From The Grio— This is not The Wire. A domestic surveillance program by a local police department is supposed to be authorized by warrants. A new and detailed Associated Press report has revealed that theCIA trained the New York Police Department to operate a domestic surveillance program in ethnic and Muslim communities in at least New York and New Jersey, which raises serious questions regarding federal law and civil liberties.

The program was set up by David Cohen, a retired 35 year veteran of the CIA, with the help of Larry Sanchez, another CIA veteran, tapped by former CIA chief George Tenet, shortly after 9/11 in 2002. The program is made up of “rakers,” named after Cohen’s own description of what the undercover agents would be tasked to do “rake the coals, looking for hot spots.” These undercover surveillance officers are dispatched to specific neighborhoods.

Most often specific officers were selected, trained, and sent to a community based on their own race for the ease of blending in as a civilian to monitor mosques, bookstores, hookah bars and internet cafes. Their job is to observe suspicious behaviors in these communities and locations, collect intelligence and report back to the NYPD.


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A decade after 9/11, the NYPD’s surveillance program seems to walk the line of violating the civil liberties of New York area Muslims and ethnic minorities. At one point broader authority for these surveillance programs were authorized by U.S. District Court Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. to allow somewhat more lax standards guiding who could be spied on and when.

According to the AP, the blending of the CIA (who financed the program) and the NYPD raises constitutional concerns and questions of federal law because even these more lax guidelines were not always followed.

With the focus of the domestic surveillance by the NYPD’s “rakers” program being in Muslim communities the impact on black Muslims is significant. African-Americans have the highest percentage of converts to Islam, nearly 64 percent of all converts are black. The fact that theNYPD specifically targeted groups who were of particular races and certain religious faiths is extremely problematic. This is racial, ethnic, and religious profiling dressed up as counter-terrorism surveillance.

Of course effective counter-terrorism surveillance is necessary but the FBI’s guidelines should be followed as instructed by the courts, otherwise there is a possibility that a large number of innocent black Muslims are going to be swept up in this program. There is a danger that these law abiding citizens are potentially being spied on by their own police department.

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