911 Caller Accidentally Exposes Illegal NYPD Spying Operation
With the release of the tape of a 911 call in New Brunswick, New Jersey, originally taped in June 2009, the public can now hear a somewhat hilarious instance of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign actually doing something positive.
Salil Sheth, a building superintendent at an apartment complex near Rutgers University, just happened to stumble upon a secret New York Police Department (NYPD) safe house far from the department’s jurisdiction during an inspection.
This type of activity isn’t all that surprising seeing as an NYPD officer was locked in a psych ward by his superiors after exposing massive corruption and the NYPD hasarrested and detained a couple for 23 hours for dancing, called people who film police “professional agitators,” lied about their counter-terrorism record, spied on Muslims across the northeast, falsified drug charges to meet quotas, to just mention a few incidents.
Sheth had notified the tenants of unit 1076 of the upcoming inspection weeks earlier but his notice was still in the door, so he let himself in and quickly realized that there was something incredibly suspicious.
One of Sheth’s colleagues called 911 and Sheth proceeded to describe the situation.
“We’ve been doing the five year state inspection and came across an apartment where there’s some suspicious activity,” said Sheth.
“What’s suspicious?” asked the New Brunswick police dispatcher.
Sheth responded, “Suspicious in the sense that the apartment has about – has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios.”
The dispatcher was clearly surprised and asked “Really?”
“There’s computers in there,” said Sheth. “There’s computer hardware, software, you know just laying around. There’s pictures of terrorists.”
At this point it becomes quite obvious that Sheth thinks he has stumbled on a terrorist hideout when in reality he has discovered damning evidence of illegal law enforcement activities.
“There’s pictures of our neighboring building that they have,” continued Sheth, to which the dispatcher asked, “In New Brunswick?” “Yes,” replied Sheth.
“And pictures of our neighboring buildings?” asked the dispatcher.
“Yes, the Matrix building,” Sheth responded, speaking of a local developer. “There’s pictures of terrorists. There’s literature on the Muslim religion.”
The NYPD, having been trained and guided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has gone on the offensive since September 11, 2001, spying on Muslims not only in New York but also well outside their jurisdiction.
Undercover NYPD officers would hang around mosques, listen in on conversations in cafes and even spy on Muslim student groups, apparently using the apartment discovered by Sheth as a safe house.
This was no minor operation, mind you. The NYPD maintained files on sermons, recorded names of political organizers, and created databases tracking where Muslims lived, shopped and even frequent spots where they would watch sports together.
When the New Brunswick police and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed up, they were quite surprised by the discovery since none were informed of the NYPD’s presence.
As the Associated Press points out, “At the NYPD, the bungled operation was an embarrassment. It made the department look amateurish and forced it to ask the FBI to return the department’s materials.”
The attempts at arguing for the legitimacy of the practice of NYPD officers moving far out of their jurisdiction – as far away as New Orleans in one case where they were spying on liberal groups – have been nothing short of pathetic.
Andrew Schaffer, the deputy commissioner for legal matters for the NYPD said in February that the detectives are totally justified in operating outside of New York because they are not in the course of conducting official police duties.
“They’re not acting as police officers in other jurisdictions,” said Schaffer.
Yet this is hardly a defensible position when Lieutenant Commander William McGroarty of the NYPD and Assistant Chief Thomas Galati both called for the New Brunswick police to not release the recording since it “would jeopardize investigations and endanger people and buildings.”
“Such identification will place the safety of any officers identified, as well as the undercover operatives with whom they work, at risk,” wrote Galati in a letter to New Brunswick.
Does this sound like they were not acting as police? Hardly, especially when one considers that according to New Brunswick attorneys, the apartment was actually rented by an undercover NYPD officer using a fake name.
Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, has been a defender of the NYPD’s supposed right to go anywhere in the country without telling police, so long as they claim they are searching for a terrorist.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like individuals in New Jersey care all that much, since New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa stated that he is not aware of any evidence showing that they NYPD’s activities were in violation of the law.
That being said, Muslim groups are taking a stand and have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get the NYPD’s program shut down. Lawyers have requested that a federal judge decide if the spying is in violation of federal rules put in place after the NYPD engaged in similar activities in the 1950s in an attempt to find communists.
Hopefully the federal judge will actually pay attention to how serious this issue is and see beyond the emotionally charged post-September 11, 2001 language which is so readily leveraged by those who seek to hold on to these powers.