McCarthy knew about NYPD's Muslim spy operation

February 23, 2012 4:37:06 AM PST
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy knew that the NYPD was gathering intelligence on Muslims in New Jersey five years ago when he was Newark's police director, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

It is not clear from McCarthy's first statement on the subject to what extent he knew of the operation. McCarthy, who left Newark last year when he was hired by newly-elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, may be 780 miles away from a controversy that is playing out on the East Coast. But the top Chicago lawman is squarely at the center of a political firestorm today called "disturbing" by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The first acknowledgment that McCarthy was in the loop is coming from his Chicago Police spokesperson. "As a matter of professional courtesy, the NYPD made then-Director McCarthy and other chiefs from Long Island aware that they were conducting an operation in their jurisdictions" said Melissa Stratton, Chicago Police Director of News Affairs.

The statement does not reveal how much detail McCarthy was provided.

New Jersey Gov. Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker say they were never informed by McCarthy that the NYPD was conducting any operations in Newark, much less spying on Muslims. Mayor Booker, who says he was offended to read the 2007 NYPD report which catalogued mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, maintains he would never have allowed such spying.

Supt. McCarthy was a high-ranking NYPD official prior to joining the Newark Police Dept.

According to McCarthy's spokesperson on Wednesday afternoon, "No Newark police officers were used in the operation." McCarthy's successor in Newark, Police Director Samuel DeMaio says that Newark officers did show NYPD investigators around the city, but were unaware that it was part of a spy operation that resulted in databases on Muslims daily behavior. DeMaio was deputy chief at the time. "We really want to be clear: This type of activity is not what the Newark PD would ever do," he said.

In mid-2007, the NYPD's secretive Demographics Unit fanned out across Newark, photographing every mosque and eavesdropping in Muslim businesses. The findings were cataloged in a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, that served as a police guidebook to Newark's Muslims.

Surveillance has become common in New York City in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Police have built databases showing where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports. Dozens of mosques and student groups have been infiltrated, and police have built detailed profiles of local ethnic groups, from Moroccans to Egyptians to Albanians.

According to recent reports, the NYPD intelligence unit also operates far outside its jurisdiction and has worked to keep tabs on Muslims across the Northeast. The department has cataloged Muslim communities in Long Island, conducted undercover operations in New Brunswick, N.J., and has turned often innocuous Internet postings by Muslim student groups into police files.

The monitoring of Muslim college students across the Northeast drew sharp rebukes from administrators at Yale, Columbia and elsewhere earlier this week. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the tactics. "The police department goes where there are allegations. And they look to see whether those allegations are true," Bloomberg told reporters Tuesday. "That's what you'd expect them to do. That's what you'd want them to do. Remind yourself when you turn out the light tonight."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.