How Will City Council Oversee NYPD’s Spooks after This?

In their stories on the way the NYPD’s intelligence programs profile religious and ethnic minorities, Goldman and Apuzzo have repeatedly noted that the only entity providing oversight of the programs is the City Council.

The department has dispatched undercover officers, known as “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.

Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which has given NYPD more than $1.6 billion since 9/11, is told exactly what’s going on.


The department’s primary watchdog, the New York City Council, has not held hearings on the intelligence division’s operations and former NYPD officials said council members typically do not ask for details.

“Ray Kelly briefs me privately on certain subjects that should not be discussed in public,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone. “We’ve discussed in person how they investigate certain groups they suspect have terrorist sympathizers or have terrorist suspects.”

Today, the NYPD handcuffed and detained City Councilman, Jumaane Williams, at an ethnic celebration.

A city councilman from Brooklyn was handcuffed and briefly detained by the police on Monday afternoon during the West Indian Day Parade after an argument with officers over whether he was allowed to use a closed sidewalk, said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, whose aide was also detained in the dispute.

The councilman, Jumaane D. Williams, was not charged with a crime, nor was the aide, Kirsten John Foy, Mr. De Blasio’s community affairs director.

Observers suggested Williams and his aide may have been targeted–profiled, just like the targets of the NYPD’s intelligence program–because they are black. And Williams has already been a critic of the NYPD’s intrusive tactics.

He has been an outspoken critic of the Police Department’s “stop, question and frisk” policy.

So one of the 50 or so people who are tasked with making sure the CIA-on-the-Hudson doesn’t improperly profile or abuse New Yorkers on the basis of their race or religion just got thrown to the ground after he dared use a sidewalk an apparent police supervisor had said he could use.

I’m sure this incident won’t affect this oversight relationship at all.

21 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Uh, exactly what “oversight relationship” are you referring to?
    Cause I ain’t seeing it so much. Got a chuckle out of the Vallone “Gang of One” briefing though. That’s sweet.

  2. orionATL says:

    let’s go back to the halcyon days of july 2009 when
    our slithering gollum-in-chief suggested what came to be referred to sarcastically (i hope) as the” beer summit”.

    prof henry louis gates, returning home from a trip, had been unfairly and harshly accosted by cambridge, mass. policeman sgt crowley. gates was conned into “stepping outside”, handcuffed, and taken in a police car to be booked.

    no american citizen should ever have to experience what gates experienced without wholly manifest due cause, but prof gates did.

    what was the response of our slithering, power-craving gollum-in-chief?

    “let’s not deal with injustices done; let’s sit down and have a beer together.”

    suppose this incident had been treated differently. suppose sgt crowley had been held accountable for his misconduct ( sort of like john rizzo). what might have been the consequences for the extraordinary growth of abusive policing in this nation – including the years long abuses of the nypd spy units.

    just one more moral opportunity missed by a true moral coward.

    fortunately, we have just had a celebration, a somewhat tired celebration in my view, of one of the greatest moral (and pragmatic political) leaders this nation has ever had.

    which celebration and life accomplishments emphasize the fact that

    a very exclusive hawaii prep school, columbia university, and harvard law school

    do not make a man or a president with moral courage.

  3. Helen says:

    I have lived in NYC for thirty years. I even worked for the city for 5 years. It is brand spanking new news to me that the city council has oversight responsibilities of the police.

    The city council exists solely to dole out favors, monetarily and otherwise. That is all; regardless of what Christine Quinn and Jr. Vallone – a legacy hire if ever there was one – would like you to believe.

  4. bmaz says:

    @Helen: Well, If it is not the Council and/or Bloomberg, who would have oversight? I checked them out a bit and they do indeed have monitoring and oversight function with respect to city agencies including those in the public safety sector.

  5. Helen says:

    @bmaz: Oh I’m not saying that there is not a piece of paper somewhere saying that they do have oversight. I am saying that they do not exercise that oversight. Ever. Oh sure they hold hearings occasionally and talk a good game, but in actuality they are a patronage organization.

  6. prostratedragon says:

    Oh, and at the West Indian Day parade no less. Someone should tell them there’s no need to shout.

  7. Thus Blogged Anderson says:

    Sorry, but unless there’s more to the facts, what I’m seeing here is a guy who thinks he can walk wherever he wants, because he’s a CITY COUNCILMAN.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: I haven’t asked them, but I keep thinking of asking Goldman and Apuzzo “how do you think Sy Hersh would have felt back in 1974 if no one cared when he revealed how much domestic spying was going on?”

    Cause that’s what’s basically going on.

    And, as I keep pointing out, all this domestic spying DIDN’T find Zazi, even though they had infiltrated his mosque.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @Helen: Yeah, it’s pretty clear no one is exercising oversight (all the better place to build a domestic spy agency there, huh?). I think those writing about the CIA-on-the-Hudson would LIKE to City COuncil to respond in some way, but it hasn’t happened so far.

  10. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Speaking of Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, their latest on the subject:

    Docs: NYPD eyed 250-plus mosques, student groups

    The New York Police Department collected intelligence on more than 250 mosques and Muslim student groups in and around New York, often using undercover officers and informants to canvas the Islamic population of America’s largest city, according to officials and confidential, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

    The documents, many marked “secret,” highlight how the past decade’s hunt for terrorists also put huge numbers of innocent people under scrutiny as they went about their daily lives in mosques, businesses and social groups…”

  11. Helen says:

    @Helen: Correction on my 14. It wasn’t Jr. who said the slush fund was “a wonderful thing.” It was Sr; previous Speaker of the City Council.

  12. michaelfishman says:

    “Ray Kelly briefs me privately on certain subjects that should not be discussed in public,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone. “We’ve discussed in person how they investigate certain groups they suspect have terrorist sympathizers or have terrorist suspects.”

    The humility of this elected representative of the people is positively dazzling. He gets briefed by the police chief on matters unfit for the public he represents. Not being a New Yorker, I do not know what security classification election to the city council bestows on one…or is Councilman Vallone especially privileged as a member of the Council Intelligence Committee?

    @MadDog: “…many marked “secret,”…
    Who marked them “secret”? And by what authority does NYPD classify any information as secret? I’m asking…not quibbling.

  13. rugger9 says:

    Classification would be done within the framework of a procedural reference. The USG has one, as does any other entity, even if it is only a general doc control procedure that says items a through e are secret, etc. Now, that doc control procedure should be available as a public record, and NYC ought to have something on it, either as a procedure or more likely a process with at least a summary. It’s what bureaucracies do.

    What gets the moniker “Secret” would be in the eyes of the issuer, subject to whatever rules apply to them. I’d dig with the NYC admin department first on classifications.

  14. rugger9 says:

    Preliminary digging: You can google the NYC city code, and review the various departments. In the administrative code there doesn’t seem to be a document control function, but Title 14, Section 14-150 has the quarterly reporting requirements, fairly detailed. Subdivision c leads off with the standard issue disclaimer to wall off reporters:

    c. The information, data and reports requested in subdivisions a and b shall be provided to the council except where disclosure of such material could compromise the safety of the public or police officers or could otherwise compromise law enforcement operations.

    Those last four words mean “anything goes” IMHO.

  15. rugger9 says:

    Of course, #19 runs foul of Section 14-151, reproduced in its entirety:

    § 14–151 Racial or Ethnic Profiling Prohibited. a. Definitions. As used in this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
    1. “Racial or ethnic profiling” means an act of a member of the force of the police department or other law enforcement officer that relies on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual’s behavior or other information or circumstances that links a person or persons of a particular race, ethnicity, religion or national origin to suspected unlawful activity.
    2. “Law enforcement officer” means (i) a peace officer or police officer as defined in the Criminal Procedure Law who is employed by the city of New York; or (ii) a special patrolman appointed by the police commissioner pursuant to section 14–106 of the administrative code.
    b. Prohibition. Every member of the police department or other law enforcement officer shall be prohibited from racial or ethnic profiling.

    Since the stated purpose of these Keystone Kops was to profile [and still fail on Zazi], how does the NYPD square that purpose with the plain language of 14-151?

    Section 14-106 refers to “special patrolmen”, i.e. posse members drawn from the citizenry.

  16. rugger9 says:

    So, if I read 14-151 correctly what if these cops were “off the payroll” moonlighting for the CIA? Does that cover them? And how does that explain why the CIA and other agencies weren’t aware of their op?

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