Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the New York City Police Department has become one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies, targeting ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if undertaken by the federal government, an Associated Press investigation has found.
These operations have benefited from unprecedented help from the CIA, a partnership that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying.
The department has dispatched undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They have monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police also have used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even with no evidence of wrongdoing.
Neither the City Council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which has given the department more than $1.6 billion since the 2001 attacks, is told exactly what's going on.
Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the Police Department's intelligence unit.
A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency's payroll, was the architect of the department's intelligence programs.
The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency's spy school in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States.
Just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative in Police Headquarters.
In response to the story, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim civil rights organization, called on the Justice Department to investigate. The Justice Department had no immediate comment.
"This is potentially illegal what they're doing," said Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the organization.
The Police Department denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads. Police operations have disrupted terrorist plots and put several would-be killers in prison.
"The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there's not another 9/1 1 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists," said Paul Browne, department spokesman. "And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard."
AP's investigation is based on documents and interviews with more than 40 current and former New York Police Department and federal officials.
In just one example of how widely it cast its net, the department sought a rundown from the taxi commission of every Pakistani cab driver in the city and produced an analytical report on every mosque within 100 miles, officials said.
The Police Department's intelligence operations do not stop at the city line.