The NYPD, the CIA, and “The Third Jihad” - updated 5/26/12

Sheila Musaji

Posted May 26, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

The NYPD, the CIA, and “The Third Jihad”

by Sheila Musaji


On TAM, we have published a great deal about the film The Third Jihad and other films produced by Raphael Shore and the Clarion Fund.  We have also discussed concerns about anti-Muslim training being conducted for law enforcement.

In the very detailed TAM backgrounder article Where is the U.S. Government Getting It’s Information on Islam and Muslims, a year ago, I listed many examples of questionable “experts” and materials being used in training programs including programs run by the NYPD.  I asked specifically about this film, How is it possible that the NYPD could consider that it made sense to screen The Third Jihad, a spectacularly offensive film to train police officers about Islam? 

A lot has happened in the past year including many denials that this film had been seen by more than a few officers, and conciliatory statements made by various agencies that training materials and trainers were being reviewed and that offensive material would be removed.  The U.S. Senate announced a Senate inquiry into the accuracy and effectiveness of counterterrorism training.  The White House released a “new” counterterrorism strategy.

This particular film is only one of many questionable training materials, and the NYPD is only one law enforcement agency among many that have either used Islamophobic trainers, or anti-Muslim materials, or both.  However, the NYPD seems to have more serious and noticeable problems than some other agencies.  First let’s look at the NYPD’s record in it’s dealings with the Muslim community, and then we’ll look specifically at this issue of using “The Third Jihad” as a training tool.

SPYING ON THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

It was only a few months ago that it was reported by Adam Goldman of the Associated Press that the CIA and the NYPD have been working together on a domestic surveillance project that may go beyond what is legal.  The CIA, is not allowed to spy on Americans but helped to set up this NYPD intelligence unit.  According to the article In just two episodes showing how widely the NYPD cast its net, the department sought a rundown from the taxi commission of every Pakistani cab driver in the city, and produced an analytical report on every mosque within 100 miles, officials said.

Additionally, Trevor Aaronson reported on Mother Jones that the FBI had 15,000 official informants, and half again as many “floaters” primarily in the Muslim community, and this is a serious concern.  This was also reported on NPR.  Calculate this and it would seem that there is one informant for about every 40 American Muslims.

The NYPD denied that the problem was anything this widespread.  It defended its partnership with the CIA as appropriate and authorized.

AP subsequently obtained a copy of a document entitled The Demographics Unit.  You can see a PDF here.  This means that those articles saying that such a unit doesn’t exist are questionable at best.  The “Ancestries of Interest” page is particularly concerning as this can’t be seen as anything other than profiling.  The AP has published another article with updated information NYPD monitored where Muslims ate, shopped, prayed by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. 

Eli Clifton reported on a very troubling question of who are the Funders Behind NYPD’s Mysterious Private ‘Counter-Terrorism’ Foundation paying for Islamophobic trainers.

Adam Goldman has reported more fully on the NYPD spy program.  His article includes this

... police then identified 53 “mosques of concern” and placed undercover officers and informants there, the documents show.

Many of those mosques were flagged for allegations of criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, financing Hamas or money laundering. Others were identified for having ties to Salafism, a hardline movement preaching a strict version of Islamic law. Still others were identified for what the documents refer to as “rhetoric.”

Other reasons are less clear.  Two mosques, for instance, were flagged for having ties to Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old Egyptian mosque that is the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world. Al-Azhar was one of the first religious institutions to condemn the 2001 terrorist attacks. President George W. Bush’s close adviser, Karen Hughes, visited Al-Azhar in 2005 and applauded its courage.  Al-Azhar was also a sponsor of Obama’s 2009 speech reaching out to the Muslim world.

Sarah Sayeed of the Interfaith Center of New York explained clearly why all of this is so important.

If it is all legal, then why is it a problem? One issue is the sense of powerlessness and fear that such surveillance engenders. Police surveillance of any space, whether it is a building or a bar, suggests that something about that space is a cause for concern. We assume that the police, as a law enforcement agency, are there watching out because something illegal has happened there. Common sense tells me that if my place of worship is being watched by the police for terrorism, it is not a place that I should go to. Since the news report last week suggested that every single mosque in New York City had been canvassed and “crawled,” then effectively, there is no mosque in New York City that the police deem safe from terrorism. It seems there is no mosque that I should consider safe for me and my family.

For observant Muslims, drifting away from the mosque creates spiritual dislocation and disconnection from the community. There is also a cost to religious freedom, a growing sense that our choices are constrained. For someone like me, who has grown up in the United States and has a sense of belonging outside the mosque, the loss of not attending the mosque is serious but in a different way. For newer immigrants who feel estranged and rely on their mosque for a sense of belonging, direction, and rootedness, the consequence of staying away is potentially greater alienation. In addition, newer immigrants who come from countries where police are heavy-handed are even more likely to stay away if they believe the police secretly watch the mosque. Given that the NYPD has theorized a role for alienation in radicalization, its initiative to monitor every mosque could ultimately produce the very problem that it claims is a factor in “home-grown” terrorism—more alienation.

Another problem is that the news of NYPD’s use of CIA professionals and CIA-informed methods comes at a low point in its relationship with key community leaders, who increasingly feel marginalized by the Police Commissioner. Many of these organizations and individuals came together to form the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition to respond to the NYPD Report on Radicalization, released in 2008. There is a growing frustration among these leaders about the NYPD’s lack of accountability and transparency. Since 2009, leaders have been asking for access to the curriculum the NYPD uses to teach its officers about Islam and Muslims. The requests have been ignored and leaders became more annoyed with recent news about the use of “The Third Jihad” as background video in a training break for cadets. They have asked for websites that the NYPD lists as inciting terrorism. That has also been ignored. They asked about the use of informants. They did not get a response. Without such information, community leaders are unable to make a determination as to whether the Police is an ally, and whether it will do right by the community. The relationship is growing less collegial, with coalition leaders turning increasingly away from dialogue as a viable option, towards media advocacy and considering lawsuits against the NYPD as a more suitable remedy.

Trust is the basis of any partnership. It is generated when partners take the time to listen to each other, to accept each others’ concerns as legitimate and real. In a relationship where there is a clear imbalance of institutional power, such as police having more power than the community, it becomes incumbent on the party with more power to do more of the listening. Listening is required in order to exercise power and authority with justice. Listening and the trust that it engenders can go a long way to create a partnership that will benefit not just the NYPD, but ultimately all of New York.

By ignoring legitimate questions, dismissing community concerns as polemics, and leaving it to investigative journalists to expose its questionable programs, the NYPD has shown a shaky commitment to real and honest partnership. It has shown how little it trusts the Muslim community. Let’s just hope that the currently fractured relationship can be reversed, and it doesn’t turn into a liability. Our collective safety depends upon it.

Ryan J. Reilly reported that

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) aren’t messing around when it comes to stopping federal dollars from flowing to anti-Muslim terrorism training. In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, the duo said that if the administration can’t develop criteria to keep bigoted information out of counter-terrorism training, they’ll “consider drafting a legislative mandate or even imposing standards by statute.”

“An initial review by our staff reveals that agencies providing grants to state and local law enforcement lack meaningful standards for counter-terrorism curriculum and an adequate vetting process for individual trainers,” Lieberman and Collins wrote.

“In addition, state and local law enforcement often have little to no guidance from the federal government on what counter-terrorism training should entail,” they write. “The result has often been cases of trainers spewing inaccurate or even bigoted information to state and local law enforcement personnel, stigmatizing Muslim-Americans generally, and in effect, lending support to the false narrative that we are ‘at war’ with Islam.”

“As we have previously stated in letters to this administration, we have serious concerns that improper training may not be isolated occurrences and could be detrimental to our efforts to confront homegrown terrorism,” they write. “Since Muslim Americans are our main allies in the fight against violent Islamist extremism domestically, any training that implies otherwise is both inaccurate and counterproductive.”

Last month, a number of NYC Muslim & Interfaith leaders sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg declining his Interfaith Breakfast invitation because of this issue of spying.

As Muslim religious, civic, and lay leaders in the city of New York, we have received the invitation to your 2011 annual year-end interfaith breakfast. We recognize from our experience over the years that such events can be a very good opportunity for the city’s leaders to come together for the betterment of our society, in the spirit of interfaith cooperation. We strongly value the civic and interfaith relationships celebrated at this event. However, this year we have decided to respectfully decline your invitation.

We believe with heartfelt conviction that during times when a community’s rights are being flagrantly violated its leaders cannot in good conscience appear at a public gathering with the government official who is ultimately responsible and smile for the cameras as if all is well, when we know full well that it is not.

Last year, we appreciated your principled position in defense of Park51 and American Muslims as we endured attacks from hate groups and opportunistic politicians who promoted un-American, divisive rhetoric. We also appreciated your compassion and responsiveness when two horrific fires in the Bronx resulted in the perishing of many members of a Muslim family and the destruction of a Mosque.

However, despite these welcome and positive actions, very disturbing revelations have come to light regarding the City’s treatment of Muslim New Yorkers. This past August, the Associated Press released a series of investigative reports that detailed how, over the past decade since 9/11, the NYPD has been monitoring and profiling virtually every layer of NYC Muslim public life, often with no suspicion of wrongdoing. These reports were based in large part on leaked NYPD documents and interviews with unidentified former and current NYPD officials. According to the investigation, the police department monitored and collected information on New Yorkers at about 250 mosques, schools, and businesses throughout the city, simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behavior.

Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement. We are not alone in our belief. Many New Yorkers continue to express a variety of concerns centered on a lack of law enforcement accountability in our city, from stop and frisk procedures in African American and Spanish-speaking communities, to the tactics used in the evacuation of Zuccotti Park.

At least 34 members of the U.S. Congress, including a ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee and eight Members of the House Judiciary Committee, have expressed similar concerns about the NYPD and called for the House Judiciary Committee and the Department Of Justice to investigate the surveillance program.

We believe it is unequivocally wrong and fundamentally misguided to invest law enforcement resources in religious or racial profiling, rather than investigating suspicious activity. We wholeheartedly agree with the words of Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who said:

“I know that public safety must be of the utmost concern to enforcement agencies. I also know that we must not single out a group based solely upon their ethnicity or religion, especially when such actions undermine the sanctity of the Constitution and the security of our homeland.”

We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights. We are equally disturbed by Commissioner Kelly’s denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents. We echo the public statement of Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY):

“It is the mayor’s job, I might point out, to ensure that the Police Department, under his command, obeys the laws and respects the rights of all New Yorkers.”

Muslims comprise no less than 10% of the city’s population. As New Yorkers we call on you to safeguard our freedoms through robust and independent oversight of police activities. We seek your clear, unambiguous, public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims; and a condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups solely based on their religion or the color of their skin. We desire equality and safety for ourselves and our children. Like many other New Yorkers, we are confident that our city would benefit from increased transparency in government, and greater police accountability. We request a meeting at the earliest possible date between yourself and a delegation that we will form to discuss these issues.

As we await your response regarding these issues, we pray that the New Year will usher in a more just and healthy chapter in our relationship with both you and the New York City Police Department.

 

Just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that

The CIA’s top lawyer never approved sending a veteran agency officer to New York, where he helped set up police spying programs, The Associated Press has learned. Such approval would have been required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment.

Normally, when the CIA dispatches one of its officers to work in another government agency, rules are spelled out in advance in writing to ensure the CIA doesn’t cross the line into domestic spying. Under a 1981 presidential order, the CIA is permitted to provide “specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel” to local law enforcement agencies but only when the CIA’s general counsel approves in each case.

Neither of those things happened in 2002, when CIA Director George Tenet sent veteran agency officer Lawrence Sanchez to New York, former U.S. intelligence officials told the AP. While on the CIA’s payroll, Sanchez was the architect of spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.

So, it seems that both in the scope of the surveillance of the Muslim community in New York, and the cooperation of the CIA with the NYPD on domestic spying, there has been a serious ongoing problem.


THE THIRD JIHAD AS A NYPD TRAINING TOOL

In a 2008 article “Obsession” - Happy Ramadan:  “The Third Jihad” - Happy Eid, I wrote about this film, and about the individuals involved in the film - both the Islamophobes and the Muslim lunatic fringe used so effectively to smear the entire American Muslim community.  One of those appearing in this film was NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Some of the memes reinforced in this film are that Muslims are “using the freedoms of the West against ‘us’”,  “We must learn that though all Muslims are not terrorists, all terrorists who pose a threat to us are Muslim”,  “Profiling Muslims is absolutely necessary if we are to survive at all”,  “much of Muslim leadership here in America” aims to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States.

Also in 2008, I published Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad which contains a lot of information about the individuals and organizations behind producing and disseminating this anti-Muslim film.  Raphael Shore, Rabbi Ephraim Shore, the Clarion Fund, Aish Hatorah, Honest Reporting, Christians United for Israel, Rev. John Hagee, Front Line Strategies (a Republican PR firm), Hasbara Fellowships, the Mamiye Foundation, MEMRI, David Horowitz’ Terrorism Awareness Project, Nonie Darwish, Alan Dershowitz, Rev. O’neal Dozier, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Caroline Glick, Center for Security Policy, Alfons Heck, Glenn Jenvey, Irwin Katzov, Wayne Kopping, John Loftus, the Intelligence Summit, Itamar Marcus, Peter Mier (alias), Ari Morgenstern, Daniel Pipes, Gregory Ross, Walid Shoebat, Sarah Stern, Ron Torossian, Tom Trento, Khaled Abu Toameh, Eric Werth, and Robert Wistrich are all discussed in some detail in this article.  These individuals and organizations come up again and again in connection with one anti-Muslim activity or another.

When the fact that the NYPD had used this film as a training tool came out, they denied that it had ever been seen by more than a few officers.  The denials changed over time.  First, it was only shown once or twice, then perhaps for a little longer, etc.

And now, we find out that this situation also is more serious than was originally admitted.

An editorial published 1/23/12 in the New York Times In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims raised some serious issues regarding the use of the anti-Muslim film The Third Jihad as a training tool for law enforcement officers:

In January 2011, when news broke that the department had used the film in training, a top police official denied it, then said it had been mistakenly screened “a couple of times” for a few officers.

A year later, police documents obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Law reveal a different reality: “The Third Jihad,” which includes an interview with Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, was shown, according to internal police reports, “on a continuous loop” for between three months and one year of training.  During that time, at least 1,489 police officers, from lieutenants to detectives to patrol officers, saw the film.

... “The department’s response was to deny it and to fight our request for information,” said Faiza Patel, a director at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York Univer

Permalink