By Muriel Kane
The top lawyer at the CIA never approved sending one of its officers to help the New York Police Department create a domestic spying program, raising the possibility that the agency may have violated a ban on domestic spying.
Last August, the Associated Press reported that the CIA had violated that prohibition when it “played a key role in transforming the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit into a cutting edge spy shop dedicated to gathering information on Muslims.”
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly insisted in October that the arrangement was legal under a 1981 presidential order, which allows the CIA to provide local law enforcement with “specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel,” provided the guidelines are spelled out in advance and the agency’s general counsel approves of the arrangement.
The AP is now reporting, however, that according to intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, neither of those things was done in 2002 when then-CIA director George Tenet sent a veteran officer to set up “spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.”
An internal CIA investigation launched in September by newly-appointed Director David Petraeus concluded there had been no wrongdoing, but the AP report casts fresh doubt on that conclusion.
The AP story points out that the role of CIA officer Lawrence Sanchez — and of a second, unidentified, CIA officer who succeeded him in 2010 — was “murky,” which enabled US officials to claim his presence did not violate the ban because he was never directly instructed to help set up the spying programs.
“Officially, he is there on a sabbatical to observe the NYPD’s management,” the AP story notes. “Kelly said the operative provides the NYPD with foreign intelligence. CIA Director David Petraeus described him as an adviser. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described him to Congress as an analyst, then Clapper’s office acknowledged that was incorrect.”
Clapper has acknowledged that “it did not look good for the CIA to be involved in any city police department.”