By Vladimir Gladkov
New shocking details of the scandal around NYPD surveillance on American Muslims have been revealed. The embarrassing story for American authorities began last August, when the Associated Press started the publication of series of reports demonstrating that the New York Police Department unlawfully aided by the CIA had conducted covert surveillance on Muslims living in New York. But the situation has brought even more outrageous pieces of evidence. As the Associated Press discovered, the controversial project was aided by the White House, which used money from the budget to help police fight drug crimes. Unable to shake off the scandal the Obama administration may pay a considerable price for such a questionable decision.
The reports by the Associated Press claiming that the NYPD had collaborated with the CIA on a program of dispatching undercover agents into Muslim neighborhoods to gather intelligence on potential extremist activities caused deep discontent among Muslim communities and civil rights advocates. Both the NYPD and the CIA tried to deny the allegations, but further journalistic investigation shed light on even more embarrassing details of the problem. As Associated Press managed to prove, the collaboration between the two government agencies had violated a US presidential order. According to order of 1981, the CIA is permitted to provide “specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel” to other government agencies including police only after receiving the approval of the CIA’s general counsel. The main reason for the procedure is to make sure that the agency doesn’t enter the field of domestic spying.
However the Associated Press managed to shed light on facts which were even more shocking. According to the new reports, the surveillance program was sponsored by the White House, which took money from a little-known grant intended to help law enforcement fight drug crimes. Since 9/11 the American government has transferred $135 millions to the New York and New Jersey police forces using the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programme (HIDTA). According to AP, some of that money paid for the cars for undercover police agents and computers that store information, obtained as the result of the surveillance. HIDTA funds were also used to pay the confidential informers.
The HIDTA grant program was started as an attempt to aid police in its war on drug gangs. However after the terror attacks, it became a source of funding the counter-terrorism programs.
While the White House still refuses to comment on the situation, the AP seems to have legitimate evidence, such as secret police documents and interviews with current and former city officials.
While the necessity of taking steps towards fighting domestic terrorism in America cannot be denied, the shady methods used by the authorities may easily lead to the opposite effects. The fact that undercover agents infiltrate every aspect of life of the communities – from daily routine to religious service may only sow the seeds of distrust and raise social tensions. And the recent revelations demonstrating that the government has managed to break its own laws can hardly strengthen its reputation.
“I am shocked to hear that federal dollars may have helped finance the NYPD’s misguided efforts to spy on Muslims in America,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, one of 34 members of Congress who have demanded that the Justice Department and House Judiciary Committee investigate the NYPD.
The revelation may also become a critical blow to Obama’s plans of re-election. Followed by a trail of unfulfilled promises, the American president doesn’t need any new evidence of his incompetence. And it is hard to imagine a fact more disgraceful for his liberal supporters than conducting secret surveillance on its own citizens, illegally using a grant intended for aiding the war on drugs.