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EPIC v. CIA - Domestic Surveillance

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  • EPIC FOIA Document Reveals CIA Collaboration in Domestic Surveillance: According to a Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General's report obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA collaborated with the New York Police Department in domestic surveillance efforts. The CIA is prohibited from participating in domestic surveillance, but the report finds that the agency had embedded four officers within the NYPD over the past decade and that collaboration with the NYPD was fraught with "irregular personnel practices," that it lacked "formal documentation in some important instances," and that "there was inadequate direction and control" by agency supervisors. The Inspector General's Report was prepared in response to an investigation by the Associated Press which showed that the NYPD and the CIA had collaborated on a program of domestic surveillance targeting Muslims and persons of Arab descent. The CIA originally claimed that there was "no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying,'" a statement that is contradicted by the Inspector General's Report obtained by EPIC. A front-page story in the New York Times discusses the findings in more detail. The case is EPIC v. CIA, Case No. 12-02053 (D.D.C. filed Dec. 20, 2012). For more information see: EPIC: EPIC v. CIA - Domestic Surveillance and EPIC: Open Government. (Jun. 27, 2013)
  • EPIC Sues CIA for Details of NYPD Spying: EPIC has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency for details of the agency’s involvement in a New York Police Department surveillance program that targeted Muslims and persons of Arab descent. In August 2011, the New York Police Commissioner acknowledged that the CIA participated in the domestic surveillance. Following an investigation by the CIA Inspector General, the CIA announced that there is "no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying.'" In early 2012 EPIC sought the public release of the report prepared by the CIA Inspector General. As the agency failed to comply with statutory deadlines established by the Freedom of Information of Act, EPIC has now filed suit for release of the document. For more information see: EPIC: EPIC v. CIA - Domestic Surveillance and EPIC: Open Government. (Dec. 21, 2012)

Background

Beginning in 2011, a series of investigative articles by the Associated Press ("AP") revealed that the New York Police Department ("NYPD") conducted extensive surveillance of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere. The NYPD’s activities included photographing members of the Muslim community as they entered mosques, infiltrating Muslim student groups, and monitoring Muslim stores and businesses. According to the AP, the “police subjected entire neighborhoods to surveillance and scrutiny, often because of the ethnicity of the residents, not because of any accusations of crimes.” The AP also reported, “many of these operations were built with help from the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit after 9/11.”

The New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") collaborated with the NYPD and that a CIA officer worked out of NYPD police headquarters. CIA spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood confirmed that the agency had a collaborative relationship with the NYPD.

In December 2011 the Associated Press described an investigation by the CIA Inspector General regarding the agency’s collaboration with NYPD. CIA spokesman Preston Golson acknowledged the existence of this investigation and stated that the agency's Inspector General concluded that no laws were broken and there was “no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying.” According to USA Today, “The revelations troubled some members of Congress and even prompted the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to remark that it did not look good for the CIA to be involved in any city police department. Thirty-four lawmakers have asked for the Justice Department to investigate but so far that request has gone nowhere.” At a March 2012 hearing, Attorney General Holder told Congress “he's disturbed by what he's read about the New York Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.”

EPIC's Interest

EPIC has a strong interest in preventing dragnet surveillance and secret databases that collect information on innocent civilians. EPIC has reported extensively on fusion centers, which aggregate information on civilians in secret databases. According to records obtained by the AP, the NYPD was gathering information on civilians, including photographs of businesses and lists of civilians based on ethnicity, which was then databased. Police photographed restaurants and grocery stores that cater to Muslims and built databases showing where people shopped, got their hair cut and prayed.

EPIC has also done extensive work on student privacy. As the AP has reported, the NYPD infiltrated college student groups and NYPD detectives approached campus police saying they were working narcotics or gang cases in order to access to student records. Police used the records to identify students they were observing and get contact information, potentially violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

EPIC has also previously opposed surveillance systems that rely on race, ethnicity,and religion, including the Automated Targeting System and Suspicious Activities Reporting.

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Request and Subsequent Lawsuit

On March 28, 2012, EPIC submitted a FOIA request to CIA asking for:

  • All documents related to the CIA Inspector General’s investigation regarding the agency’s collaboration with NYPD;
  • All legal analyses conducted by the CIA Inspector General’s office regarding the CIA’s collaboration with the NYPD;
  • All final reports issued as a result of the CIA Inspector General’s investigation;
  • Any communications between the CIA Inspector General’s office and the NYPD regarding the agency’s collaboration with the NYPD.

The CIA failed to respond to EPIC's request and on December 21, 2012, EPIC filed a lawsuit against the CIA based on that Agency's non-responsiveness to EPIC's request and in order to compel the disclosure of documents relating to the monitoring program.

Legal Documents

EPIC v. Central Intelligence Agency, Case No. 12-02053 (D.D.C. filed Dec. 20, 2012)

Freedom of Information Act Documents

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