NYPD’s Failed Ethnic Profiling Program

When Goldman and Apuzzo exposed NYPD’s domestic spying program last week, NYPD insisted it didn’t exist. So this time, they’ve posted documentary proof.

As they report, the domestic spying program employed a “Demographics Unit” that mapped out “ethnic hotspots” in the NY city area.

The program, it seems, would not even (and, as I’ve noted, did not even) accomplish what it aspired to do. While the ancestries of interest included far more nationalities than the federal government’s National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (which served a slightly different kind of ethnic profiling), adding obvious countries like Somalia and allies like Bahrain or Turkey, as well as the “American Black Muslim” ethnicity, it leaves out Nigeria (the Undie-Bomber’s nationality) and all South East Asian Muslim nationalities save Indonesia. Moreover, the group did not, apparently have the linguistic capabilities to infiltrate those groups (a slide lists Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu as its linguistic capabilities).

And among the other details from the program, I find one more admission to be telling: the unit aspired to,

Identify and map ethnic residential concentrations within the Tri-State area.

Last week, I noted that the NYPD might have explained that they missed Faisal Shahzad because he lived in CT and received funds from Pakistan via a hawala on Long Island. But clearly both would fall within the scope of NYPD’s aspired goals (if not within its legal jurisdiction).

In other words, as comprehensive as this ethnic profiling program aimed to be, not only did it fall short in conception, but (by missing Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi) in execution.

12 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    The word “Keystone” comes to mind.

    Seriously though, the chances that those we employ and pay to see that our laws and the Constitution are upheld (the local, state, and federal governments, and their courts) are going to do something about this?

    I’d rate that chance as fat. As in fat chance.

    OT and btw EW, bmaz emailed me about finding a comment of mine from the 29th that had got “lost” in moderation.

    I just wanted to make sure you got to see it since I really wanted folks here who might have missed Sunday’s new National Geographic documentary on the Liquid Bomb Plot to get a chance to watch it. As far as I can find on the NatGeo site online, there isn’t a replay date scheduled.

  2. scribe says:

    Wholly unsurprising, the inclusion of “American Black Muslim” among the ethnicities to be profiled. It’s not for nothing that three of New York City’s five counties (New York/Manhattan, Kings/Brooklyn and Bronx) are subject to the preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_Rights_Act

    Racism is deep-rooted in New York and particularly the NYPD, and it will seize on any excuse to perpetuate itself. This “intel unit” and “terrorism” are the perfect, eternal excuse – all wrapped up in a secret.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    @John Casper: And around 1800 the Germans. This seems to be the American century kickoff play. Or part of it anyway; we’re recapitulating a lot these days.

  4. joberly says:

    @allan: Good one, Allan! And note that NYPD recognized “Palestine” well in advance of the UN General Assembly. Also, I wonder if the Intel Div on the force told Parking Enforcement not to ticket double-parked “Palestinian” cars on First Avenue.

  5. klynn says:


    No “American White Extremist?” (Supremacists)

    No “American Neo-Nazi?”

    No “German Neo-Nazi?”

    None of the ethnic mob organizations?

    And with the spy history of one of our allies, why not some of our allies US ethnic groups?

    For goodness sakes, if you are going to violate the Constitution in the name of safety, please, at least go the whole nine yards. (Snark, sort of…)

  6. scribe says:

    @klynn: You’ve obviously never listened to (white male) NYPD cops when they think they’re alone or among like-minded folks. “Animals” and “n*ggers” are their terms of endearment for blacks, and they’d fit right in among neo-Nazis. Among real Nazis, for that matter.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @1970cs: Yep.

    As I said on my last post on this (I think), in MI, they pulled the INS officers from interviewing green card applicants to randomly stop cars in Dearborn.

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