NYPD Undercover Spying Unit Revealed As Extensive, Far-Reaching

Yves here. At first I thought I’d relegate this Real News Network piece to Links, but on further reflection, I decided it was too important for that. The segment recaps the main findings of a new book, Enemies Within, about a heretofore secret operation in the NYPD. This might appear to be a local story, but think twice. The NYPD has been the leader in the militarization of police operations in the US. Bloomberg has even boasted that he has the seventh-biggest army in the world. This is the future of policing in the parts of the US with enough money to support this level of surveillance.

The NYPD “demographics unit” engages in neighborhood-based intelligence gathering. That might not be so terrible if it was done evenhandedly, across all precincts. Police in Japan similarly place a great premium on knowing the routines in their patrol areas. But this is intelligence gathering on groups deemed to be suspicious in the areas where they live. So even though it’s Muslims now, it’s not hard to imagine it was Brooklyn hipsters in Occupy two years ago.

More at The Real News

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  1. Susan the other

    This doesn’t surprise me. I remember the Strauss-kahn flap and in the aftermath there were stories of the CIA being in cahoots with the NYPD and they had been working with French intelligence. NYC is a “systemically important” city. I’m sure this has been going on for decades. I’ve heard stories about some small incident or traffic accident where the plain-clothes cops just instantly materialize out of the background. No need to even call it in.

    1. diptherio

      Linda Sarsour of the Nat’l Network of Arab American Communities gives a much better interview on DN than Apuzzo does here. RNN should get her on ASAP.

  2. diptherio

    Apuzzo: “The existence of these programs has certainly not undermined our ability to have free and open discussions and that’s what it’s all about.”

    Wrong! Apuzzo doesn’t seem to understand that knowing undercover cops are listening in on our political conversations certainly does undermine the ability of the populace to engage in free and open discussions. How free and open are you really going to be if you know the NYPD may be taking notes? Also, the presence of these programs definitely undermines our ability to organize effectively for political change. Glenn Greenwald has often pointed this out:

    …any kind of social movement needs to be able to organize in private, away from the targets of the organization…But if the government is able to learn what we speak about and know who we’re talking to and know what it is we are planning, it makes any kind of activism extremely difficult because secrecy and privacy are prerequisites to effective activism.

    It’s an informative interview over-all, but his down-playing of the anti-democratic nature of NYPD’s surveillance apparatus makes me think he might need a refresher course on civil liberties and democracy.

    1. craazyman

      what if he’s the one we send out to get the coffee and doughnuts.

      when he’s gone we discuss the private stuff and we’ve got our own security guard and football fan we can talk about Sunday with the rest of the time

      what’s not to like?

      the real key is to get the police on your side. they really should be. I’ve known a bunch of dudes who pack heat for a living and they’re just like us — big boneheads basically who want to get drunk and sleep with hot women. If you get them on your side, there shouldn’t be any problem. What prevents that from happening. Where’s Master Po? haha shit

    2. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

      I would advise activists about thinking carefully when going out for meetings on whether bringing a cell phone is a plus or a minus. This is because when I make a call from a cell phone, I can be geo-located by the telco company.

        1. LucyLulu

          Been doing that, too. With Operation Hemisphere.

          An administrative subpoena is sufficient to get the information, and doesn’t require probable cause. Numerous federal agencies have been granted the power to issue administrative subpoenas since the 1970 when first granted to the DEA.

          A few examples of those NOT under Treasury or Justice:

          Dept. of Commerce
          Dept. of Education
          CSB (chemical safety)
          Appalachian Regional Commission
          DHHS (health/human services)
          Small Business Admin.
          DOT Highway Traffic and Safety Board
          Railroad Retirement Board
          National Science Foundation…………


    1. Benedict@Large

      “… it’s also drawing away resources from following violent terrorists.”

      Not exactly. Simply imagine their role as protecting PROPERTY over protecting persons, and this all becomes clear. Those with the most property most control the agendas of these para-military police forces, and thus it is threats perceived by the wealthy to their property (but never such threats from the right) that guides the employment of these forces.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Would you say that cutting security and funding for background checks at naval bases might be one of the drawbacks of spying on hippies?

      1. Thomas

        “spying on hippies.”
        J.P. Morgan made a 5 mil contribution to NYPD to deal with Occupy Wall Street. Did that money in part gp to this unit? Will they (Plutocrats) finance policing of future peaceful/lawful events? They are of course. The NYPD is a great police force as is this nations, in the right hands.

      2. LucyLulu

        The violent terrorists seem to be the only ones escaping scrutiny, even in the face of compelling evidence suggesting scrutiny is warranted.

        The shooter at the DC shipyard is the latest example. The police called by the hotel owners six weeks ago regarding his voicing of paranoid hallucinations and delusions wrote a letter reporting his behavior to the US Navy, apparently ignored. He also had two prior shooting incidents and “anger management issues”, had been discharged from the reserves for unspecified problem behavior, and was addicted to violent video games. Yet we spend over $50B each year on covert surveillance to protect the American people.

  3. Paul Walker

    When programs such as this effort from the NYPD are combined with ‘parallel construction’, maximizing informant information flows through regional DHS/NSA fusion centers and corresponding court cases through the judiciary/prison industrial complex one can begin to encompass the hazards of what passes for our exceptionally corrupted governing processes.

  4. bob

    Their funding also comes from large corps through “Donations” to the NYC Police foundation, tax free.

    They also have overseas offices.

    Police? Nope, not any more.

  5. ginnie nyc

    In addition to all the reasons mentioned, this story is nationally important because the NYPD Chief, Ray Kelly, is being seriously considered by Obama for head of Homeland Security (DHS). This BS would be imposed from above on a location near you.

  6. ginnie nyc

    In addition to all the reasons already mentioned, this story is of national importance because Ray Kelly, the NYPD chief, is being seriously considered by Obama to head Homeland Security (DHS). This BS would then be imposed upon a location near you.

  7. Conscience of a Conservative

    Unfortunately considering how NY can serve as a terror magnet as we saw on 9/11 and how we still have many targets some of this is unfortunately necessary. Some of the activities described don’t sound like invasions of privacy in the same way the NSA’s activities do with regards to phone records and emails. Where I do think NY may be going to far is in the use of drones or the consideration of such.

    1. frosty zoom


      it seems that in america the “terror magnets” are grade schools, movie houses, malls and post offices.

      perhaps it’s time to stop squishing the rest of the world and fix Flint.

    2. LucyLulu

      I live in a mid-sized southern town, pop. 275,000. We have no history of terroristic activity here. But our police do have a tank, two of them.

  8. skippy

    Drive the conversation underground and then point big fat finger at the terrorist cell… people expressing their political view points.

    skippy… next Judge Dredd… its more efficient… MBA & MPA’s say so… thingy. Oh… and don’t worry about quotas!

    1. psychohistorian

      We need a smart cabal of folks that gin up a fake secret organization that then baits the spy folks to commit crimes which are then litigated and used to show the public what plutocratic fascism has wrought.


    don’t you get it, they just cant help themselves, the insulation and isolation of the institutions has caused a collective narcissistic disorder, that comes with sever and chronic confirmation bias. It’s a cult thing….

  10. JJ

    For a Mayor to boast (and a City in the US to lay claim to ) “the seventh largest army in the world” seems an epic fail on any number of levels.

  11. washunate

    It’s great to see so much attention on these matters. The assault on the Constitution is at the heart of what has gone wrong with our political economy. The idea that terrorism/security/whatever justifies ignoring the Constitution is about as close to the definition of treason as it gets. It is the advocacy of overthrowing Constitutional governance. As the rule of law disintegrates, of course financial markets go with it.

    One thing that I find myself wondering is whether urban Democrats in the major cities will ultimately throw out the authoritarians or openly embrace them. Right now there is this unsustainable dance where Democrats pretend to care about racism and civil liberties and so forth while enacting exactly the opposite policies. Something is going to give sooner or later.

  12. prufrock

    So what?
    During fascism in Italy that was standard practice. After wwII in Italy it was quite normal that big industrial groups took information on young employees checking for “communists” – beware! “communist”, not “mafiosi” -.
    It seems thar XXI century runs a much cleare game, isn’t it?

  13. ep3

    Yves, what really bothers me about these police state city spying programs is how they never go after the bad guys. It’s always some kid smoking pot on school grounds or some guy reading banned books (fahrienheit 411). To me, that’s the real crime.
    As I watch over the last week, the replays of “9/11, what went wrong!” TV shows, it always comes back to the failure of these gov’t institutions to do the jobs they were created to do. The CIA is supposed to spy on outside “bad guys”; the FBI is supposed to investigate crimes that the local cops can’t handle and assess situations as threats. But none of them do that. They are given this power and then use it to further our war machine. Or take over countries with vast amounts of oil.

  14. TC

    Just another normal day in the United States of Make Work and Money Grab. The question is whether this is spying, or fishing for sheep dipped patsies.

  15. Sam Kanu

    Anyone who knows the NYPD already understands that they are reactionary whackjobs. They in no way see their job as serving citizens of the city, but rather they believe they are employed to put down the masses in service of the elite. The way they run around shooting black new yorkers was not an aberration. The way the readily sell out to drug kingpins is not an aberration (I mean how is it possible for thriving drug rings to exist in one of the most policed and camera-infested cities in America)

    Now you see the rest of their agenda.

  16. Thomas

    even though it’s Muslims now, it’s not hard to imagine it was Brooklyn hipsters in Occupy two years ago.” — get me rewrite? You’ve got a real abuse — of Muslim Americans — you’re basically minimizing compared to the *possibility* of a not-(so much)-Muslim American abuse in the past. Sure, it’s a distinct possibility. But the abuse is just as bad either way.

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