Monday, July 1st, 2013 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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How do you like my money now, liberals?
Mayor Bloomberg now plans to spend big bucks to defeat lawmakers trying to rein in Stop and Frisk and the NYPD
By Alex Pareene — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘Salon Magazine’ / New York, NY
There is one important thing you have to remember about Michael Bloomberg: He is an a_s_s_hole. It is easy to forget this if you don’t live in New York, or if you live in New York and you are a well-off white person who is never harassed by his NYPD, but it is a fact. Thus far, the billionaire mayor has been using his fortune for nice things that everyone likes like funding ads in support of gay marriage and gun control. But he has enough money to also spend some on capricious meddling in areas Good Liberals are less likely to approve of. According to the New York Post (and admittedly they are often wrong about all sorts of things but you can generally trust their City Hall reporting), Mayor Bloomberg is now planning to spend some money to defeat City Council opponents of stop-and-frisk. Or, if not defeat them, at least scare them into changing their minds.
Stop-and-frisk is an NYPD policy in which cops stop and question and frisk residents of, primarily, very poor neighborhoods, looking for drugs and guns. The people stopped and frisked are nearly always racial or ethnic minorities. No probable cause is required for stopping and frisking. (Cops are supposed to have a reason for the frisking but, as the invaluable stop and frisk Twitter account has shown us, those reasons are so elastic as to be meaningless. One reason is “other.”) Cops stop hundreds of thousands of people each year and arrest only a small fraction of those questioned. The arrests are questionable too: New York led the nation in pointless marijuana arrests throughout Bloomberg’s time in office.
The city is currently defending itself in a class-action lawsuit charging that stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional. Each Democrat currently running to replace Bloomberg, whose third and final term ends this year, has promised to reform or eliminate the program. The City Council got tired of waiting, and passed two bills last week aimed as restraining the cops. One created an inspector general to oversee the NYPD, the other allowed citizens to file racial profiling claims against the NYPD. Both bills passed with veto-proof majorities. Without the ability to veto, the mayor is looking for other avenues to getting his way, as he usually does.
With every seat in the council up for grabs this year, Bloomberg’s PAC will “cast a wide net” and try to persuade council members to flip their votes, said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson.
“I’ve got the time to talk to all members. Basically, we’re going to recanvass as many members as we can and see what we come up with,” Wolfson said.
When loathsome flack Wolfson says “recanvass,” he means threaten to unload a small fortune on small-time city council races until one council member is scared enough to flip his or her vote, because one vote is all the mayor needs to get his veto to stick.
The mayor is deeply attached to the idea that he is the only man capable enough and qualified to manage the city, and he is also unshakable in his conviction that data and facts are always, invariably on his side, even when they quite obviously aren’t. His hard-fought school reforms haven’t improved the schools, though he won’t admit it. He can at least point to a declining crime rate under his tenure, and he frequently does point to it, and he always credits stop-and-frisk for the improvement. He is so insistent on this point that it becomes ridiculous, as when he said last week that that the only problem with stop-and-frisk is that minorities aren’t stopped often enough.
There is one inconvenient fact Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly have not quite acknowledged: The department has already sharply curtailed stop-and-frisks, in response to overwhelming complaints and the lawsuit. As the police have stopped and frisked less, crime has not increased. It has, in fact, decreased. Correlation is not causation, but the department has always argued that the previous decade of decreasing crime — part of the nationwide trend of decreasing crime — was a result of aggressive policing. so it seems fair to point out that police restraint has not yet ushered back in the Bad Old Years that Bloomberg frequently invokes when defending his unaccountable police commissioner’s actions.
Bloomberg, as he often does, is trying his very hardest to get his many liberal admirers to notice how illiberal he is. His money can be used to browbeat gun-loving red state hicks, sure, but he is also more than happy to use it to get his way in a fight over whether or not the police are supposed to be a full-time minority-harassment squad.
Bloomberg plans to use wealth to fight City Council stop-and-frisk foes: source
By SALLY GOLDENBERG — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend some of his vast fortune to fight the re-election bids of City Council members who vote to override his veto of a bill that curtails stop-and-frisk, The Post has learned.
“The mayor believes actions have consequences, and [he] certainly hasn’t ruled out holding members accountable for their votes,” said one source close to the mayor.
On Thursday, the council approved a bill that enables lawsuits against the NYPD for anyone who believes cops used bias-based profiling in conducting a stop-and-frisk.
It passed, 34-17 — exactly enough votes to override Bloomberg’s expected veto. That means the mayor needs only one member to switch positions in order to kill the bill.
With every seat in the council up for grabs this year, Bloomberg’s PAC will “cast a wide net” and try to persuade council members to flip their votes, said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson.
“I’ve got the time to talk to all members. Basically, we’re going to recanvass as many members as we can and see what we come up with,” Wolfson said.
One member who might be approached is Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), who plans to run in a tough congressional race against Nydia Velazquez next year, sources said.
But despite consistent attempts from Bloomberg and his aides to persuade him to vote against the bill, Dilan said he is unlikely to ditch his support of the measure unless they make a stronger case.
“It would have to be incredibly compelling, and it would have to be factual,” Dilan said. “It can’t be more of the same. Once you go on the record as having voted for something the first time around, it’s hard to change your vote without a substantial revelation of fact.”
When asked about spending against council members yesterday, the mayor offered a tongue-in-cheek response and did not deny his plans.
“I think you should urge your readers to vote for those people that want to keep this city safe,” he said during a news conference. “It’s votes that matter, not money.”
Bloomberg’s political action committee, Independence USA, shelled out $12 million last year to unseat candidates who oppose gun control and gay marriage — and threw cash at those on his side of the hot-button issues.
Mayor Bloomberg stands by his white frisk comment as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries calls for federal NYPD monitor
Bloomberg's remark was slammed by Rev. Al Sharpton and others. But mayor says Sharpton is just trying to create 'an issue.'
By Erin Durkin AND Dareh Gregorian — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
An embattled Mayor Bloomberg stood by his controversial comments on the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy Sunday — and unloaded on his critics.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Bloomberg said, defending Friday’s remark that “we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”
His office noted that 87% of people stopped under the policy in 2012 were black or Latino, but more than 90% murder suspects were identified by witnesses or victims black or Latino.
And 9% of those stopped were white, though just 7% of suspects were ID’d as white.
The comments were slammed over the weekend by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Democratic mayoral candidates, but Bloomberg said Sharpton needs to focus more on “helping the kids in this city.”
“It’s sad he got away from that, became a television star and doesn't seem to focus on the kids who just don't have the education that they need to compete and don't have a structured family at home that can help.”
The candidates, he added, should focus on solutions to the underlying problems instead of trying to “create an issue.”
Also on Sunday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) called for the a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD.
“The mayor’s comments were so troubling” that the Department of Justice needs to get involved now, Jeffries said.
“The mayor has shown no willingness to reign in the NYPD,” he said.
With Simone Weichselbaum
Congressman calls for a federal monitor to oversee NYPD
By GLENN WILBURN (Fox News - New York) — Sunday, June 30th, 2013; 9:12 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) - Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) during a Sunday afternoon press conference called to appoint a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD's stop and frisk program.
This comes after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial comments made over the program during his weekly radio appearance on Friday.
Bloomberg said the stop and frisk program stopped too many Whites and not enough minorities and said the programs' demographics should only be proportionate to suspect descriptions.
Rep. Jeffries, during the press conference in front 1 Police Plaza, said that constitutes racial profiling in communities of color.
"The only way to restore order and respect for the constitution is for the Justice Department to step in as a court appointed federal monitor to protect the civil rights of the Black and Latino community here in New York City," said Jeffries.
"I tried to make the point the other day, the numbers are the numbers and the numbers show that critics argue that minorities are targeted disproportionately, but if you look at the crime numbers that is just not true," said Mayor Bloomberg.
Bloomberg said that he could have made his point more clearly and added that this is a campaign season and some politicians are looking to capitalize on anything to create an issue rather than focusing on ideas to help the community.
‘One Police Plaza’
Ray Kelly: Things Falling Apart
By: Leonard Levitt – Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘NYPD Confidential.Com’
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
How did this happen?
How did the wheels fall off Ray Kelly’s NYPD?
How did Kelly’s policies manage to alienate the City Council, groups of Muslim-Americans and African-Americans, the New York Times, the FBI and even the Obama administration?
For the past 11 years, Kelly has been described as the most powerful and respected police commissioner in the history of New York City, whose anti-terrorism and crime-fighting policies have stopped 16 terrorist plots and resulted in record-low numbers of murders and shootings.
The police historian, Tom Reppetto, has said New Yorkers felt Kelly “stood between New York City and another terrorist attack.” NYU professor Mitchell Moss called Kelly “our secretary of defense, head of the CIA and … chief architect rolled into one.”
Now, however, Kelly appears to have pulled off the NYPD equivalent of a negative hat trick. His legacy will subject the department to the fallout from two unprecedented City Council bills, and probably a federal monitor as well. All three were created as a rebuke of his policies.
So how and why did this happen? The short answer is Lord Acton’s summary: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is not the traditional NYPD corruption, which involves graft, although there is plenty of possibility there from what we have seen of Kelly’s unreported perks at the Harvard Club, plus the millions of dollars from the non-profit Police Foundation that have gone for his pet terrorism projects. [The latest annual figure from the foundation’s 2011 disclosure form is $1,054,000.]
More important, since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has been granted absolute power.
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be a financial genius, he is a know-nothing when it comes to police and law enforcement.
Bloomberg still doesn’t appreciate that a law enforcement agency — including its top official — can never be left to its own devices, unsupervised and unaccountable. He still doesn’t realize that the NYPD and Commissioner Kelly, who makes all decisions and brooks no dissent, has to be monitored. And that it is the mayor’s job to do that.
When he ran in 2001, Bloomberg told this reporter, then at Newsday, that he opposed the secrecy that characterized the NYPD under Rudy Giuliani. “I believe in an open department,” he said. “Except for certain personnel documents, I am a believer in putting all the information out there. The essence of a free society is the right to information.” [See NYPD Confidential, Sep. 4, 2001.]
Instead, during his three terms as mayor, Bloomberg has allowed Kelly to violate the city charter and refuse to cooperate with the Civilian Complaint Review Board; flout the Freedom of Information law; make it difficult, if not impossible, for reporters to obtain press cards and, during the Occupy Wall Street protests, arrest reporters for doing their job. In 2006, Kelly barred this reporter from Police Plaza as a “security threat,” my mug shot placed inside the inner pod of headquarters’ security desk alongside those of eight others, two of whom had threatened to murder Kelly. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan. 9, Jan. 16, Feb. 13, 2006.]
Bloomberg has also has allowed Kelly to secretly cultivate a relationship with the CIA to spy on American Muslims, which has alienated virtually an entire community. This program was exposed in 2011 by NYPD Confidential and, more extensively, by the Associated Press in its Pulitzer Prize-winning series.
The result of all this spying has been the conviction of two mopes and a pending indictment of a third. Each arrest was announced with great fanfare but, it turned out, was of a person with either a low I.Q. or with emotional and/or mental problems. All three of them were egged on by a police undercover or an informant, one of whom the NYPD paid $100,000.
In one case, the department refused to inform the FBI of its investigation until it was completed; in the two others, the FBI absented itself from the NYPD’s investigation.
As for the16 plots, the number, according to recent statements by Kelly’s spokesman, Paul Browne, has been reduced to three or four, and now includes Browne’s acknowledgement that the FBI was a partner in preventing them.
Bloomberg has also allowed Kelly to spend millions of dollars on his most ballyhooed and perhaps most wasteful terrorism project — the posting of NYPD detectives overseas.
Earlier this year, Kelly acknowledged this program has produced not one lead that prevented a terrorist plot. [See NYPD Confidential Jan. 14, 2013.]
Instead, an unintended result has been to exacerbate tensions between the NYPD and the FBI. These tensions culminated in the 2009 Najibullah Zazi subway bombing plot, in which the NYPD secretly did an end run around the FBI that nearly blew the investigation.
That is not merely this reporter’s characterization. A recent CIA report criticizing its involvement with the NYPD said: “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] determined that the assignment of… to NYPD … placed the Agency more prominently in the middle of a contentious relationship between the FBI and the NYPD regarding NYPD’s efforts to combat terrorism.”
Similarly, Bloomberg has looked away for the past 11 years as the number of Stop and Frisks rose to five million — mostly of young black males who had committed no crime.
The confluence of its Stop and Frisk and its Muslim spying has brought together City Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams — who have led the fight for an Inspector General — with Faiza Patel, an outspoken Muslim opponent of the NYPD’s spying who is affiliated with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. It was she who helped draft the City Council bill calling for an outside Inspector General.
How efficacious an Inspector General will be remains to be seen as he will be appointed by the Dept. of Investigation, an agency that in theory fights corruption but in reality protects the mayor from it.
For better or for worse, the IG’s actions will reflect the new mayor’s priorities. At best, the IG will act as a restraint on department excesses. At worst, he could hamstring the department for the next decade.
Kelly has refused to acknowledge missteps on either Stop and Frisk or on the NYPD’s Muslim spying.
Last week he promoted to three-star chief status both Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, and James Waters, the commanding officer of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, to which detectives on the Joint Terrorist Task Force report.
Galati, who is best known to the public for acknowledging that the Intelligence Division’s Demographics Unit never produced a terrorism lead, was also the guy who insisted on a weapons check for the Iranian delegation at Kennedy airport in 2007, to the fury of the Secret Service, the Port Authority police and the State Department’s Security Service. [See NYPD Confidential, Oct. 1, 2007.]
Despite a newly declassified CIA report criticizing its involvement with the NYPD, Kelly said at Galati’s and Waters’ promotion ceremony, “We are proud and grateful for the CIA’s support in keeping the city safe.”
As for Stop and Frisk, Kelly passed up a chance to defend himself and his policy when he refused to testify at the federal trial. Instead, he sent the recently retired Chief of Department Joe Esposito — a civilian. At the same time, he sniped at the presiding judge, Shira Scheindlin, in newspaper articles and through surrogates, accusing her of bias.
What kind of leadership is that? When events flowed in his favor, Kelly was quick to reap the accolades, while refusing to share the glory. Now as things fall apart, he is reaping the blame.
Edited by Donald Forst
NYC Council Angers Mayor Bloomberg By Passing Two Bills Aimed At Curtailing The NYPD's 'Stop And Frisk' Program
By Tim Cushing (Techdirt.Com) — Monday, July 1st, 2013; 5:38 a.m. EDT
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
From the a-despot-and-his-enforcers dept
It appears the New York City council would like to see some changes in the NYPD. Two bills were passed recently (known together as the "Community Safety Act") that have put Mayor Bloomberg and Chief of Police Ray Kelly on the defensive.
The first seeks to install independent oversight of the NYPD, something the Dept. of Justice itself recommends. (The DOJ's recommendation is contingent on a judicial decision finding the department's "Stop and Frisk" program unconstitutional.) This, of course, has enraged Mayor Bloomberg, who's definitely not interested in anyone policing his "personal army." (Just in case anyone feels the previous sentence is hyperbolic, here's the mayor's quote, which he delivered during a speech at MIT in 2011.)
“I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg's reaction to the DOJ's recommendation echoed his previous audacious statement.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed papers Wednesday saying that if a federal judge ruled the NYPD's practices unconstitutional, then the DOJ would strongly endorse the use of a monitor to oversee changes at the department.
The mayor, however, said that the police department needs a clear line of authority. "No military organization or paramilitary runs where you have confusion in the command structure. You just cannot have that. Lives are on the line," he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters.
Part of the NYPD's problem is Mayor Bloomberg himself. The fact that he regards the police department as both "his" and a "military organization" is indicative of his mindset. Bloomberg wants a military force policing his city and has done everything in his power to bring his own brand of martial law to NYC. For its own good, of course.
With this bill passing with enough votes to override his veto, Bloomberg has gone on the attack (along with Chief Kelly), throwing around statements that give the impression New York City is only a single militarized policeman away from a crippling crime wave. The balance is apparently so delicate that any change will destroy the balance and put millions of New Yorker's in jeopardy.
In separate appearances, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, sought to portray the bills — one aimed at increasing oversight of the Police Department and the other at expanding the ability to sue over racial profiling by officers — as a divisive tool that would undermine the police’s efforts to get guns off the streets and continue to lower the murder rate.
The problem is neither of these statements are true. Stop and frisk doesn't get guns off the street or lower the murder rate. The NYCLU's report on stop and frisk showed the total number of weapons recovered in 2012 increased by a total of 96 guns compared with 2003 (pre-stop and frisk), an increase of 0.02%. And as the NYCLU's Donna Lieberman pointed out, homicide numbers were dropping before the stop and frisk program was introduced and homicide rates have decreased more dramatically in other large cities.
The first threat to Bloomberg's "personal army" doesn't take effect until Jan. 1st, 2014, meaning this decision would be passed on to the next mayor of New York City. Bloomberg can veto this bill (and will) but it has the support needed to override his veto (it passed 40-11; the override threshold is 34 votes).
The second bill takes aim at the "racial profiling" aspects of the stop and frisk program. As has been noted, 87% of those stopped and frisked over the last decade have been black or Latino. This percentage would be enough to indicate profiling, but even more damning evidence came to light during the still-ongoing lawsuit. A secret recording caught a commanding officer stating explicitly the targets of stop and frisk: "I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21."
By expanding the definition of "profiling" to include "age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation" and allowing individuals to sue police in state court for "policies that disproportionately affect people in any protected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal," the city council hopes to make the first moves towards killing off the stop and frisk program.
As was stated earlier, Bloomberg feels this sort of "interference" would be "harmful" to his "military." His efforts to kill this legislation will include attempts to "turn" a councilperson in order to eliminate the 34th vote needed to override his veto. Even in this, the Mayor took the time to evoke the "victims" of independent oversight and additional NYPD culpability.
He declined to say how he might persuade one council member to switch positions, saying only: “This is a fight to defend your life and your kids’ lives. You can rest assured that I will not give up for one minute.”
If the NYPD resists these reforms as much as their "personal leader" does, it could actually mean a jump in crime numbers. The NYPD may decide to simply do less enforcement or deterrence in order to prove that the meddling bills did indeed "undermine police efforts." And it wouldn't take much to persuade many of these cops to "do less." Like many personal armies, the NYPD is home to plenty of low-level corruption and laziness.
Ten percent of them were malcontents who worked as little as possible. Unless they are being paid overtime, officers seem to avoid writing summonses. Indeed, some police officers need to be weaned of the idea that they are paid to drive around in their patrol cars, eating doughnuts.
And those sentiments came not from critics of the department, but from police commanders and city lawyers.
If the perfect storm comes together, the NYPD could be facing independent oversight and a major disruption in the "stop and frisk" process, if not an actual judicial decision declaring the whole thing unconstitutional. Judging from what we've seen so far, we can expect future reactions from Bloomberg and the NYPD to range from "ugly" to "uglier."
Safe Streets Ahead?
Judicial rulings and anti-cop activists threaten the city’s triumph over crime
By Heather Mac Donald — Sunday, June 30th, 2013; ‘The City Journal’ / New York, NY
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
As the 1990s came to a close, the criminology profession declared that New York’s recent crime free fall was over. Homicides had declined a remarkable 72 percent over the previous decade, but that trend couldn’t possibly continue, the academy opined. “It is probable that another crime wave will engulf the City in the near future,” warned Andrew Karmen, a sociologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in 2000.
Karmen and his colleagues were right about the end of the crime drop; they just had the wrong city. The national crime decline, which had been only half as steep as New York’s, did stall in the 2000s, and in many places—such as Boston, once seen as a crime-fighting rival to New York—lawlessness shot back up. Only in the Big Apple did crime keep falling: from 2001 to 2012, murders went down an additional 36 percent and major felonies another 31 percent. Even the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression couldn’t reverse the city’s crime drop, as the criminology professoriate had predicted it would.
New York’s triumph over crime triggered the city’s rebirth in the 1990s, with the most powerful benefits flowing to low-income neighborhoods newly liberated from fear. Maintaining the public’s sense of security is the absolute precondition for future economic vitality. You’d think, therefore, that the next mayor would ponder long and hard before doing anything that might jeopardize this supreme accomplishment. Yet the Democratic mayoral candidates have been competing to out-demagogue one another regarding the New York Police Department, accusing it of racism and calling for fundamental change in how it responds to crime. Even if the next mayor turns out to be fully committed to keeping the NYPD on course, he and his police commissioner will probably face a new legal environment that will constrain the department’s ability to maintain public safety. Figuring out how to function in that environment will be their first challenge.
A key element of the NYPD’s operations is stopping and questioning individuals whom officers suspect of being involved in criminal activity. These discretionary stops embody the department’s core philosophy: to avert crime before it happens, rather than merely respond after the fact by making an arrest. Street stops are a beat officer’s most important tool for lowering crime, one that allows him to use his powers of observation and knowledge of local crime conditions to change behavior. If a commercial strip has been experiencing a rash of bodega holdups, say, and an officer notices two young men pacing nervously in front of a corner store, he may approach them and ask a few questions. If he has reason to think that they are armed, he may frisk them. Even if that stop doesn’t result in an arrest, it may deter a crime—if the two men were casing the location on behalf of an armed partner, for example.
The NYPD’s support for such proactive policing, along with its sophisticated crime-data analysis and passion for accountability, is responsible for New York’s unparalleled safety today. Indeed, suspects have told police that they’re leaving their guns at home for fear of being stopped. The rate at which New York City teens carried guns in 2011 was at its lowest point ever and far lower than in any other major American city, according to the Centers for Disease Control—a finding that helps explain why the homicide rate for Chicago teens, for instance, is four times that of New York teens.
But for the last decade and a half, anti-cop advocates and their political allies have assailed discretionary stops as racist because the vast majority of stop subjects are black and Hispanic. This argument ignores the reality that the vast majority of criminals and victims are also black and Hispanic. Given that fact, the police cannot deploy their resources to the neighborhoods where law-abiding residents most need protection without producing racially disparate stop and arrest data. The NYPD’s stop rate for blacks is actually lower than their representation among known violent offenders. Blacks, who constitute 23 percent of the city’s population, committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in 2011, according to victims and witnesses, and 73 percent of all shootings—but they were only 53 percent of all stop subjects. By contrast, whites, who constitute 35 percent of the city’s population, committed 6 percent of all violent crimes and 3 percent of all shootings. They made up 9 percent of all stops.
Nevertheless, the city’s activists and political class are convinced that the NYPD has a vendetta against minorities. In 2008, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the elite law firm Covington & Burling sued the police department, charging that its stop, question, and frisk practices were unconstitutional. According to the lawsuit, the department imposes draconian stop and arrest quotas on its officers, who are therefore forced to target patently innocent blacks and Hispanics for groundless stops. The evidence presented in the federal courtroom when Floyd v. New York finally came to trial this spring didn’t come close to establishing the plaintiffs’ case. But U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s rulings to date in Floyd and in the three other anti–stop and frisk lawsuits that she has overseen suggest that she is almost certain to find against the city, a decision likely to come in early summer (see “Courts v. Cops,” Winter 2013).
A federal judge’s declaration that the NYPD willfully abuses minorities would be destructive in its own right, leading to an increase in the street hostility directed at cops and a loss of officer morale. But the legal remedies likely to be imposed on the department would be even worse. The attorneys in Floyd are asking Scheindlin to saddle the department with a consent decree and to authorize an avalanche of entities to help her enforce it: a court-appointed monitor, a “facilitator,” a panel of “policing and statistical experts,” and a group of “community stakeholders.” These bodies would develop new rules regarding stops and any other activities that the monitor deemed relevant. The monitor would undoubtedly adopt the plaintiffs’ faulty methodology to determine whether the NYPD was engaged in racial profiling—comparing stop rates with population rates rather than with crime rates—thus guaranteeing that the department would continue to be held in violation of the consent decree and in need of ongoing federal oversight, even beyond the monitor’s minimum five-year term.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will appeal any adverse ruling in Floyd to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals; that court wouldn’t render a decision before the November election. Nevertheless, the mayoral candidates will have to take a stand on whether, if elected, they would settle the suit or continue litigating it. They will also have to say what they would do if the Second Circuit reversed Scheindlin’s ruling.
If the NYPD does get slapped with a Floyd consent decree, the financial costs of compliance will be staggering. To comply with a federal consent decree imposed in 2001, the Los Angeles Police Department, an agency one-third the size of the NYPD, was at one point spending between $40 million and $50 million annually and pulling 350 officers off the street to meet the decree’s mountainous paperwork requirements (see “Chief Bratton Takes On L.A.,” Autumn 2003). The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Covington & Burling attorneys have not suggested which NYPD functions should be abandoned to fund a Floyd consent decree. But the biggest costs will be to the next commissioner’s ability to continue the preventive policing that has given the city the longest and steepest crime drop on record.
Remarkably, the New York City Council has ensured that the NYPD will lose its managerial autonomy even if the NYPD wins Floyd. The council, with the blessing of mayoral contender and speaker Christine Quinn, is set to create an inspector general for the department, a preposterously unnecessary position when officer use of force is at an all-time low, no major corruption scandals have erupted in two decades, and the NYPD is widely recognized as a model of professionalism. The new bureaucracy, which will suck up millions of taxpayer dollars a year, is being created not to fight corruption—the usual task of an inspector general—but to curtail stop, question, and frisk. And unlike a court-imposed monitor, the inspector general’s office will last indefinitely, muddying a clear chain of command in a department where accountability is key.
Other pending bills, such as a measure to facilitate lawsuits against the NYPD under an ignorantly sweeping definition of racial profiling, are nearly as destructive. If they don’t pass with a veto-proof majority in this council, they probably will in the next, which looks likely to be even more left-wing.
All this makes it imperative for the next mayor to learn how the police department has actually been using its stop power, and Floyd’s voluminous trial transcript would be a good place to start. Lead plaintiff David Floyd, presumably the clearest victim of race-based oppression that the attorneys could find, was stopped in February 2008 outside his home in the South Bronx. (Floyd is an activist with the Black Panther–inspired Copwatch, as well as a member of a black nationalist group that pledges solidarity with late Venezuelan “revolutionary leader” Hugo Chávez. Floyd and the Center for Constitutional Rights had already sued the police on a civil rights claim when the organization named him lead plaintiff in its class-action litigation.) In the months preceding Floyd’s 2008 stop, there had been several burglary patterns in his precinct. Three officers observed Floyd and another man jostling the door of a basement apartment, unsuccessfully trying a series of keys on a large key chain; one of the men kept looking over his shoulder at the street.
According to the plaintiffs, the officers could have had no reason other than racism to approach and ask the two men what they were doing, despite actions that looked consistent with a home invasion in an area that had recently been prey to such crimes. (In fact, Floyd’s downstairs neighbor had locked himself out of his apartment, and Floyd had picked up the landlady’s keys to help him get back in.) If Floyd’s was an unconstitutional stop, the department might as well give up trying to prevent crime and let the community fend for itself.
Nicholas Peart, a 24-year-old “facilitator” for a Harlem youth program, was added to the Floyd suit late in the game, following the Center for Constitutional Rights’s otherwise unsuccessful effort in 2012 to bulk up its case. According to an op-ed that Peart wrote for the New York Times after he joined the litigation, he was stopped on the night of his 18th birthday while sitting on a bench at Broadway and 96th Street in Manhattan with two friends. Squad cars pulled up and an officer yelled, “Get on the ground!” Peart then found himself on the ground, he wrote, with a gun pointed at him. The officer removed Peart’s wallet from his pocket to check his ID; sarcastically said, “Happy birthday,” after noticing his birth date; and then left after briefly questioning Peart’s companions.
What Peart didn’t mention in his op-ed was that the officer had just received a radio call reporting that three men with a gun in the immediate vicinity had been overheard planning a robbery and that one of the suspects was described as wearing a tank top and blue shorts. Peart was in a tank top and blue shorts. The officer had even replayed the radio call to Peart and his friends to explain his actions. Moreover, the officer had unholstered his gun only after the group repeatedly disobeyed his command to get on the ground. Plaintiffs’ counsel apparently believe that if someone matches the description of a gun suspect, officers should wait until a victim is actually shot before acting on the call. If the judge agrees, she will be disregarding the law-abiding residents of crime-plagued communities who support proactive policing but are not represented in Floyd.
The next mayor shouldn’t make that mistake. He should talk to people like Ivan De Bord, a youthful apartment superintendent in the South Bronx. De Bord was stopped many times when he was a teen. “When you’re young, you react a little different, but it’s obvious that they always have a reason to stop. I can see that in my work at the building,” he says. “They know who’s who.” Are the cops overaggressive? “Now that I see the area here, I understand why they’re aggressive sometimes.” De Bord was stunned at the crime and disorder in the Bronx when he moved from Manhattan for his current job: “I was in shock. It’s insane; I’ve never seen anything like it.” De Bord’s building has been colonized by a group of former tenants who hang out in the lobby “smoking [weed], selling drugs, peeing everywhere, not respecting people, playing dice,” he says. “It’s very bad. A lot of the tenants are scared; they don’t want to live in the building any longer.” After Judge Scheindlin ruled against the city in a related stop, question, and frisk case in January 2013, the cops backed off from proactive policing, De Bord reports, but things have been slowly returning to normal. “The police could modify [the stop program] a little bit, but I’m totally with them stopping and searching. It’s one of best things they have.”
Dorrien Christiani, a dapper former mail carrier, began attending community council meetings at the 28th Precinct two years ago, worried about drug dealing outside the methadone clinics in his Central Harlem neighborhood. Asked if the cops are overaggressive, he raises his eyebrows over his wire-rimmed glasses. “So I’ve heard,” he responds skeptically. “I feel the NYPD does an excellent job. You have some good cops and some mediocre cops, as in all occupations.” Earl Cleveland, a retired bus driver who lives in the South Bronx, has a simple message for the next mayor: “Public safety, I consider that Number One. The city shouldn’t take a chance. You cannot turn your back on crime; it’s here. You need law enforcement, and they should make stops.”
Perhaps younger people have a different perspective? Some do; others don’t. Creash, a roly-poly 13-year-old, is waiting for a bus in East Flatbush, Brooklyn; over the previous three nights, rioters have looted and trashed stores near the bus stop in response to a fatal police shooting of a 16-year-old gang member named Kimani Gray. Gray had pointed a pistol at the officers; it was recovered at the scene. “I feel safer with the police,” Creash says. “There’s a whole bunch of gangbangers around my school. That’s why the police are over there. When I see an officer, I be like: ‘Hey, good job!’ ” A tall 15-year-old from the Caribbean named Mikey is striding past the 67th Precinct’s police station, another target of the Flatbush rioters the night before. “The police leave me alone because I’m a good kid,” he says.
The advocates regularly attack the NYPD’s enforcement of quality-of-life laws, especially those prohibiting marijuana. And who might be asking for such enforcement? People like Johnny, a young man in the South Bronx who complained to a 41st Precinct community council meeting in March about a “stench” of marijuana whenever he left his building. At the same meeting, a young woman reported that people were loitering around the back exit of a nightclub in her neighborhood: “They be smokin’ weed, playin’ music, a lot of stuff happens.” The 41st Precinct is 98 percent black and Hispanic. If the police respond to these requests for public order by questioning or arresting the people about whom the community is complaining, they cannot help but generate racial stop data that the Center for Constitutional Rights will use against them. But if the next mayor listens to the advocates and cuts back on quality-of-life enforcement on the ground that it has a disparate racial impact, he will betray the upstanding poor who yearn for the same lawful environment that affluent residents take for granted.
If the Floyd decision leaves the mayor with any discretion in the matter, he will have to wade into the vexed issue of whether the department may, like any other employer, set performance goals for its officers—including exceedingly modest numerical targets for arrests, summons, and stops. Impugning every effort by NYPD supervisors to make sure that officers were actually working, plaintiffs’ counsel in Floyd seemed to agree with the patrolmen’s union that every officer is a self-starting font of eager activity who needs no managerial prodding. Here again, the next mayor would do well to read the trial transcript to get the real story. He would learn about the ceiling that squads set on their own activity and the stigma that they direct against officers who exceed it. When Michael Marino, today a deputy chief, took over Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct in 2002, he found that each of the station’s 400 officers wrote exactly five summonses a month and no more. If an officer finished his five in the first week, he spent the rest of the month simply driving around in his squad car. The officers’ activity level was so low, Marino testified, that it was “actually a detriment to the community. It was doing nothing to improve the conditions in what was probably one of the most crime-ridden violent precincts in the city.”
Under current state law, the department may establish numerical goals for its officers, so long as an officer suffers no “adverse employment action” for not meeting them. In truth, a goal with no consequences is meaningless, and the union-backed law has inevitably led to some semantic game playing by management. To its credit, however, the department continues to embrace unapologetically the principle that supervisors, in the words of a 2011 operations order, “can and must” set performance goals to make sure that officers “engage in proactive policing [to address] crime conditions and public safety concerns.” The advocates speciously claim that this expectation leads to the harassment of blacks and Hispanics, but the trial showed that the department’s motivation in setting numerical targets is precisely the opposite: to protect the city’s most vulnerable residents. As Marino told Brooklyn’s 79th Precinct in 2008: “These little dots on the wall aren’t numbers; they are people that had bad things happen to them. And I don’t think any of us, morally or professionally, should reconcile himself” to such victimization.
Maintaining that sense of urgency about crime fighting is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s and Mayor Bloomberg’s greatest accomplishment, for it is the hardest thing for a department to sustain over time. The next administration should support performance monitoring, if it retains the authority to do so after Judge Scheindlin is through with the department.
There is still, however, some unfinished business in the NYPD. The most disturbing aspect of the Floyd testimony was reports of officers’ making snide comments to the people they stopped. These allegations point to a perennial problem: how to prevent officers from developing a rude and hardened demeanor, often as a reaction to the abuse that they get from criminals and their supporters. Keeping cops polite would go a long way toward tamping down resentment against them—animus that the city’s politicians and activists have done their best to inflame. But every police commissioner since at least Howard Safir in the late 1990s has stressed officers’ duty to be courteous and respectful (see “How to Train Cops,” Autumn 2000), and it’s far from clear how to make that message stick.
The next mayoral administration will somehow have to convey better that proactive stops are driven by the desire to save minority lives. That only 47 percent of likely voters in a Manhattan Institute / Zogby poll disapprove of stop, question, and frisk, compared with 46 percent who approve, is actually a testament to the strong well of support for proactive tactics, given the incessant agitation against stops. (And two-thirds of voters approve of the way the New York police are doing their job, a more telling response than the reaction to the fraught question of stops.) Perhaps the department could display a map at every press conference showing the geographic and racial dispersion of crime and the corresponding overlay of police activity. It might point out, for example, that the per-capita rate of shooting in Brownsville, Brooklyn, is 81 times higher than in Bay Ridge, which explains why the stop rate in Brownsville is 15 times higher. But it will face the same prejudiced press corps that the current administration does, so it’s not clear how much progress can be made on this front, either.
Yet even as the department rightly defends proactive policing, it may find a way to modify it modestly without harming public safety. Any New York police commissioner in 2013 faces a dilemma: how to keep crime going down when it is already below what anyone would have believed possible two decades ago and when the most obvious inefficiencies in the department have long since been wrung out. Pressing harder on the same levers, however, including stops, may be yielding diminishing returns. Deciding whether and how to alter New York’s successful crime-fighting formula will be the most difficult task facing NYPD top brass.
Ideally, officers would receive more on-the-job training in the nitty-gritty of street enforcement—not, as the Floyd litigation demands, in self-evident bromides about racial profiling. Rookie officers on the beat in high-crime areas—the core of Kelly’s Impact Zone program—could benefit from closer collaboration with seasoned veterans. But if funding for more training and supervision were readily available, it would have already been put to that purpose. Politicians’ perennial vow to hire more officers faces the same grim budget reality: the money simply isn’t there, unless the city makes fundamental changes to its traditional social-welfare and employee-pension priorities. What is certain is that the compliance costs of a Floyd consent decree and the expense of an inspector general’s office would hurt the department’s ability to provide better training and oversight.
The new mayor should take a hard look at the NYPD’s current practice of taking 200 officers off the street each day to perform a counterterrorism drill; stripping precinct commands of scarce manpower may not be essential to the department’s mission of fighting terrorism. But Kelly’s farsighted technology initiatives should be continued and, if possible, accelerated. These include analyzing social media and various electronic databases to predict and solve crimes and installing public cameras and license-plate readers at key spots in the city. The New York Civil Liberties Union may still object to public cameras after video footage helped apprehend the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing this past April, but few non-ideologues share its opposition.
If the next mayor opts for a new commissioner, race and sex should play no role in the selection. New York residents deserve the best policing talent available.
Today’s New Yorkers enjoy the luxury of oblivion. Many recent transplants to the city have no recollection of the anarchy that was once the norm (see “What Is a Mayor’s Job?” on the following page). It is tempting to believe that the transformation to orderly streets is permanent.
But while New York policing has effected a behavior change among the residents likeliest to break the law, crime could shoot back up if the police stop sending the constant message that there are consequences for antisocial actions. It’s crucial for the next mayor to grasp how much heroic effort has gone into the city’s crime collapse and how easily that victory could be undone.
Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Post’ Editorial:
Cops vs. the council
Let’s hear it for the New York unions now taking on the pols who gave us last week’s reckless votes on stop-and-frisk.
Rightly outraged over the twin votes to handcuff the cops with an inspector general while opening a new line of business for trial lawyers, the most prominent police unions have declared war.
“No council member who puts this city at risk will have a free ride in the next election,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch, adding: “We intend to target . . . members for defeat in the upcoming election.”
Good for them.
The Detectives Endowment Association already announced it’s yanking support for Dan Garodnick, Inez Dickens, Mark Weprin, Sara Gonzalez and Mathieu Eugene.
They voted for both bills along with these 29 members: Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Charles Barron, Gale Brewer, Fernando Cabrera, Margaret Chin, Leroy Comrie, Erik Martin Dilan, Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, Helen Foster, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Oliver Koppell, Brad Lander, Jessica Lappin, Stephen Levin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Darlene Mealy, Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma, Diana Reyna, Ydanis Rodriguez, Deborah Rose, Donovan Richards, Andy King, Jimmy Van Bramer, Albert Vann, Jumaane Williams and Ruben Wills.
These members voted “only” for the inspector general: Speaker Christine Quinn, David Greenfield, Karen Koslowitz, Joel Rivera, Jimmy Vacca and Dan Halloran.
Come Election Day, let’s hope the police unions do a good job of reminding New Yorkers who voted against their safety.
Staten Island's 121st Precinct open for business
By John M. Annese — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Staten Island Advance’ / Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- It's official: Staten Island now has four police precincts.
At 7 a.m. Monday, the NYPD held its first formal roll call at the Graniteville stationhouse of its new 121st Precinct, bringing to fruition a project that started with a campaign promise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg eight years ago.
There was a roll call at 11:35 p.m. on Sunday for the first midnight tour, but Monday's was a bit more ceremonial with officers standing at attention as an American flag was raised in front of the precinct.
"It's a big day for Staten Island," said Borough Commander Kevin Ward on Monday morning. "It's a long time coming."
The building, the borough's first new police stationhouse since 1962, cost some $65.5 million to erect, and it'll house 200 police personnel, about 160 of whom will be police officers, detectives and supervisors, police officials say.
Two-thirds of those officers come from the borough's existing precincts. The 121st is inheriting four patrol sectors each from both the 120th and 122nd precincts, which have shrunk in size.
The final third of the officers have been brought in from off-Island precincts, according to NYPD brass.
The new station is located at 950 Richmond Ave., not far from the intersection of Forest Avenue, and it will oversee much of the borough's north and west shores, including Mariners Harbor, Port Richmond, New Springville and the Staten Island Mall.
Ray [Getting More Face Time], the NYPD Band and G.O.A.L Celebrate Gay Pride Day
This Year's Gay Pride Parades Were Something Special
By Connor Simpson — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Atlantic Wire’ / Washington, DC
(Edited for brevity and NYPD pertinence)
With the Defense of Marriage Act repealed, and Prop 8 defeated (twice) in California, the emotions and celebrations at this week's gay pride parades, across the U.S., were going to be bigger, badder, longer, louder and more colorful than ever before.
No picture from Sunday's celebrations struck people more than the New York Police Department band, watching them serenade the crowd in front of the Stonewall Inn some 44 years, nearly to the day, since gay residents resisted arrest and sparked the historic riots.
Commissioner Ray Kelly was in the neighborhood, too. But the band weren't the only NYPD members who stopped by Sunday's celebrations. Members of the Gay Officers Action League were met with some big cheers during the parade, too.
42 Pct. P.O. Alfonsina Delacruz
Bad cop cheats the ax again
By JAMIE SCHRAM — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
She’s the “Teflon Cop.”
A Bronx police officer who falsely accused her boyfriend of abducting and raping her — and a few years later pleaded guilty to using excessive force by pepper-spraying and kicking a suspect — should still be allowed to keep her badge, an NYPD trial commissioner ruled last week.
In 2005, Alfonsina Delacruz lied to New Jersey investigators when she told them that her abusive boyfriend had kidnapped her, driven her to a Bergen County hotel and raped her.
New Jersey authorities stopped short of filing charges against Delacruz because they believed she had been beaten.
NYPD Chief of Personnel Rafael Pineiro called for her termination, but NYPD Trials Commissioner Martin Karopkin and top cop Ray Kelly let her keep her job.
Then, last year, Delacruz and three other officers brutalized a 19-year-old narcotics suspect in a videotaped attack that landed on YouTube. She pleaded guilty Tuesday to three departmental charges, including excessive force and assault.
But Karopkin last week endorsed a negotiated plea between her lawyer and NYPD prosecutors that again allows her to keep her job as long as she keeps her nose clean for 12 months. She’ll only lose 40 vacation days and be put on one year’s probation.
“She should have been fired from the force for the [first] case,” said Roger Blank, the former assistant NYPD lawyer who prosecuted her at the time.
Sgt. Robert Nicholson, Along with Police Officers Matthew Barber and Ramon Rolon Alleged to Have Given False or Misleading Testimony
Judge Says Police and U.S. Agents Misled Court in Manhattan Gun Possession Case
By BENJAMIN WEISER — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
The tip to the police was solid: An African-American man, in a striped shirt and a Yankees cap, was carrying a gun in a building in Upper Manhattan. Officers responded and made an arrest.
But where that information came from, and the lengths to which the police and law enforcement agents may have gone to conceal the source, turned a seemingly ordinary gun possession case into a flash point over legal ethics and a sharp dispute between a judge and federal prosecutors.
The judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan, found that the arresting officers had created a “story to justify” the stop of the man and that federal agents endorsed falsehoods that were “contrived to protect” the identity of a supposedly anonymous source, who was actually a valuable confidential informant.
“A decision was made to coordinate among all the witnesses not to tell the full truth,” the judge said after he heard testimony from the arresting officers and from federal agents who helped to prepare a complaint against the man who was stopped, Tajuan Simmons, or who later testified before a grand jury.
Prosecutors in the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, strongly defended the officers’ testimony as truthful and accurate; they asked the judge to withdraw his findings, citing the potential damage to the officers’ careers. The judge refused.
The use of confidential informants, or C.I.’s, is widely accepted in the criminal justice system. The Simmons case, as detailed in highly redacted court documents, offers a look at how the authorities protect such sources and what happened when a judge felt that they had gone too far.
The informant at the center of the dispute began working for the New York Police Department in January 2012 after he was arrested in a marijuana case, his “handler,” Sgt. Robert Nicholson, testified last fall at a suppression hearing requested by Mr. Simmons’s lawyers, who were seeking the exclusion of the gun as evidence.
Sergeant Nicholson said that the informant had been debriefed and had undergone a background check, and that he had agreed not to commit further crimes — a condition he violated when he was later arrested in a theft case.
But while he was active, the informant provided crucial information about shootings and narcotics and guns cases, the sergeant said.
The informant’s role was considered so sensitive that when Sergeant Nicholson testified, Judge Hellerstein closed the courtroom at the government’s request and even ordered that Mr. Simmons be removed from the proceeding. “I am convinced that if Simmons knew who the confidential informant was,” the judge said, the informant “would be at great danger.”
The sergeant testified that he received the informant’s call around 11 p.m. on April 17, 2012, and after hearing his information, told him to dial a police hot line that offers callers anonymity and financial compensation for information about illegal guns; a hot line detective then called the 911 operator.
Two days later, when the complaint was sworn before a magistrate judge, it omitted any mention of the informant and said merely that “an anonymous individual had placed a 911 call” with the information about Mr. Simmons. Sergeant Nicholson said he had taken this step to protect the source. Mr. Simmons, who had a robbery record, had been charged under a federal law that makes it illegal for a felon to possess a firearm.
Last fall, before the suppression hearing began, a prosecutor told the judge that the government had informed the defense about some recently discovered “misstatements” in the complaint. For one thing, the original caller had not been anonymous but was rather a known informant.
The complaint had also stated that Mr. Simmons, when he saw the police, immediately began to run to the north. “He did not run,” the prosecutor said.
Finally, Officer Matthew Barber, who had seized the gun and arrested Mr. Simmons, now recalled that he saw “a bulge” in Mr. Simmons’s waistband — a detail that had not been in the complaint.
At the hearing, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who had helped a prosecutor prepare the complaint, testified that he had omitted the informant’s role at the behest of either the prosecutor or another A.T.F. agent — he could not remember which one.
Asked by the judge whether that was a practice of his office, the agent responded that if there was other evidence that established probable cause for an arrest, and “you do not have to risk the safety of an informant by exposing them, then you try to do that if possible.” (The identity of the agent is being withheld at the A.T.F.’s request because he remains involved in undercover work.)
Judge Hellerstein said the agent was “shading the truth” in not telling the magistrate judge about the informant.
The agent responded, “It’s a safety concern.”
The agent testified that the detail that Mr. Simmons had begun to run had come from one of the responding officers, Ramon Rolon. He quoted Officer Rolon as telling him, “Simmons fled in the other direction.”
But Officer Rolon, when he testified, denied that he had said that to the agent.
Judge Hellerstein concluded, “The idea that he turned and began to run is nonsense.”
The judge also dismissed Officer Barber’s claim that he had seen “a bulge” in Mr. Simmons’s waistband, noting that the claim had not appeared in any police document.
“I give no credibility to Barber’s statement that he saw a bulge,” Judge Hellerstein said.
The judge even questioned whether the grand jury that indicted Mr. Simmons after hearing testimony from a Drug Enforcement Administration agent had received “accurate information.”
Judge Hellerstein found that to protect the informant, investigators had “created a different story to justify the stop” — namely, that Mr. Simmons had started to run away.
“That testimony was false,” the judge said. “Special agents were taken in with the story and implemented it knowing that it was less than truthful.”
He added, “A decision was made to tell perhaps the truth but not the whole truth.”
Judge Hellerstein said the observations of three officers were “not credible, not worthy of belief,” and added that if a confidential informant “is to be protected, there are ways to do it which do not require misstatements to a federal grand jury or a judge.”
Nonetheless, he ultimately refused to suppress the gun, finding that the informant’s tip had been accurate. Mr. Simmons pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count, and in March he was sentenced to five years in prison, the maximum.
His lawyer, Peggy Cross-Goldenberg, a federal public defender, said that despite her client’s conviction, the judge’s findings were important.
“If law enforcement purposely provides half-truths and contrived stories to conceal even the existence of a C.I.,” Ms. Cross-Goldenberg said, “there is no check on the reliability of confidential informants and no way for courts to determine whether the information provided was sufficient to justify the actions undertaken by law enforcement.”
Mr. Bharara’s office declined to comment. But in letters to the judge, prosecutors defended the officers’ accounts and said there was no evidence of collusion.
“Any confusion or lack of clarity about the underlying facts,” they wrote, “resulted from an entirely good faith but poorly executed attempt by this office, in drafting the complaint, to protect the existence and identity of a confidential source.”
They also argued that the officers, at the time of the arrest, were not aware of the informant, and that they thus had no motive to fabricate a story to protect him.
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said the prosecutors’ “response speaks for itself.”
The D.E.A. declined to comment.
An A.T.F. spokesman, Charles J. Mulham, said, “The agency regrets that some of the facts in this investigation were articulated in a way that left the judge with concerns.”
“The special agents acted in complete good faith,” Mr. Mulham said, “with the purpose of pursuing appropriate law enforcement interests.”
J. David Goodman contributed reporting.
Police scandals are pols' responsibility
By DAN JANISON — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘New York Newsday’ / Melville, L.I.
Law-enforcement scandals and controversies are roiling the top echelons of the region's governments -- and creating potential fodder for campaign debate.
Last week, Newsday published contents of a Nassau police internal affairs report detailing serious irregularities in the way authorities handled an allegedly unlawful 2011 shooting by an off-duty cop who had been drinking with an officer friend.
Five days later, GOP County Executive Edward Mangano, who's seeking re-election, had something public to say: Commissioner Thomas Dale will "apply the appropriate discipline as he sees fit." When? Well, administration officials also say issuing disciplinary decisions before the civil trial -- in which shooting victim Thomas Moroughan is suing -- would open the county to "significant liability."
Undoubtedly, police union support is on several pols' minds.
Mangano's predecessor Thomas Suozzi, running for his old job, declined to discuss specifics. "But," he said, "I find it strange there have been so many tragic incidents, scandals and questionable activities raised in this police department in the past three years. It is historically one the most highly regarded departments in America, and something's wrong." Suozzi's Democratic primary rival, Adam Haber, has yet to comment.
Undoubtedly, police union support is on several pols' minds.
Mangano, meanwhile, noted the 2011 shooting, in Huntington Station, "remains under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County district attorney." But Police Officer Anthony DiLeonardo wasn't criminally charged and remains on the job. Now, DA Thomas Spota talks of a "renewed" effort to get Moroughan to cooperate in a probe.
Separately, a state correction panel slammed Spota's office and other agencies -- for allegedly failing to adequately probe a Lindenhurst man's death in custody. Spota, due to seek re-election this year, called that report "inaccurate and baseless."
With federal officials investigating Suffolk police chief James Burke, second-year Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone expressed support for Burke (through the PD), while saying his office will cooperate with the investigation. Eventually Bellone will have to be more expansive.
In New York City, stop-and-frisk policies are a flashpoint in the race to succeed term-limited Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
A common thread: Police agencies may seem like their own branches of government, but elected officials are responsible for them. That's just how the American system is supposed to work.
Suit claims Paterson cops assaulted men while in custody
BY JIM NORMAN — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Bergen Record’ / Hackensack, N.J.
Paterson police officers beat and kicked two men as they lay on the ground in handcuffs during an arrest after an altercation in 2011, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the two men in federal court in Newark.
Darren Del Sardo, the lawyer representing Alexis Aponte of Paterson and Miguel Rivera of Prospect Park, said in the lawsuit filed Friday that the men were assaulted “while they were handcuffed, lying on the ground and completely helpless.”
Moreover, Del Sardo said, the police officers “seized money, jewelry and other personal belongings” from the two handcuffed men, and never returned the money and items they allegedly took.
The lawsuit names Paterson, its police department, three specific police officers, three sergeants, one lieutenant, two detectives and 10 unidentified police officers.
Glenn Brown, the public safety director, said Sunday night that the case had been referred to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
“Because it involved city police officers, we had to send it to the prosecutor,” said Brown, who declined to comment further about the suit.
He said the officers named in the suit remain on duty and there would be no decision on whether to discipline them until the Prosecutor’s Office determines whether the allegations were substantive enough to merit charges against them.
According to the lawsuit, Aponte was a passenger in a truck driven by Rivera when they were stopped by police, who demanded that Aponte step out of the truck and handcuffed him when he did so. Then, according to the lawsuit, officers assaulted Aponte “without justification or cause.”
“Aponte was punched and kicked multiple times while handcuffed and almost knocked unconscious,” Del Sardo said in his complaint, adding that officers “then grabbed … Aponte by the feet and dragged him down the sidewalk.”
Del Sardo said Sunday that a video of the arrest clearly shows that officers dragged the unconscious and handcuffed Aponte “at least 20 feet along the sidewalk.”
Rivera, the driver, was “dragged out of his vehicle and continuously beaten and kicked” by the officers, according to the suit.
The video was taken by a security camera that was mounted outside the home of Rivera’s family, where the arrest took place, Del Sardo said.
Neither Aponte nor Rivera resisted arrest, and both were taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson to be treated for injuries, the suit claims.
He said that both men suffered “severe, painful and permanent personal injuries [and] great physical pain.”
According to the Star-Ledger, the incident followed an altercation on Sept. 3, 2011, between the two men and an off-duty police officer, Jose Torres, at a sports bar in Paterson. Police accused Aponte of firing a handgun at Torres, the Star-Ledger said.
But Del Sardo said on Sunday there is no evidence that Aponte ever fired a gun at Torres. The lawyer said the arrest took place several hours after the altercation, outside Rivera’s family home.
He said the video “clearly shows there is no resisting of arrest. They were pulled out of the truck and thrown to the ground, and one of them was knocked unconscious immediately.”
State corrections records say Aponte is serving a five-year prison sentence on charges stemming from the incident at the sports bar. Aponte was sentenced last October to prison after being convicted of aggravated assault for pointing his gun at someone and for possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, state records show.
Del Sardo said he waited until now to file the suit because he was concerned that it might have an effect on the criminal charges against Aponte and Rivera stemming from the arrest. However, it had to be filed within two years of the incident to satisfy requirements of the applicable statute of limitations, he said.
Staff Writer Peter Sampson and Joe Malinconico of The Paterson Press contributed to this article, which also contains material from The Star-Ledger.
FBI’s Data Mining Needs Scrutiny, Too
By Rachel Levinson-Waldman (Bloomberg News) — Sunday, June 30th, 2013; 6:00 p.m. EDT
(Op-Ed / Commentary)
We recently learned that the National Security Agency has a database with the records of almost every phone call made in the U.S. To address public concerns over its surveillance activities, the agency has begun to explain how it uses the metadata -- information including when calls are made, how long they last and to whom they are placed -- it has accumulated over the last seven years.
Although Americans deserve this explanation, they shouldn’t delude themselves. Even if the NSA’s controversial program were shut down tomorrow, another government agency that is busy collecting and retaining personal data would keep humming along. True accountability for the government’s surveillance activities should also include an airing of -- and tighter restrictions on -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s power to collect and store substantial amounts of innocuous information about Americans.
Since 2008, for instance, the FBI has had the authority to conduct “assessments” -- investigations that require no suspicion of criminal activity. In service of these low-level investigations, an FBI agent may use various invasive methods, including infiltrating public meetings of groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union or Alcoholics Anonymous, using informants, and even putting the target of the investigation under full-time physical surveillance.
In light of this power to intrude on people’s lives, one would hope that these assessments pay off most of the time and that the FBI discards any superfluous information quickly when they don’t. The numbers, however, tell a different story.
From 2009 through 2011, according to data provided by the FBI, the bureau spent a significant amount of its limited time and resources conducting almost 43,000 assessments related to either counterterrorism or counterintelligence. Fewer than 5 percent of them turned up any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing.
And what does the FBI do with all of the information it has gathered on innocent Americans? The bureau maintains it for decades, just in case it may be useful in the future.
The official guidelines governing the agency’s activities are explicit: All information it collects is kept and sometimes shared, “regardless of whether it furthers investigative objectives,” because it may “eventually serve a variety of valid analytic purposes” -- even if that means keeping the information in an FBI database for as long as 30 years.
The policy is similar for information gathered through “national security letters”: the secretive legal procedure that allows the FBI to collect specific information on Americans if the bureau completes paperwork saying the information may be ”relevant” to a terrorism investigation. That data -- which include many of the same kind of telephone records the NSA is acquiring -- can also be stored for up to 30 years if it has even potential investigative value.
The federal government’s use of “suspicious activity reports” tells a similar story. Local, state and federal law-enforcement officials use them to file alerts about a wide range of “suspicious activity.” The activity reports that are deemed to have some connection to terrorism are widely shared throughout the government. Yet there doesn’t even need to be “reasonable suspicion” of a terrorist connection for a report to be filed. As the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged, this practically ensures that these alerts will sweep up information about innocent Americans.
Again, one would think a suspicious-activity report that provided no evidence of possible terrorist threats would be discarded immediately. To the contrary, even a report without any link to terrorism is kept in a widely available FBI database for six months, in a separate classified database for five years, and in yet another FBI database for at least 25 more years.
Many Americans were rightly surprised and angry to learn that the NSA was sweeping up vast amounts of information on the off chance it might be useful in the future. But the FBI is collecting far more than just telephone metadata and keeping it for far longer than the five-year limit the NSA has evidently imposed on itself.
Calls for reform of the NSA should be coupled with demands for restraints on the FBI’s power. The confirmation hearing for James Comey, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the bureau, would be a good place to start.
(Rachel Levinson-Waldman is counsel with the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.)
Boston Police Technology Upgrade: Detectives Get iPads
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Sunday, June 30th, 2013; 12:59 p.m. EDT
BOSTON, Mass (AP) - Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says the department will distribute 100 iPads to detectives, including those in narcotics, gang, and fugitive units.
Davis says the technology will be hitting the streets because of funds provided through donations.
The commissioner says the tablets will let detectives share information and get critical intelligence analysis while still working at active crime scenes.
Homicides on track for 45-year low in Philadelphia
By Mike Newall, Craig R. McCoy, and Dylan Purcell — Sunday, June 30th, 2013 ‘The Philadelphia Inquirer’ / Philadelphia, PA
(Edited for brevity and generic law enforcement pertinence)
Homicides in Philadelphia in 2013 are at the lowest midyear total in nearly half a century, police figures show, putting the city in reach of a modern-day low at year's end.
As of Saturday, with two days left in the six-month period, police had recorded 115 homicides, a 38 percent drop from the same period last year.
The half-year figures are a promising sign for a city that in recent years has held the dubious distinction of being the nation's most violent big city.
Mayor Nutter, top police officials, and prosecutors, along with criminal-justice experts, say the decrease in homicides reflects a new emphasis on data-driven policing, a crackdown on gun criminals, and sweeping reforms in the criminal courts.
In particular, police and prosecutors have targeted so-called hot spots - areas identified as the city's wellsprings for crime.
The fall in homicides reflects a general decline in violent crime. Violent robberies and serious assaults are also down sharply this year. The count of shooting victims has fallen 18 percent, from 633 victims in the first six months of last year to 518 so far this year.
In an interview, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey cautiously described the half-year numbers as the results of departmental efforts to attack crime in a smarter fashion.
"There has been a general acceptance of trying to think differently about crime," he said.
With sophisticated computer mapping and data analysis, Ramsey said, the department has begun to anticipate crime trends and get ahead of them.
"I've been around for a long time, and what [once] passed for analysis was simply counting crime," he said. "Now we are actually analyzing crime and trying to learn from that analysis ways in which we can be more effective and tweak our strategy."
District Attorney Seth Williams said he viewed the trend as "a sign of hope."
He added, "We're very thankful for that success, and the lives we save are real."
At the current pace, the annual homicide figure would be lower than at any time since 1968.
An Inquirer analysis of city homicide figures over the last 50 years found that the midyear results generally mirror the second half of the year.
If that holds true, Philadelphia would conclude 2013 with roughly 250 homicides, a modern-era low that would fulfill Mayor Nutter's 2008 inaugural promise of cutting homicides up to 50 percent from 2007, when 391 people were killed.
Nutter praised the 2013 trend as the result of the "coordinated and collaborative efforts" of the Police Department, District Attorney's Office, and other law enforcement agencies.
But he expressed caution.
"We are not taking anything for granted," he said. "A half year is a half year. It is not a full year. I am very mindful that we still have to get through the summer and fall. We'll look at this and we'll smile at the numbers for about five minutes and then get back to work."
The steep decline in gun homicides follows concerted efforts by police, prosecutors, and judges to overhaul the city's criminal-justice system.
For police, that has meant shifting away from a reactive approach to a more focused one in which the department tries to anticipate violence and to deploy its officers cohesively to quell it.
Ramsey said the department had benefited from enhanced data-analysis software and was better able to understand and attack crime patterns.
The force, he said, has improved at identifying "the people out there causing the most harm in terms of shootings" - and is proactively working to squelch retaliatory violence.
"You can have fewer arrests and have a greater impact on crime if you are targeting the people that are responsible for committing the crime as opposed to just generating the numbers," he said.
Earlier this year, Ramsey shook up the department's command staff, appointing new captains in some of the city's toughest police districts.
The department has asked the captains to pay special attention to crime in 35 newly identified violence hot spots.
"We've identified them as being the most problematic," said First Deputy Police Commissioner Richard J. Ross Jr. "What we have done is drill down on these spots and are holding the captains accountable for what crime occurs."
To support the commanders, Ramsey has also equipped captains with "embedded" intelligence officers, as well as crime analysts trained at Temple University.
The department has sought to spread accountability by asking midlevel supervisors - lieutenants and sergeants - to take responsibility for crime-fighting plans for specific geographic areas.
The new strategy has paid dramatic dividends in North Philadelphia's 22d Police District. There, commanders used analysis to conclude that crime in the district tended to spike in the spring, prompting them to increase foot patrols.
That shift drove a reduction in homicide in the district to seven from 21 for the same period in 2012.
In recent years, there has been a "cementing of good strategic thinking within the Philadelphia Police Department," said Jerry Ratcliffe, a Temple University criminologist who consults with the department on "smart policing."
Department commanders, he said, have moved away from the "tyranny of the urgent" - chasing the most recent dots on the crime maps - and are asking more "searching, strategic questions about repeat offenders and long-term trouble spots."
Among other reforms, District Attorney Williams began a program known as Gunstat in 2012 aimed at using crime statistics and other intelligence to identify and crack down on the most serious gun criminals. The program imposes harsher penalties on the hundreds convicted every year of carrying an illegal firearm.
"If you're doing a better job on the guys carrying guns, you're going to have an impact on murder," said Brian Lentz, the assistant district attorney who heads the crackdown.
In response to demands from prosecutors, Municipal Court judges have imposed significantly higher bail on people charged with illegal gun possession, quadrupling the average amount levied. Prosecutors have also been using gun arrests as a reason to jail suspects as probation violators and winning longer sentences for new convictions.
"We are getting some dramatic results against these offenders," Lentz said. "The more you are disrupting, the less gun crime you're going to have."
As just one example, he cited the office's recent focus on a North Philadelphia man, Shaheed Springs, 21, who had beaten a string of arrests in recent years, including a case in which he was charged with shooting a man in the throat. That last case collapsed, a prosecutor said, when "our witnesses dropped off the face of the earth."
This year, Gunstat prosecutor Tanner Rouse pursued Spring aggressively, even retrying him on a gun-possession charge after a hung jury in an initial trial. To build another case, Rouse tracked down a tape of a call from jail in which Springs spoke with a girlfriend about his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.
For a May sentencing on both convictions, Rouse brought in a succession of police officers who had dealt with Springs. Among them was an officer who testified that when he arrested Springs on a 2010 gun charge, Springs said: "It's all good. When I get out, I'm gonna get another gun and shoot police and you better . . . bring backup." The judge sentenced Springs to 7½ to 17 years in prison.
While Williams was launching Gunstat, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille of the State Supreme Court and Seamus P. McCaffery, the two Philadelphians on the high court, were pushing through wide-ranging reforms in the city criminal courts.
They acted in response to a 2009 Inquirer investigative series that reported that Philadelphia had the nation's lowest conviction rate for violent crime among the nation's largest cities.
The high court pushed through rules changes aimed at ending the legal gamesmanship in which defense attorneys sought to win cases though delay. They set up a special court to crack down on fugitives and brought in firms to collect millions of dollars in unpaid bail. They took steps to attack witness intimidation, including authorizing the use of secret indicting grand juries.
Consultant William G. Chadwick Jr., a former top city prosecutor who has helped guide the systemic overhaul, said word of the changes seemed to be getting out on the street.
"It is highly encouraging to see violent crime rates falling after the massive court reforms that were implemented under the leadership of the Supreme Court," Chadwick said in a statement.
"Although many factors influence crime rates, the reforms have most certainly contributed to the decline. Fewer cases are breaking down; defendants are being held accountable when they fail to appear; new tools are available to protect witnesses from intimidation; and more cases are being adjudicated promptly on their merits."
D.C. surveillance cameras become top crime-fighting tools for police
By Andrea Noble — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The Washington Times’ / Washington, DC
D.C. police are increasingly relying on video footage pulled from the city’s network of surveillance cameras in criminal investigations, as officers identify more effective ways to deploy the devices and detectives find new uses for them.
Investigators retrieved video from the Metropolitan Police Department’s 123 closed-circuit television cameras and the District’s network of red light and Department of Transportation cameras 931 times in fiscal 2012 — an increase of 15 percent over the previous year, according to police department data. Police pulled video 796 times in fiscal 2011 and sought it 722 times in 2010.
Since neighborhood crime cameras were first installed in the District in 2006, they have become standard investigative tools, and police detectives are relying on them more than ever.
“It’s the first thing we look for,” said 5th District Cmdr. Andrew Solberg, who has studied the placement of cameras in his district to optimize their use. “If you go to a crime scene, all the officers and crime scene detectives will be looking up to find out if there is a camera nearby.”
D.C. laws limit police authority to live-monitor video feeds, and detectives must request downloads from individual cameras for use in investigations. But as police become more familiar with the technology, officers are reconsidering how footage can help a case. No longer are police searching just for video that captures a crime, said Cmdr. James Crane, head of the department’s Tactical Information Division, which oversees the use of the cameras. Investigators now also seek out video that might show the getaway or disprove a suspect’s alibi.
“We see for investigations not only are they checking the scene of the crime but also for an alibi in another part of town to see if it supports the investigation,” Cmdr. Crane said. “For one homicide in upper Northwest, one detective asked for 36 hours of footage from a Southeast location.”
The upward trend in camera usage in the District seems poised to continue.
From January through May, police retrieved video 528 times, putting them on pace to pull surveillance footage from the network of cameras more than 1,200 times this calendar year. The majority of the footage — 379 videos — was retrieved from neighborhood crime cameras while 149 videos came from transportation department cameras, Cmdr. Crane said. The data provided by police do not include videos retrieved from private cameras, such as those in businesses or apartment complexes, but can include multiple videos pulled for one investigation.
Police said the department tracks crime in the areas around the cameras to determine whether they are providing useful evidence.
Based on a recent study of the 10 crime cameras in the Northeast neighborhood of Trinidad, the department in April decided to move two cameras to different locations, Cmdr. Solberg said.
“We did an overlay of where the cameras are and where the crime is, and said, ‘Are these two items matched up?’” Cmdr. Solberg said of the first assessment of cameras in the 5th District.
The department’s study showed that crimes no longer were occurring near two of the 10 cameras. Whether crime was displaced to other areas of the neighborhood or was reduced altogether remains uncertain, Cmdr. Solberg said. But based on the results, he said, the cameras should be checked against crime statistics more often and moved as needed.
A camera more recently was moved from North Capitol and Seaton Place Northeast to Fourth and Bryant streets Northeast in the Edgewood neighborhood, which is a focus of the police department’s summer crime initiative.
Ohio police department using fake drug checkpoints
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Sunday, June 30th, 2013; 12:28 p.m. EDT
MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) -- Police in the Cleveland suburb of Mayfield Heights know they're not allowed to use checkpoints to search drivers and their cars for drugs.
So they're trying the next best thing: fake drug checkpoints.
Police in the city of 19,000 recently posted large yellow signs along Interstate 271 that warned drivers that there was a drug checkpoint ahead, to be prepared to stop and that there was a drug-sniffing police dog in use.
There was no such checkpoint, just police officers waiting to see if any drivers would react suspiciously after seeing the signs.
Authorities say that four people were stopped, with some arrests and drugs seized. They declined to be more specific.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reports (http://bit.ly/12tIqGq ) that some civil rights leaders and at least one person pulled over by police are questioning the tactic, wondering if it could violate the Fourth Amendment against unlawful searches and seizures.
"I don't think it accomplishes any public safety goals," said Terry Gilbert, a prominent Cleveland civil rights attorney. "I don't think it's good to mislead the population for any reason if you're a government agency."
Nick Worner, a spokesman for the Cleveland office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his office will be looking further into the fake checkpoints to determine whether anyone's rights may be being violated.
Dominic Vitantonio, a Mayfield Heights assistant prosecutor, said the fake checkpoints are legal and a legitimate effort in the war on drugs.
"We should be applauded for doing this," Dominic Vitantonio said. "It's a good thing."
A 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said actual drug checkpoints are not legal and that police can randomly stop cars for just two reasons: to prevent immigrants without legal permission to be in the U.S. and contraband from entering the country and to get drunk drivers off the road.
It's unclear how that ruling would apply to a fake drug checkpoint or whether any other police department in the nation has used similar tactics
Bill Peters, one of the four drivers pulled over as a result of the fake checkpoint, said he wonders if he was targeted because he has long, unkempt hair.
Peters, of Medina, said he was driving on the interstate when he missed his exit. He pulled over to check his phone for directions, then pulled back onto the freeway when his phone disconnected from the charger, causing him to pull over again to reconnect it, he said.
Soon after returning to the freeway, police pulled him over.
Peters said the officer asked him what kind of drugs he had in the car, saying it would be much easier to confess before other officers and a drug-sniffing dog arrived. Peters insisted he had no drugs. As promised, other officers and the dog were summoned, and Peters agreed to allow his car to be searched.
No drugs were found.
"The last time I checked, it is not against the law to pull over to the side of the road to check directions," said Peters, who added that the officer who stopped him commended him for being safety conscious.
"I see what they're doing, but I think it's kind of dangerous," Peters said. "It's one thing to do this on a 25 mph road; it's another on a busy interstate. I think it's a violation to just be pulled over and searched."
Job Title Key to Inner Access Held by Snowden
By SCOTT SHANE and DAVID E. SANGER — Monday, July 1st, 2013 ‘The New York Times’
WASHINGTON — Intelligence officials refer to Edward J. Snowden’s job as a National Security Agency contractor as “systems administrator” — a bland name for the specialists who keep the computers humming. But his last job before leaking classified documents about N.S.A. surveillance, he told the news organization The Guardian, was actually “infrastructure analyst.”
It is a title that officials have carefully avoided mentioning, perhaps for fear of inviting questions about the agency’s aggressive tactics: an infrastructure analyst at the N.S.A., like a burglar casing an apartment building, looks for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.
That assignment helps explain how Mr. Snowden got hold of documents laying bare the top-secret capabilities of the nation’s largest intelligence agency, setting off a far-reaching political and diplomatic crisis for the Obama administration.
Even as some members of Congress have challenged the N.S.A.’s collection of logs of nearly every phone call Americans make, European officials furiously protested on Sunday after Mr. Snowden’s disclosure that the N.S.A. has bugged European Union offices in Washington and Brussels and, with its British counterpart, has tapped the Continent’s major fiber-optic communications cables.
On Sunday evening, The Guardian posted an article saying documents leaked by Mr. Snowden show 38 embassies and missions on a list of United States electronic surveillance targets. Some of those offices belong to allies like France, Italy, Japan and Mexico, The Guardian said.
Mr. Snowden, who planned his leaks for at least a year, has said he took the infrastructure analyst position with Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii in March, evidently taking a pay cut, to gain access to a fresh supply of documents.
“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the N.S.A. hacked,” he told The South China Morning Post before leaving Hong Kong a week ago for Moscow, where he has been in limbo in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”
A close reading of Mr. Snowden’s documents shows the extent to which the eavesdropping agency now has two new roles: It is a data cruncher, with an appetite to sweep up, and hold for years, a staggering variety of information. And it is an intelligence force armed with cyberweapons, assigned not just to monitor foreign computers but also, if necessary, to attack.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the documents suggest, the N.S.A. decided it was too risky to wait for leads on specific suspects before going after relevant phone and Internet records. So it followed the example of the hoarder who justifies stacks of paper because someday, somehow, a single page could prove vitally important.
The agency began amassing databases of “metadata” — logs of all telephone calls collected from the major carriers and similar data on e-mail traffic. The e-mail program was halted in 2011, though it appears possible that the same data is now gathered in some other way.
The documents show that America’s phone and Internet companies grew leery of N.S.A. demands as the years passed after 9/11, fearing that customers might be angry to find out their records were shared with the government. More and more, the companies’ lawyers insisted on legal orders to compel them to comply.
So the N.S.A. came up with a solution: store the data itself. That is evidently what gave birth to a vast data storage center that the N.S.A. is building in Utah, exploiting the declining cost of storage and the advance of sophisticated search software.
Those huge databases were once called “bit buckets” in the industry — collections of electronic bits waiting to be sifted. “They park stuff in storage in the hopes that they will eventually have time to get to it,” said James Lewis, a cyberexpert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “or that they’ll find something that they need to go back and look for in the masses of data.” But, he added, “most of it sits and is never looked at by anyone.”
Indeed, an obscure passage in one of the Snowden documents — rules for collecting Internet data that the Obama administration wrote in secret in 2009 and that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved — suggested that the government was concerned about its ability to process all the data it was collecting. So it got the court to approve an exception allowing the government to hold on to that information if it could not keep up. The rules said that “the communications that may be retained” for up to five years “include electronic communications acquired because of the limitation on the N.S.A.’s ability to filter communications.”
As one private expert who sometimes advises the N.S.A. on this technology put it: “This means that if you can’t desalinate all the seawater at once, you get to hold on to the ocean until you figure it out.”
Collecting that ocean requires the brazen efforts of tens of thousands of technicians like Mr. Snowden. On Thursday, President Obama played down Mr. Snowden’s importance, perhaps concerned that the manhunt was itself damaging the image and diplomatic relations of the United States. “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” the president said during a stop in Senegal.
Mr. Obama presumably meant the term to be dismissive, suggesting that Mr. Snowden (who turned 30 on June 21) was a young computer delinquent. But as an N.S.A. infrastructure analyst, Mr. Snowden was, in a sense, part of the United States’ biggest and most skilled team of hackers.
The N.S.A., Mr. Snowden’s documents show, has worked with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, to tap into hundreds of fiber-optic cables that cross the Atlantic or go on into Europe, with the N.S.A. helping sort the data. The disclosure revived old concerns that the British might be helping the N.S.A. evade American privacy protections, an accusation that American officials flatly deny.
And a secret presidential directive on cyberactivities unveiled by Mr. Snowden — discussing the primary new task of the N.S.A. and its military counterpart, Cyber Command — makes clear that when the agency’s technicians probe for vulnerabilities to collect intelligence, they also study foreign communications and computer systems to identify potential targets for a future cyberwar.
Infrastructure analysts like Mr. Snowden, in other words, are not just looking for electronic back doors into Chinese computers or Iranian mobile networks to steal secrets. They have a new double purpose: building a target list in case American leaders in a future conflict want to wipe out the computers’ hard drives or shut down the phone system.
Mr. Snowden’s collection of pilfered N.S.A. documents has cast an awkward light on officials’ past assurances to Congress and the public about their concern about Americans’ privacy.
It was only in March that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that the N.S.A. did not collect data on millions of Americans. Mr. Snowden’s records forced Mr. Clapper to backtrack, admitting his statement was false.
Last week, two senators challenged even the accuracy of a fact sheet prepared by the N.S.A. to counter Mr. Snowden’s claims about the phone data and Internet collection programs. Agency officials did not defend themselves; the fact sheet simply disappeared, without explanation, from the agency’s Web site.
Newly disclosed slides from an N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation on the agency’s Prism database of Internet data, posted on Saturday by The Washington Post, reveal that the F.B.I. plays a role as middleman between the N.S.A. and Internet companies like Google and Yahoo. The arrangement provides the N.S.A. with a defense, however nominal, against claims that it spies on United States soil.
Even in the unaccustomed spotlight after the N.S.A. revelations, intelligence officials have concealed more than they have revealed in careful comments, fearful of alerting potential eavesdropping targets to agency methods. They invariably discuss the N.S.A.’s role in preventing terrorist attacks, an agency priority that the public can easily grasp.
In fact, as Mr. Snowden’s documents have shown, the omnivorous agency’s operations range far beyond terrorism, targeting foreigners of any conceivable interest. British eavesdroppers working with the N.S.A. penetrated London meetings of the Group of 20 industrialized nations, partly by luring delegates to fake Internet cafes, and the N.S.A. hacked into computers at Chinese universities.
At Fort Meade, on the N.S.A.’s heavily guarded campus off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Maryland, such disclosures are seen as devastating tip-offs to targets. The disclosure in Mr. Snowden’s documents that Skype is cooperating with orders to turn over data to the N.S.A., for example, undermined a widespread myth that the agency could not intercept the voice-over-Internet service. Warned, in effect, by Mr. Snowden, foreign officials, drug cartel leaders and terrorists may become far more careful about how, and how much, they communicate.
“We’re seeing indications that several terrorist groups are changing their communications behavior based on these disclosures,” one intelligence official said last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We’re going to miss tidbits that could be useful in stopping the next plot.”
Mr. Snowden’s breach is an unplanned test of the N.S.A.’s decades-old conviction that it can operate effectively only under absolute secrecy. The agency is conducting a damage assessment — a routine step after major leaks — but the assessment itself is likely to remain classified.
The N.S.A.’s assessment of Mr. Snowden’s case will likely also consider what has become, for intelligence officials, a chilling consideration: there are thousands of people of his generation and computer skills at the agency, hired in recent years to keep up with the communications boom.
The officials fear that some of them, like young computer aficionados outside the agency, might share Mr. Snowden’s professed libertarian streak and skepticism of the government’s secret power. Intelligence bosses are keeping a closer eye on them now, hoping that there is not another self-appointed whistle-blower in their midst.