The NYPD Will Record Your Opposition to Drone Strikes

One of the most fascinating moments in the deposition of the NYPD’s Intelligence Chief, Thomas Galati, comes when he discusses what kinds of political conversations might be recorded by the NYPD.

A I would say that if there was an event in the world that resulted in some type of violence or disruption, anywhere in the World or within the state that was related to terrorism activity, yes, they would go. They would basically see if it’s  going to have any implications in New York City.

Q Would it be fair to say that their job was to see whether people were talking about it and how people were talking about it?

MR. FARRELL: Objection.

A Their job was, if they hear people talking about it, you know, they should inform us. If what they’re hearing is hostility towards the United States or to the general public at large, you know, as a result of these events, would something happen here as a result? Their job is to listen for that.

This, of course, is dangerous ground for the NYPD, as it suggests the Department is recording people’s protected right to oppose policies of the US. Presumably seeing that danger, Galiti dodges the next question, whether all it takes is to express political opposition to US policies to get your opinions recorded by the Department. Rather than answer, he suggests it doesn’t have to do exclusively with opinions about US actions.

Q You used the word hostility towards the United States. I want to make sure that I don’t misunderstand you.

A lot of people talk. They don’t like what’s going on, what this person is doing, they don’t like what the United States is doing.

Are you talking as broadly as the hostility in the United States, in the sense of expressions of opinions that were contrary to the policies of the United States —

MR. FARRELL: Objection.

Q — or objected to the policies of the United States?

A I would say that it doesn’t even have to involve the United States at all; its general policing to prevent violence.

But then Galiti offers up an example of a US-related world event in response to which the NYPD might send people out to listen how people respond. That event? Drone strikes.

If we deployed them because of an event that took place in a particular part of the World, a drone attack, we would want to know and we would instruct them that people are upset about this drone attack. If they are, that’s something that would be important for us to know, that would be something we would want to know.

At one level, the NYPD actually has reason to want to know when people are pissed off about drone strikes. After all, one of the two real terrorists to attempt to attack NYC since 9/11, Faisal Shahzad, was motivated by the drone strikes in Pakistan.

Contrary to what John Brennan likes to claim, drones really have motivated people–even one in the vicinity of NYC–to become terrorists.

That said, there are a lot of people who express opposition to drone strikes–even ones that take out horrible people like Anwar al-Awlaki. The vast majority of those people will never consider terrorism in response to America’s use of drones.

But that doesn’t mean a record of your opinion won’t be in a computer at the NYPD.

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.

24 replies
  1. What Constitution says:

    Of course, given the scope of surveillance and retention it otherwise appears is under way (at least at a national level), it is equally certain that your electronically expressed opinions about gas prices, the presidential election, cats and toothpaste flavors are all in a computer somewhere — just awaiting the initiation of a search algorithm by somebody whose toothpaste preferences may be strongly held and different than yours. That, of course, is OK because Obama is a Good Man and would never abuse such a capability. Nor, of course, would the NYPD. Just keeping you safe, you know. You, me and all the other frogs in the pot.

  2. allan says:

    On the basis of these transcripts, it seems that the NYPD could
    save the taxpayers a great deal of money by replacing MR. FARRELL with
    a robot that emits “Objection.” at random intervals.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    @What Constitution: “That, of course, is OK because Obama is a Good Man and would never abuse such a capability.”

    See comment on Naked Capitalism by “Daily Kos reader”: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/08/links-81912.html#comment-792369:

    As a Daily Kos reader I refuse to believe Barack Obama is a cynical opportunist who only serves the interests of the 0.01 percent.

    I believe he intended to prosecute Bush and Cheney war crimes, but wasn’t able to, and even if he is continuing America’s global torture prisons, at least Obama had the good taste to move these torture chambers out of sight and out of mind.

    As a Daily Kos reader, while I find Obama’s illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and the endless slaughter-for-profit of the banking-military-industrial- complex somewhat disturbing, I know deep down Obama is a good-hearted man.

    And although I’m a little worried about his kill list and expanded power to murder Americans anywhere in the world, nevertheless as long as Obama is in office I believe we’re in good hands and I feel confident he will only murder bad people suspected of terrorism.

    (I wonder if NYPD has a snark detector?)

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    That said, there are a lot of people who express opposition to drone strikes–even ones that take out horrible people like Anwar al-Awlaki. The vast majority of those people will never consider terrorism in response to America’s use of drones.

    Was Anwar al-Awlaki horrible? I don’t know that. I don’t know him. His dad liked him. I guess his son liked him, RIP. What would a jury of his peers have said if he was charged with… wait, I forget, what was he charged with? And what was the evidence?

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    But that doesn’t mean a record of your opinion won’t be in a computer at the NYPD.

    I was trying to remember, who was it that the thing he was most proud of was his place on Nixon’s enemies list? I’m thinking, was it Walter Cronkite or Paul Newman? I duckducked. Several people said it. Paul Newman (#19!!!), Daniel Shorr, Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad…

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    @Frank33: Are the three thousand people named?

    Furor in the UK right now because Craig Murray named one of Julian Assange’s accusers on British TV the other night, apparently just like the NY Times had done in 2010 when she went public to the Swedish press, and after Australian TV last month actually had a whole program devoted to the controversy, named and showed both women, and interviewed their lawyer. Murray said her name out loud on the BBC. Meanwhile at the Guardian I also happened to see Glenn Greenwald’s first column with an embedded tweet from Pakistan’s Imran Khan:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/us-drones-strikes-target-rescuers-pakistan

    Shameful & condemnable. Three drone strikes over two days of Eid in FATA. Why do victims remain nameless? We must name all r terror victims.

    Stuff I see, stuff I wonder about. I wonder how much care the NYPD is giving to identifying victims as well as suspects, and if we will hear from victims of speech in their own words — wait, can they talk? Is there a board of speech we are to go to to have our speech evaluated, sorted, catalogued and approved/disapproved before we, you know, actually say it in public? The Board of Condonement…

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    @BSbafflesbrains: I actually had a funny dream a couple months ago. I’m on a patio terrace, blue sunny happy day. I’m on one of those chaise lounge things with the yellow and white plastic tubing. Michael Moore is on the one next to me. How did that happen, how am I here? And a drone comes. It’s like a hunting dog, zipping back and forth, sniffing, thinking. And then it stops and points and quivers, and I am looking straight at this drone’s nose. And I’m thinking, “Michael Moore is right next to me.”

    I mean, where do you start?

  8. JTMinIA says:

    It’s easy to “float” when all major rivers are only ankle deep. See the Man-Bear-Pig thread from this morning.

  9. Frank33 says:

    Is the US War, Torture and Assassination Machine targeting Julian Assange? No, says Victoria Nuland of the State Dept.

    “With regard to the charge that the US was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely,” Nuland told reporters.

    Asked whether the United States was pressuring Britain to seize Assange, who has been holed up for two months in Ecuador’s embassy in London, Nuland said she had “no information to indicate that there is any truth to that at all.”

    Nuland did not comment on whether the United States was interested in general in prosecuting Assange, saying: “I am not going to get into all of the legal ins and outs about what may or may not have been in his future before he chose to take refuge in the Ecuadoran mssion.”

    So is the US prosecuting or persecuting Assange? Make up your mind Vickie. But Vickie has declared Assange guilty of sex crimes. US taxpayers are paying for sex crimes against children in Afghanistan. Vickie and the State Dept. are concealing sex crimes, by DynCorp and that was revealed by Wikileaks.

    US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has angrily condemned both WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the nation of Ecuador today, after the former criticized the US “war on whistleblowers” in a speech from the Ecuadorean embassy.

    She accused Assange of making up “wild accusations” about US plans to prosecute him in an attempt to distract attention from sex crime allegations in Sweden.

  10. Gimme Shelter says:

    NYPD secret police spying on Muslims led to no terrorism leads or cases

    In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jtI-Vkab5A5VTWqm_3SnbYnGp_aQ?docId=dd5963543ab34624bec559c83651c8cd

  11. P J Evans says:

    @Frank33:

    “With regard to the charge that the US was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely,” Nuland told reporters.

    Yeah, right. It’s obvious to everyone but the governments of the US and UK, or at least their spokesbots.

  12. Frank33 says:

    @P J Evans:
    America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally.

    I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

  13. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    @thatvisionthing: I agree. We do not have enough evidence to know who or what Al-Awlaki was. Some people in DC certainly trusted him post-9-11.

    But I do feel confident there are people who by their own word and/or documented evidence (though not vetted through any judicial process – as yet) did and do horrible thInga, e.g. plotted torture and aggressive war, kidnappings of children, and other felonies and misdemeanors (like lying to Congress).

    These people work for or have worked for the US government. I do not need to name names: most of you are familiar with the more famous of them. But I do not advocate extra-judicial killings (assassinations) by drones, firearms, curare (take note, readers of that one), or any violence at all against these people.

    But either we have a society of laws or we do not. When the laws can be abridged by those in power we have tyranny. It does not matter what excuses the lawless give.

    The question as posed in the late 19th and early 20th century was on whose behalf the tyranny would be waged. The question today is how we can address this infernal human tendency to assert power and control, rendering certain people “horrible” by fiat, not their actions as judged by an impartial court. (oh yes, Athena)

  14. thatvisionthing says:

    @Jeffrey Kaye: Hi Jeff, thanks. I’m thinking the operational word isn’t “horrible,” it’s “inspirational.” I wrote a long comment to David Dayen about that once. It’s one of those power words, like “terrorist,” that has legal meaning and takes away your rights. The context I had seen it used in was prison, where it could get you put away in a CMU with the key thrown away, with no recourse for you to even know who determined and authorized it. Environmental activist or material supporter, no diff, if you are said to have “inspirational significance” you are gone. Seems to be true outside of prison too.

    http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/02/16/abdulmutallab-sentencing-shows-that-civilian-courts-sufficient-to-prosecute-terrorism/#comment-175260

  15. thatvisionthing says:

    @BSbafflesbrains: No, it was better than that. Me-in-the-dream reached over and took Michael’s hand and said “I love you.” End of dream. I love it. If that’s the last thought I ever have, when I can’t have another, if I can tell somebody I loved them, I’m good.

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