Will John Brennan Answer for His Support of Massive NYPD Surveillance of Muslims?
John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA, testifies in Washington on February 7, 2013. Protesters denouncing US drone attacks disrupted the hearing.
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Last year, the Associated Press revealed that the New York City police department had engaged in a massive surveillance program targeting Muslims. Police spied on them online, in places of worship, restaurants, and universities. One officer infiltrated a camping trip, reporting back that the students prayed five times a day.
The NYPD program was condemned across the board; complaints were issued by presidents of universities whose students had been targeted, and members of Congress requested a Department of Justice investigation into the program. Journalist Ronald Kessler reported that even senior FBI officials were creeped out by the NYPD's spying.
But not John Brennan! At the time, President Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, who admitted to being intimately familiar with the NYPD's actions (the CIA has been generally very helpful in transforming the NYPD into a global counterterrorism operation) came to the program's defense, going to New York to personally commend the department. "It's not a trade-off between our security and our freedoms and our rights as citizens ..." he said, according to news reports of the event.. "I believe that that balance that we strike has been an appropriate one. We want to make sure that we're able to optimize our security at the same time we optimize those freedoms that we hold and cherish so deeply."
"You have had a very, very difficult job. I think you've done it very well," he said. "The success is in the record, in terms of keeping this city safe."
The fact that years of surveillance did not yield useful leads (as the AP also reported) did not come up. Neither did the department's tendency to greatly exaggerate -- to the point of just making up -- its counter-terrorism record.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates, who are suing the NYPD over the program, would like someone to ask Brennan about this as he is considered for top job at the CIA.
"We are deeply concerned by John Brennan's admission that he was aware of the arrangement between the CIA and NYPD, which has led to widespread unlawful spying on innocent American Muslims in New York, New Jersey, and other locations throughout the northeast. " they groups said in a joint statement.
"Mr. Brennan was the deputy executive director of the CIA at the time the NYPD-CIA collaboration was developed. His admission raises even more questions that should be immediately probed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, including what Mr. Brennan knew, when he knew it, and what steps, if any, he took to stop the discriminatory surveillance program. "