New York City elected officials and civil rights advocates are set to gather Thursday to call for more oversight over the New York Police Department, following an Associated Press investigation that found the NYPD subjected entire Muslim neighborhoods to scrutiny and surveillance.
Several City Council members planned to join advocates at City Hall, then go to an oversight hearing on the NYPD's anti-terrorism tactics and security initiatives since 9/11, where they hoped to question police officials about the department's intelligence programs.
The hearing comes a day after seven Democratic state senators from the city asked the state attorney general to investigate the matter.
An eight-month investigative reporting project by The Associated Press revealed that the NYPD's intelligence unit has scrutinized Muslim neighborhoods, often not because of any accusation of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity.
The NYPD dispatched plainclothes officers known as "rakers" to eavesdrop in Muslim communities, helping police build databases of where Muslims shop, eat, work and pray.
Hundreds of mosques and Muslim student groups were investigated and dozens were infiltrated using undercover officers and informants. Even Muslim leaders who partnered with police and stood shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Michael Bloomberg against terrorism were put under surveillance.
The department also maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with "American Black Muslim," it labeled "ancestries of interest." Documents obtained by the AP show a secret team known as the Demographics Unit was instructed to canvass neighborhoods looking for businesses catering to one ethnic group, Moroccans.
The documents indicated plans to build databases for other ethnic groups showing where they eat, work, pray and shop.
Many of these programs were as part of an unprecedented relationship with the CIA. A senior agency officer was the architect of these programs while on CIA payroll. And the agency trained an NYPD detective in espionage tactics at its spy school known as the Farm.
Recently, the CIA sent one of its most senior clandestine officers to work out of NYPD headquarters.
The CIA's inspector general is investigating whether that relationship was improper.
"It's my own personal view that that's not a good optic, to have CIA involved in any city-level police department," James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told Congress recently.