New York police broke rules in investigating Muslims: Report

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NEW YORK (APP): The New York police repeatedly broke rules governing intelligence-gathering while targeting Muslims for surveillance after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, according to a report issued on Tuesday.

The report - by the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department, an oversight agency created in 2013 - said that the department's Intelligence Bureau regularly let deadlines pass before asking to extend investigations into political activity, and often failed to explain the roles of undercover officers and confidential informers, as required.

"The fact that deadlines were missed and rules were violated is troubling and must be rectified," the report, quoted by The New York Times, said.

While those findings contradict the department's assurances that investigations of suspected terrorists "were always supervised," the report also found that the police had acted properly in choosing whom it would investigate and why. That led one high-ranking official to call the report a "clean bill of health" for America's largest

municipal police force.

That official, John Miller, the Police Department 's deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter terrorism, said the office of the inspector general, Philip Eure , had given the Police Department "very high marks" on issues involving "whether we were looking at the right people for the right reasons within the bounds" of privacy guidelines.

Members of Eure's staff, as part of their inquiry, analyzed a set of cases closed from 2010 to 2015 - but opened as early as 2004 - to test for compliance with a set of safeguards known as the Handschu Guidelines. Those guidelines were created in response to a 1971 class-action lawsuit and are meant to protect political and religious activities from overreaching police surveillance.

From a broad perspective, the inspector general's office found, the Police Department was always able to explain its rationale for new cases and always met the "informational threshold" required to open them. The report said that there was no evidence of "improper motives"on the department's part in those cases.

The report said, however, that the failures that had been uncovered demonstrated "the need for ongoing oversight" of the department, and it included 11 new recommendations. Eure said that adopting the recommendations would "give the public greater confidence" in how the police operate.

In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, agreed to appoint a civilian to monitor the department's counterterrorism activities as part of a settlement of two lawsuits claiming Handschu guidelines had been violated. That settlement has not yet been approved by a federal judge, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents plaintiffs in one of the suits.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the civil liberties group, said in a statement that the settlement would address the types of failures an outside monitor would most likely have averted. But she added that her group stood by its "allegations that there were often no valid reasons for the N.Y.P.D. to open or extend investigations of American Muslims."

"The inspector general's report has provided yet more evidence that the N.Y.P.D.'s surveillance of American Muslims was highly irregular, operated in a black box and violated even the weaker rules that existed before our proposed settlement," Ms. Lieberman said.

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