How Does the CIA-on-the-Hudson Program Interact with Secure Communities?

The AP has another installment of their series on the NYPD intelligence department’s mapping of ethnic neighborhoods in New York. As always, you should read the whole thing, as well as the documents showing the spooks’ data collection on innocent Moroccans and Moroccan-Americans.

One question I came away with, though, was how this program interacted with Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program.

Secure Communities, recall, involves information sharing from local law enforcement to the FBI to DHS.

When state and local law enforcement arrest and book someone into a jail for a violation of a state criminal offense, they generally fingerprint the person. After fingerprints are taken at the jail, the state and local authorities electronically submit the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This data is then stored in the FBI’s criminal databases. After running the fingerprints against those databases, the FBI sends the state and local authorities a record of the person’s criminal history.

With the Secure Communities program, once the FBI checks the fingerprints, the FBI automatically sends them to DHS, so that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can determine if that person is also subject to removal (deportation). This change, whereby the fingerprints are sent to DHS in addition to the FBI, fulfills a 2002 Congressional mandate for the FBI to share information with ICE, and is consistent with a 2008 federal law that instructs ICE to identify criminal aliens for removal. Secure Communities does not require any changes in the procedures of local law enforcement agencies or jails.

By that process, DHS identifies people it can deport so as to meet the quota set for them by Congress.

As DDay has written repeatedly, this process has led to the deportation of low-level undocumented people, not the hardened felons the program was designed for. And this, in turn, makes local law enforcement less effective, because it makes immigrant communities less willing to cooperate with the cops because doing so might get them deported.

As the documents made available by AP make clear, when the NYPD’s spooks case out businesses, they note whether they are owned by citizens of ethnic (even Italian!) descent, or (as with the Eastern Nights Cafe profile, above) non-citizens. This effectively means NYPD’s spooks are, among other things, creating a database of the statuses of key members of ethnic communities throughout the city. Also, since the NYPD had a set of questions to ask anyone arrested or on parole from the Moroccan community, it also means the normal law enforcement process was being used to collect a database of information on immigration statuses and habits.

The AP story seems to suggest that NYPD keeps this information in a database separate from their other database system.

The information was recorded in NYPD computers, officials said, so that if police ever received a specific tip about a Moroccan terrorist, officers looking for him would have details about the entire community at their fingertips.


Current and former officials said the information collected by the Demographics Unit was kept on a computer inside the squad’s offices at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It was not connected to the department’s central intelligence database, they said.

The first installment of this series reported that the NYPD had shredded some of its documents to keep aspects of the program–including the fact that they were “building dossiers on innocent people, as these latest documents show they were–secret.

Some in the department, including lawyers, have privately expressed concerns about the raking program and how police use the information, current and former officials said. Part of the concern was that it might appear that police were building dossiers on innocent people, officials said. Another concern was that, if a case went to court, the department could be forced to reveal details about the program, putting the entire operation in jeopardy.

That’s why, former officials said, police regularly shredded documents discussing rakers.

But they did pass some of the information to the CIA via back 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.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean this information was shared with DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to deportations.

But given information sharing laws included within the PATRIOT Act, this intelligence might well be legally available to the Federal government (but possibly illegal for them to keep, given that it is potentially illegal domestic intelligence).

All of which leads me to wonder: has the CIA-on-the-Hudson make NYC less safe, because it has turned the local cops into officers combining law enforcement, intelligence, and immigration mapping?

10 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    Not that I want to harp on it too much, but why has no one discussed the NYC Administrative Code section 14-151 that clearly prohibits racial profiling? Are they assuming that all of the Moroccans are abetting terror [while downplaying the Hutaree, for example] and that is their lever to bypass the clear language of the section? Claiming that these are CIA types runs foul of Section 106, if they act as peace officers in posse mode, Section 151 applies to them as well.

    So, as I see it, either these groups in their entirety have been found with due process to be terrorist sympathizers or NYPD is flouting their own charter as well as the 4th Amendment. Rule of Law, indeed.

  2. Mary says:

    Do any of these stories discuss the extent to which CIA on the Hudson is operating in other states? We know they were taking their “new guidelines and sending officers into other states in advance of the Republican convention – but did it stop then? Especially if a mosque or business has ties in other states? Or a person has family members in other states?

    It’s hard to believe that after infiltrating sister states under a federal court’s blessing they just gave up that power, or that CIA let them or that the law enforcement in those states that had things it couldn’t do would forego the opportunity to use the NYCIA to spy on their citizens when they could.

  3. Timbo says:

    Keep on this one. The fact that they were spying on innocent people is just the tip of the iceberg here methinks…

  4. William Ockham says:

    All of which leads me to wonder: has the CIA-on-the-Hudson make NYC less safe, because it has turned the local cops into officers combining law enforcement, intelligence, and immigration mapping?

    Yes. Another edition of simple answers to somewhat complex questions.

  5. rugger9 says:

    I’m guessing you meant this passage about half way in:
    New York City law prohibits police from using race, religion or ethnicity as “the determinative factor” for any law enforcement action. Civil liberties advocates have said that is so ambiguous it makes the law unenforceable. The NYPD has said intelligence officers do not use racial profiling or troll ethnic neighborhoods for information.
    § 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 according to the article descriptions, nothing else was considered.

    In addition, there is no doubt that CIA is in other cities doing the same thing. There is nothing so unique about NYC that SF, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, etc., wouldn't see similar targeting.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    Probably they’ve been working with the military also, either directly or via the FBI.

    Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on NORTHCOM, Mar 11, 2008: “The command also has maturing relationships with agencies inside our country, the FBI for instance.”

    from NORTHCOM:
    As directed, JTF North employs military capabilities to support law enforcement agencies and supports interagency synchronization within the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) area of responsibility to deter and prevent transnational threats to the homeland.

    Posse Comitatus? Not a problem.
    “The Posse Comitatus Act is often cited as a major constraint on the use of the military services to participate in homeland security, counterterrorism, civil disturbances, and similar domestic duties. It is widely believed that this law prohibits the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps from performing any kind of police work or assisting law enforcement agencies to enforce the law. This belief, however, is not exactly correct. . . . The biggest error is the common assertion that the Posses Comitatus Act was enacted to prevent the military services from acting as a national police force.”

    NORTHCOM was involved in the 2008 RNC.
    ACLU, Nov 21, 2008: The American Civil Liberties Union recently came across a revealing “RNC Homeland Security Document”. This official document was uncovered by the website Wikileaks, which according to its website. . .A second agency that was involved in the planning is the Pentagon’s Northern Command, NORTHCOM.

    mapping? — another federal agency —
    ACLU again:
    The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is one of the organizations that is mentioned in the report that is particular cause for concern. NGA provides mapping tools and imagery intelligence that are obtained from the United State’s military spy satellites which are controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office.

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