Intelligence versus Evidence-Gathering; NYPD Knows What's Proper and What's Not

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 31, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Intelligence versus Evidence-Gathering; NYPD Knows What's Proper and What's Not


There is a new brouhaha stirring among civil libertarians and Islamic organizations in light of the recent Associated Press story regarding the working relationship between the New York Police Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. The article focused on the intelligence division of the NYPD and the deputy commissioner who runs it. David Cohen is a former career employee of the CIA, who was appointed by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2002. Terms like rakers and mosque crawlers were bantered about in the article, which painted a picture of unrestrained spying on the citizenry by the government. The authors, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, described a super-secret section of the intelligence division called the Demographics Unit whose responsibility was to send undercover officers into predominantly Muslim neighborhoods and gather information by observing the neighborhood.

Immediately following the story's release, several spokesmen for the Council on American Islamic Affairs (CAIR), and the Islamic Leadership Council voiced their outrage at what they termed profiling. CAIR staff attorney Gadeir Abbas went so far as to call on the Justice Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the NYPD.

It was not too long ago that these same organizations were accusing the police of entrapment and the illegal use of informants in several thwarted terrorist plots, such as The Bronx Four and the Christmas Tree Bomber in Portland, Ore.

As the former deputy inspector general of the criminal intelligence division in New York State prisons, I was assigned to work in the NYPD Intelligence Division from 2002-2005.

In all of my time there working on numerous cases regarding terrorism and homegrown radicalization, I never heard anyone use the terms rakers or crawlers when describing human-intelligence gathering. In recent conversations with former colleagues who also worked in the intelligence division, none of us could recall ever seeing the Demographics Unit.

So what is true in the article?

Fact: After Sept. 11, 2001, there was a need for all law enforcement agencies to adapt to a new methodology when it came to dealing with the issue of terrorism. There was also a need for the intelligence community to recognize the value of law enforcement's contribution in the war on terrorism.

The melding of these two was on a larger scale than previous endeavors, although not a novel concept. In the 1980s, my office worked with intelligence agencies in the case of Edwin P. Wilson, the rogue CIA officer who was accused of selling explosives to Libya. Although Wilson's case regarding the explosives was overturned, he was convicted of conspiring to murder the federal prosecutors in that case based on the evidence provided.

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Intelligence versus Evidence-Gathering; NYPD Knows What's Proper and What's Not


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