusations of conspiracy theory. (Even though it was not at all unusual to see an NYPD team with “Counterterrorism Unit” on the backs of their jackets at regular protest marches, which should be enough proof that something strange is going on, IMHO).

    But look at this — NYPD snaking around in three states at least. And how unsurprising that the “war on drugs” money is playing a part. They should just rename it the “war on civil rights”. It amazes me how Democratic presidents are somewhat nonchalant about drugs during their campaigns and then become militant about it after they are elected. Why is that?

    As an aside and purely speculation on my part — I don’t believe that Cory Booker had no knowledge of this. I just don’t believe his recent statements about it. I wonder if any journalists will get hold of McGreevey and Corzine to ask them about it.

  3. SpanishInquisition says:

    Actually the Obama admin is setting up domestic spying operations throughout the US under the cover of the drug war – they know exactly what is going on and this isn’t an isolated incident.

    In a few minutes of googling I’ve found this at the LA HIDTA, which sounds like it is West Coast training to do exactly what is being done on the East Coast…and through the same HIDTA funding:
    http://norcaltraining.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Middle-Eastern-Course-February-2012-LA-HIDTA.pdf

    Also the law itself says that funds can be used for terrorism irrespective of whether drugs are involved – as long as the Obama admin approves:

    The Director may authorize use of resources available for the Program to assist Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in investigations and activities related to terrorism and prevention of terrorism, especially but not exclusively with respect to such investigations and activities that are also related to drug trafficking.

    http://law.onecle.com/uscode/21/1706.html

    Here’s a quote from a 2005 HIDTA press release showing that HIDTA was intended merely to be a cover for domestic spying for all sorts of things not related to drugs:

    On the Senate floor, Baucus stated, “Montana law enforcement tell me that moving the HIDTA Program to OCDETF will do nothing to improve law enforcement capabilities, and will undermine the unique partnerships and innovation that the HIDTA Program has helped to create nationwide and that have been so successful in curbing the spread of methamphetamine in Montana.” In presenting the amendment, Senator Grassley said, “Congress provided ONDCP with the responsibility for the management—and effectiveness—of the HIDTA program. For a relatively modest investment, federal, state, and local law enforcement have tremendously benefited from the increased information sharing and improved coordination that HIDTAs create. The task forces created through the HIDTA Program can serve as models for initiatives against terrorism, money laundering, and other modern threats to civil society.”

    http://hidtadirectors.org/pdf/Congressional_Support.pdf

    Then there’s this from the Naval Postgraduate Institute, which shows HIDTA isn’t really about drugs and in fact calls on soldiers to be on staff at HIDTA sites:
    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA427222

    Also here’s this on Maryland doing the same thing, just with a different groups…and it again was funneled through HIDTA and onto Fed databases:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/are-we-safer/suspicious-activity/

  4. lysias says:

    Spying on Muslims doesn’t sound like a very effective way to reduce drug trafficking. So why would the Drug Czar’s office think this was a good way to accomplish their mission and help to get future funding for their office?

    I wonder if the Drug Czar’s office did this because somebody else in the White House thought this was a good way to get unaccountable funds and pressured the Drug Czar’s office to play along.

  5. P J Evans says:

    @lysias:
    Drugs and terrorism are both ‘automatic vote for programs targeting them’ for politicians. I would not be surprised to learn that the funds are going to the same pockets. (And they’re both pretty useless programs as far as actually accomplishing the goals they proclaim so loudly.)

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