The CIA's top lawyer never approved sending a veteran agency officer to New York, where he helped set up police spying programs, the Associated Press has learned.
Such approval would have been required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment.
Normally, when the CIA dispatches one of its officers to work in another government agency, rules are spelled out in advance in writing to ensure the CIA doesn't cross the line into domestic spying.
Under a 1981 presidential order, the CIA is permitted to provide "specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel" to local law enforcement agencies but only when the CIA's general counsel approves in each case.
Neither of those things happened in 2002, when CIA Director George Tenet sent veteran agency officer Lawrence Sanchez to New York, former U.S. intelligence officials told the AP. While on the CIA's payroll, Sanchez was the architect of spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.
The CIA's inspector general cleared the agency of any wrongdoing in its partnership with New York, but the absence of documentation and legal review shows how murky the rules were as the CIA and NYPD formed their unprecedented collaboration after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
In a series of investigative reports since August, the AP has revealed that, with the CIA's help, the NYPD developed spying programs that monitored every aspect of Muslim life and built databases on where Muslims eat, shop, work and pray. Plainclothes officers monitored conversations in Muslim neighborhoods and wrote daily reports about what they heard.
Kelly has vigorously defended the NYPD's relationship with the CIA. Testifying before the City Council in October, he said the collaboration was authorized under the 1981 presidential order.
"Operating under this legal basis, the CIA has advised the police department on key aspects of intelligence gathering and analysis," he said.
Kelly cited the section of the presidential order, 2.6c, that also requires the CIA's top lawyer to approve such arrangements, but he did not tell the city council that approval by the CIA's top lawyer was required.
The CIA's general counsel at the time, Scott Muller, did not approve the arrangement, former intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.