Another NYPD Terrorist 'Investigation' Turns Up Nothing But Privacy Invasions And Rights Erosion (Techdirt)
Tuesday October 30th, 2012
It's no secret that the "War on Terror" has resulted in little more than steady paychecks for those in the loop and plenty of rights erosion everywhere else. As was detailed earlier this year, the New York Police Department has decided to follow in the clumsy footsteps of the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts, crafting its own "elite" agency (with the help of the CIA) to infiltrate the Muslim community and smoke out terrorists. The end result? Not a single lead generated.
Via Reason comes this Associated Press story about another NYPD anti-terrorism failure. Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bengali descent, was put to work by the NYPD's intelligence unit as an informant, earning $1000 a month in exchange for "baiting" Muslims into making inflammatory statements.
Shamiur Rahman... who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called "create and capture." He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests. There's nothing like a little leverage in the form of dangling prison sentence to "motivate" your informants into giving you as much "information" as possible, even if most is unverifiable, exaggerated or simply made up. Rahman was no exception:
Police recruited Rahman in late January, after his third arrest on misdemeanor drug charges, which Rahman believed would lead to serious legal consequences. An NYPD plainclothes officer approached him in a Queens jail and asked whether he wanted to turn his life around... That wasn't all Rahman did. In order to avoid the sentence constantly hanging over his head, he went above and beyond. According to the AP article, Rahman took pictures inside mosques and at events, eavesdropped on imams, spied on the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College, wrote down license plate information and collected cell phone numbers. All of this activity resulted in Rahman drawing this conclusion:
In an Oct. 15 interview with the AP, however, Rahman said he received little training and spied on "everything and anyone." He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams. By his own measure, he said he was very good at his job and his handler never once told him he was collecting too much, no matter whom he was spying on.
He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. He said wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.
"I was trying to get money," Rahman said. "I was playing the game."
Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne refused to comment but has denied widespread spying in the past, insisting that "police only follow leads." It's the sort of statement you expect from a spokesman, even in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Even the "targeted" Demographics Unit cast a very wide net, assembling databases on where Muslims lived, shopped and worked and cataloguing every Muslim who adopted an Americanized surname.
Furthermore, former NYPD officials confirmed that the tactics used by Rahman were common. Rahman received little training or instruction, something that may have helped focus his efforts. Of course, if his handlers wanted a wide net cast, the last thing they would have done is give him some guidelines.
The assault on constitutional rights continues, and privacy continues to be violated, all under the dubious heading of "anti-terrorism."