Outrage is growing among civil rights advocates and even some current and former members of the NYPD after the department allegedly issued "secret subpoenas" to internet providers and private companies in order to obtain personal information on tens of thousands of people.
Internal documents obtained by the I-Team reveal that the department has issued well over 200,000 so called administrative subpoenas in the last decade. The NYPD has not said who exactly is being targeted, or why. The subpoenas were supposedly for "internal investigations."
Retired NYPD Officer Philip Insardi is taking direct aim at his former employer for looking into him. He was alerted to his secret subpoena by Microsoft, his internet provider, in 2017. The police department sought all of his emails from the subpoenas issued. Insardi said he was grateful Microsoft flagged him, but it hasn't lessened his fury.
"They've taken the law and they've thrown it out of the window," Insardi said. he added that he had no idea why he would be investigated by the department, and still has never been given an answer.
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The subpoena noted an authorized investigation, and cited the U.S.A.'s anti-terrorist Patriot Act. Insardi, who retired in 1993, said using that law to go after him is an abuse of what the Patriot Act was designed for.
"The Patriot Act wasn't designed to go after a retired cop who goes tuna fishing. I've done nothing to be investigated by the Patriot Act," he said. "Absolutely shocking they were abusing, or are abusing, the Patriot Act to go after civilians."
The retired sergeant, who owned up to being critical of the department on social media, said he received no explanation from police internal affairs.
Jack Jaskaran is a retired NYPD captain and Harvard grad-turned-attorney. He filed a Freedom of Information request for Insardi's records and others, but said he has been stonewalled by the department.
"The NYPD is almost like a gestapo, where if you say something, watch your back," Jaskaran said. "It's a fishing expedition for them. They will issue these bogus subpoenas to get ahold of all your information — your text messages, your emails, your iCloud account."
In a document obtained by the I-Team, the department acknowledged issuing more than 217,000 administrative subpoenas from 2010 through the present. A current officer, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, said the NYPD will "look through social media posts and go after people who disagree with them."
Lt. Edwin Raymond is the highest-ranking NYPD officer to openly criticize the department, including going public in 2016 about alleged racial quotas. He is running for city council and has an ongoing discrimination lawsuit against the city, and suspects the department targeted him too, and like those in his orbit.
"These are all reasons to spy," Raymond said. '"This is unvetted domestic espionage."
Thus far, Raymond's FOIL requests have also generated denials. His attorney is working in conjunction with Jaskaran, and said the NYPD is hiding behind a century-old administrative rule that allowed the Department to subpoena witnesses for internal hearing."
Civil Rights Attorney John Scola said that "somewhere along the line, that statue got shot with steroids, and now they're essentially issuing requests for records all over the place. He said that they have found several examples of police officers and former police officers, as well as multiple journalists, who have been targeted by the subpoenas.
"I know it's illegal," Insardi said. "Apparently they don't feel the law applies to them!"
The I-Team sent a list of questions about the subpoenas to the NYPD. The department did not respond. Advocates and civil rights attorneys are hoping to get a hearing regarding the matter before City Council, with subpoena power.