Backstory: No Terrorism Leads From Controversial NYPD Demographics Unit

Thursday, August 23, 2012

For more than a year we’ve known about the New York Police Department’s controversial Demographics Unit, which in conjunction with the CIA has conducted surveillance of Muslim communities in the New York metro area. This week, we learned that in its six years of existence the unit has failed to produce a single lead or generate a terrorism investigation. Associated Press reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who were part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team that broke the story of the Demographics Unit, give us an update.


Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman

Comments [3]

prudencedogood from NYC

The CIA didn't work in collaboration with the NYPD. A former CIA agent who then joined Police Intel took with him knowledge of an Israeli program to collect networking data on spotting potential extremists. But what do the Israelis know about the danger of Arab terrorism, right?

Second, the idea that everyone speaking Urdu is on some kind of watch-list is comical. The entire point of collecting data is elimination of the vast majority of people, not jamming the system. You are looking for the needle, not the haystack.

If someone speaks Urdu or Pashtu, has relatives in Pakistan, frequents a mosque which is considered a hot bed of Islamic radicalism, has flown repeatedly to Pakistan in the last two years, has unusual activity in a bank account etc., this is the guy they are trying to find so that they might take a closer look. To claim they are out to actively track everyone who speaks Urdu is comical.

Third, the idea that this small program somehow eats up a lot of the budget for the NYPD is blatantly false.

Fourth, do you think that if some other police agency (say in DC or LA) finds out that someone they are worried about spent time in NYC, it's a bad thing that the NYPD might have a data base to suggest leads where to look?

Fifth, the pretext that their "investigation" is value neutral is absurd. They are obviously out to shut down the program. Their claim that they just want "outside oversight" is also absurd. "Oversight" comes is when a DA decides an indictment is justified, a trial is held, and it all comes before a judge and jury. Their own evidence shows remarkable police restraint in the use of the program. Contrast this to the FBI which regularly make terrorism cases based on the most blatant use of agent provocateurs. I personally don't have a problem with it myself but to make what the NYPD is doing as somehow legally sinister compared to what the FBI does every day is comic.

Sixth, the reporters are upset because the NYPD hired a top CIA guy who ran covert operations! I guess Mark Green must have been unavailable so they went with a nobody without any real world experience.

Finally, the claim that the failure of 9-11 was "analysis" and not "intelligence gathering" is laughable when the very program they want to destroy is dedicated above all to real time intelligence gathering.

This entire "expose" is a crude hit job dressed up in claims to fake objectivity.

Sep. 04 2012 05:29 AM
john from office

After the next attack, len will brow beat the NYPD for not doing enough. Monday morning quarterbacks all.

Aug. 23 2012 01:36 PM
Bob from Westchester

On the positive side, it is progress to see that the NYPD did not exaggerate findings or bring dubious charges in order to justify this activity, nor did they try to provoke or entrap people into committing crimes.

Aug. 23 2012 01:32 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.