The CIA inspector general is investigating whether the agency broke the law by helping the New York Police Department build intelligence-gathering programs that monitored life in Muslim communities, the agency said Tuesday following an investigation by The Associated Press. Separately, the U.S. government's top intelligence official conceded that it looked bad for the CIA to be working with city police departments.
"It's my own personal view that that's not a good optic, to have CIA involved in any city-level police department," said James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence. "But I think CIA is going to address that."
The agency's unprecedented cooperation with the NYPD was a subject of an eight-month investigative reporting project by The Associated Press. The AP found that NYPD intelligence officers analyzed hundreds of mosques and student organizations, infiltrating dozens of them. Undercover officers eavesdropped in cafes and restaurants and wrote daily reports about what they overheard. The department also maintained a list of 28 countries that, along with "American Black Muslim," the department labeled "ancestries of interest."
A CIA officer, Lawrence Sanchez, helped create and guide these programs. From 2002 to 2004, when these programs were being built, Sanchez was on the CIA payroll and maintained an office at both the NYPD and the CIA's offices in New York. The programs have continued with at least the tacit support of President Barack Obama, whose administration has repeatedly sidestepped questions about them.
The NYPD also sent a detective on a temporary assignment to the CIA, where he completed the agency's 17-week foreign espionage course. After that rare training, he then returned to New York to supervise intelligence investigations.