Another Secret Self-Investigation of Counter-Terrorism Abuses

At a hearing on the 9/11 anniversary yesterday, David Petraeus revealed that the CIA’s Inspector General had launched an investigation into its role in the NYPD’s spy program.

During his first Congressional testimony as the C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus said Tuesday that the agency’s inspector general had begun to investigate its work with the Police Department “to make sure we are doing the right thing.” Mr. Petraeus said the inquiry began last month, but gave few details about its scope.

There are several things of note here.

First, the wrong agency appears to be doing the investigation. The NYPD program is, by all appearances, a massive ethnic profiling operation that hasn’t been all that effective at finding potential terrorists. DOJ ought to be conducting this investigation as a potential civil rights violation.

But instead, CIA will conduct the investigation, meaning the chances the public will know the result are slimmer even than if DOJ conducted it.

Consider, too, the timing. Petraeus says this investigation started last month. The initial AP story was published on August 24th, with a follow-up on August 31. That basically means the story came out and the CIA launched an investigation within days–pretty impressive turnaround.

So is CIA particularly worried? Both James Clapper and the CIA flack appear to be narrowly parsing the potential problem: whether or not there are CIA officers on the streets of NY, whether they are investigating domestically as opposed to overseas (remember, the NYPD is sticking its nose into overseas investigations, too).

James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said during the same Congressional hearing on Tuesday that while there were no C.I.A. officers out on the streets of New York collecting intelligence, he thought it was “not a good optic to have C.I.A. involved in any city-level police department.”


Marie E. Harf, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that its cooperation with American police forces in the past decade “should not be a surprise to anyone,” and that its work with the department in New York “is exactly what the American people deserve and have come to expect following 9/11.”

The agency’s operational focus, however, is overseas and none of the support we have provided to N.Y.P.D. can be rightly characterized as ‘domestic spying’ by the C.I.A.,” Ms. Harf said. [my emphasis]

(Note, given that the CIA has its own office in NYC, I find Clapper’s construction particularly amusing.)

Which is why it might be worth looking more closely at what the AP described the CIA’s role to be.

There was the way retired CIA officer, David Cohen, set up the organization and perhaps more notably, the way he and Tenet dual-hatted Larry Sanchez to set up the organization.

Among Cohen’s earliest moves at the NYPD was making a request of his old colleagues at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. He needed someone to help build this new operation, someone with experience and clout and, most important, someone who had access to the latest intelligence so the NYPD wouldn’t have to rely on the FBI to dole out information.

CIA Director George Tenet responded by tapping Larry Sanchez, a respected veteran who had served as a CIA official inside the United Nations. Often, when the CIA places someone on temporary assignment, the other agency picks up the tab. In this case, three former intelligence officials said, Tenet kept Sanchez on the CIA payroll.

When he arrived in New York in March 2002, Sanchez had offices at both the NYPD and the CIA’s station in New York, one former official said. Sanchez interviewed police officers for newly defined intelligence jobs. He guided and mentored officers, schooling them in the art of gathering information. He also directed their efforts, another said.

There had never been an arrangement like it, and some senior CIA officials soon began questioning whether Tenet was allowing Sanchez to operate on both sides of the wall that’s supposed to keep the CIA out of the domestic intelligence business.

Then there was the reverse move–a NYPD detective, Steve Pinkall, going through CIA training at the Farm–though given the mention of Robert Mueller making a stink, I presume this was high on everyone’s radar at the time.

The CIA just sent another, high level dual hat to the NYPD, but again, that seems to have gotten enough attention that it would not surprise anyone.

And perhaps most damning is the report that NYPD and CIA were sharing information collected by the former using unofficial channels.

Intelligence gathered by the NYPD, with CIA officer Sanchez overseeing collection, was often passed to the CIA in informal conversations and through unofficial channels, a former official involved in that process said.

Notably, the FBI has refused to share some of the information NYPD has been collecting (this reminds me of FBI refusing to participate in CIA’s torture sessions).

“If you’re sending an informant into a mosque when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, that’s a very high-risk thing to do,” Caproni said. “You’re running right up against core constitutional rights. You’re talking about freedom of religion.”

That’s why senior FBI officials in New York ordered their own agents not to accept any reports from the NYPD’s mosque crawlers, two retired agents said.

As I noted in my first post on this, one of the most interesting characteristics of the program is that its officers have diversity the CIA lacks.

Particularly given the persistent dual-hatting and the back channel exchange of information that even the FBI refuses to accept, it is conceivable that the CIA has been so cooperative with the NYPD because it gives it back door access–both culturally and bureaucratically–into the NYC community.

I’m just interested whether CIA’s Inspector General will find that dual-hatting so as to better share information collected in ways the FBI, much less the CIA, wouldn’t be able to use does, in fact, amount to domestic spying.


20 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    Carnac the Magnificent predicts the IG will find that it was only NYPD doing the domestic spying and that CIA is clean since they only got the intel through “informal channels”.

  2. Brian Silver says:

    I could imagine why CIA might have an office in NYC, collecting intelligence on all the UN and other foreign delegations in the city. But their role in coordinating or sharing information with the NYPD has to be questioned.

  3. MadDog says:

    The AP’s latest on their story by Kimberly Dozier and Matt Apuzzo:

    CIA investigates whether laws broken helping NYPD

    …The CIA’s new director, David Petraeus, told lawmakers that the agency’s inspector general began investigating the CIA-NYPD nexus at the request of acting director Michael Morell, before Petraeus took office just over one week ago…


    …Sanchez took a leave of absence from the CIA in 2004 to become a senior official in the NYPD Intelligence Division. But some in the CIA raised questions about the relationship, forcing him to choose in 2007 whether to remain with the CIA or the NYPD. He left the NYPD last year.

    After he left, the CIA dispatched one of its most senior clandestine officers to the NYPD, where he serves as a special assistant to intelligence chief David Cohen, himself a retired senior CIA officer. The officer, whom the AP is not identifying because he remains undercover, twice served as station chief in the Middle East and has run a major division at CIA headquarters.

    Clapper described him on Capitol Hill as an analyst, but his office later said he misspoke and recognized the officer’s career in the clandestine service.

    [edited for fair use]

  4. Mary says:

    I just looked at the original AP story via your link.

    What is really interesting to me is the extremely cursory reference to the prior federal court order and the supposed changes. The story lays out the fact that since 1985, the NYPD had been operating under a court order imposed in connection with settlement of a lawsuit (or lawsuits?) related to the NYPD’s prior use of infiltrators and agent provacateurs. The story then just inserts a Farsidesque “then a miracle happens” reference to Cohen going federal court judge shopping and when he found the guy he liked, he “told a federal judge that those guidelines made it ‘virtually impossible’ to detect terrorist plots.” And voila – “U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. agreed, saying the old guidelines ‘addressed different perils in a different time.’ He scrapped the old rules and replaced them with more lenient ones.”

    Do you have any more info on that? Were the other parties to the original settlement still around? Notified? Able to participate? Is the new order of operations public? If not, did the federal court judge issue an order affecting all of the citizens of New York and seal it? WTH? If it is public, can we see it? Was it all done via ex parte proceedings? How was it made appealable?

    I’m so stuck on that rut I almost can’t get on with the rest of the story

  5. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: So, I wonder if we’ll hear anything about “notification” from Pelosi, Harmon, Rockefeller or Feinstein?

    Did the CIA notify at all? The Gang of Four, the Gang of Eight, or no Congresscritter since the CIA wasn’t “running” an operation except that Sanchez was “running” the NYPD show.

    And as money is extremely “fungible”, I don’t care how many accounting tricks the NYPD uses, but the Federales have poured big time money into the NYPD, so how can the the CIA say they weren’t running an unlawful domestic intelligence operation?

  6. Mary says:

    OK – in trying to do a quick google to figure out the order issue, I found this:
    from 2007.

    This story indicated that the NYPD wasn’t just using its new “relaxed” standards in NYC, but also throughout the nation and in Canada. “For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe … From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.”

    So not just the CIA operating in NYC via it’s NYPD wing, but basically using the NYPD to spy domestically across the nation?

    It almost sounds as if the DOJ war on anti-war activists lately is a proactive effort – the best defense is a good offense theory – to try to avoid issues relating to the Executive branch’s (CIA) unconstitutional activities.

    Apparently this is what Cohen was having his crews spread across the nation to do:

    “A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

    ‘Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,’ said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. ‘Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.’”

    Gee – I wonder if the “well organized” “specific agenda” Dick Armey/Tea Party events to generate anti-Obama sentiment have a similar set of reports?

    OTOH, whose to say the NYPD would have to infiltrate the Tea Party?

  7. William Ockham says:

    A couple of quick questions/comments. Now that Petraeus had admitted to the op in an open session of Congress, does the NYPD stop denying the program existed? As far as I know, they still claim it never happened.

    Also, the CIA has stations (offices) in several U.S. cities. These stations are supposed to do non-spying stuff (analysis, research, disguises, their version of Q, etc.). The NYC office does run ops against foreign nationals at the U.N. (check out Risen’s stuff from about Sterling).

  8. Mary says:

    A bit more – the 2007 story says this was all done under the auspices of and with approval from Bloomberg.

    Also, despite the fact that Cohen per the AP story supposedly sold the judge on the new powers being needed based on the al-Qaeda threats, the 2007 story about the pre-RNC surveillance on rock bands against Bush et al, the spox answering questions for the NYT story said that they were gearing up because of the existence of “self-described” anarchists and people who might want to engage in “vandalism.” Hmmmm – ya know, I think the “anarchist threat” isn’t but so new, is it? And vandalism at political conventions? Really – you have to infiltrate Quakers in the Heartland because of the newly discovered threats of vandalism at conventions? Color me confused.

  9. Mary says:

    @William Ockham: Speaking of checking out Risen’s stuff, it makes you wonder a bit about what kind of actions were being taken vis a vis journalists (including Risen). The 2007 story indicated one group that thought it was being surveilled put in a FOIA request with FBI – but if the surveillance was being done by a city police force that was acting with the CIA and sharing with the CIA and other states’ law enforcement entities, no FBI file to be produced, and yet DOJ can probably get all the info it wants via those informal channels and, for that matter, probably laundered some of the info through the FISA court in Fisa applications later. So no, the DOJ won’t want to be investigating for multiple reasons, but one of the biggies will be why they always bury investigations – the likelhood of internal culpability that might need to be covered.

  10. scribe says:

    @Mary: There was a big legal fight over this in NYC federal court shortly after 9/11 that hardly got reported outside NYC. The CLU (Can’t remember if if was NYCLU or ACLU) was on the one side and got the back of the judge’s hand. Getting rid of those old guidelines was the NYPD’s Task One post-9/11.

  11. scribe says:

    One is compelled to wonder just exactly what is “the right thing” that the CIA is doing.
    Not that Betrayus would get that followup question.

  12. scribe says:

    One is compelled to wonder just exactly what is “the right thing” that the CIA is doing.
    Not that Betrayus would get that followup question.

  13. rugger9 says:

    As I had noted in the prior post on this topic, profiling is specifically prohibited [Section 14-151]:

    § 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.

    So, what this tells me is that either the CIA is involved in domestic spying or the NYPD involved in illegal profiling. The fact they were apparently under court sanction for other misdeeds [see #6] means an out of control department. This should not be surprising given that Kerik and Guiliani ran it for years. Talk about a gift wrapped civil rights suit.

  14. Mary says:

    @12 – thank you for the info. In 2002 I was literally first getting into email use – much less much web surfing skills, so I had no idea about all that brouhaha. Shades of the Yoo memorandum and CIA actual application, though, is that the 2007 article indicated that even under the revised order a senior police official was required to make some kind of a finding of suspicion of criminal activity before the infilitrations were authorized.

    In Marcy’s neck of the woods, they just had this incident:
    where a woman was taken into custody and subjected to a strip search first, then FBI interrogation, because – – two dark skinned men in her aisle used the bathroom on the plane and she … and she … well, apparently she didn’t do anything but sit in her seat and look 1/2 Arabic and 1/2 Jewish.
    The FBI was quick to say they didn’t direct anyone to arrest her and they didn’t participate in her strip search.

  15. Mary says:

    BTW – let’s do a little compare and contrast when the shoe is on the other foot. Or even close to the other foot. Like when a policeman executing his or her public trust is recorded

    According to Judge Posner, if you allow police to be subject to recording, why, golly, reporters and bloggers will snoop.

    “‘There’s going to be a lot of this snooping around by reporters and bloggers,’ Posner said, as reported by the Sun-Times. ‘Yes, it’s a bad thing. There is such a thing as privacy.'”

    Really? Policing is something done in “private?” Vs, you know, emails and telephone calls and private meetings that the federal courts are allowing to have opened up on whim and whistle?

  16. Lawordisorder says:

    Great posting wheelers

    Sure u guys can googletranslate danish military style Danish penalcode 261. stk 2 and the name colonel Frank Lissner special operations Taskforce ferrit 2002 in
    LOL man does he need a good defense lawyer

    remember the specop chopper that busted a CIA rendition flight during the Lord thomas Justice case guys ,-)

    anyway @emptywheel try my twitter and find “Nutcracker” in tweetpic

    Just my five cents worth…need to go do my civic duty in the morning …voting

    CU all & as always looking foreward to the trashtalk

    …Just another day at the office T004r

  17. Gitcheegumee says:

    @Brian Silver:

    Intelligence Fusion Centers | Public – Oct 9, 2009 – The report states that: “In addition to access to FBI and even CIA records, fusion centers often have subscriptions with private data brokers such …

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