NYPD Makes Work But Not Knowledge
When I read the Judy Miller/Richard Clarke op-ed defending Ray Kelly (this is Judy’s second go-around defending Kelly, btw), I realized something about the NYPD CIA-on-the-Hudson program. They write,
Yet NYPD efforts to engage with and selectively surveil at-risk populations are not only legal but essential. In 2002, Mr. Kelly decided that a “broad base of knowledge” about who lives in the New York area was crucial to preventing terrorism. “It was precisely our failure to understand the context in 1993″—after the first World Trade Center bombing—”that left us vulnerable in 2001,” he said. So police tried to determine “how individuals seeking to do harm might communicate or conceal themselves. Where might they go to find resources or evade the law?” Such “geographically-based knowledge” saved “precious time in stopping fast-moving plots,” he said last weekend. [my emphasis]
Ray Kelly and his defenders claim that the process of mapping out all the Muslim communities in the NYC area produces “knowledge.”
But after reading the two latest sets of documents released by the AP: mapping the Syrian and Egyptian communities, it became clear that this is less about knowledge and more about make work. The Egyptian packet, in particular, reads more like the kind of crappy composition papers you see from college freshmen learning how to write and think critically–complete with significant portions just cut and pasted from online sites (in this case, the NYC and CIA sites). How much “knowledge” did an officer gain by copying the NYPD’s own website to include this information in a report on Egyptians in the 68th precinct? (Note, the NYPD appears to have taken this tour guide information down in 2006 after this particular report was completed.)
The 68th Precinct provides police service to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton. These middle-class neighborhoods are culturally and ethnically diverse. Over recent years there has been a significant influx of people of Middle-Eastern and Asian descent into the area. One and two family homes dominate the landscape; however, there are also many four and six story apartment houses throughout the precinct. Residents and visitors enjoy the recreational amenities afforded by the area’s seven major parks, two theaters, golf course and spectacular waterfront along “The Narrows” between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Independent merchants, as well as some chain stores, provide for ample retail shopping and other services along Third, Fifth, Eleventh and Thirteenth Avenues as well Fort Hamilton Parkway and 86th Street. Over one hundred restaurants, bars and nightclubs provide for a vibrant nightlife. Fort Hamilton is the only active duty military installation in New York City.
Does repeating the NYPD’s own assessment that The Narrows is a spectacular waterfront really help find terrorists?
Then there’s the sheer repetition of it, which becomes apparent if you compare the Moroccan mapping report to the Egyptian and Syrian one. Between them the reports many of the same sites, including at least the following.
- Nassem meat market
- Egyptian coffee shop
- Eastern Nights Cafe
- Bay Ridge International Cafe
- Egyptian Cafe
- Ramalla Coffee Shop
Of what value is it for the NYPD has paid officers to go twice in the same year to the same businesses to do these completely new profiles?
Egyptian Cafe, Moroccan Version, undated (other reports in same packet dated December 19, 2006 and April 13, 2007)
Egyptian Cafe, Egyptian Version, report dated July 7, 2006
Yet none of this is contextualized with the larger neighborhood, a discussion of the known terrorist sympathies that might exist there.
Without that context, you don’t get knowledge.
And, finally, like a freshman comp paper trying to fluff the content to reach some page length, this report includes totally irrelevant information.
Why should a report on Egyptians include a review of MI’s Arabic population when–as the report notes–few of MI’s Arabs are Egyptian (though the data from which the officer worked at least now states that, “Since 1990, significant increases appear in the number of Michiganders who are of Jordanian and Egyptian descent.”
Man, if Ray Kelly is sending his spooks to my state, I’m gonna send the Spartans out after him.