NYPD spies on liberals

New York Police Department officer (AFP Photo / Mario Tama)
After revealing that NYPD has been spying on New York Muslims for years since 9/11, the Associated Press reports that the Big Apple Police force has also been doing the same with the city's liberals.

Undercover cops were sent to collect information at meetings of peaceful liberal activists and created a database on certain leaders who planned protests across America.

This is according to NYPD documents obtained by the AP that show how lawful activities were at the center of law enforcement's counter-terrorism efforts.

The NYPD is no stranger to using controversial tactics to start profiling individuals and the extensive history of penetrating political groups repeats the happenings of a case in 2004.

Eight years ago, law enforcement spied on religious groups, environmental activists and anti-war organizations across the country leading up to the Republican National Convention.

These procedures were kept secret until they were later revealed in a New York Times article three years later. The notorious practices sparked an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the police behaved toward convention activists.

According to the police, the spying was essential in preparing for the massive crowds that were expected in the Big Apple.

In a document recently obtained by the Associated Press, the spying continued way past the Republican Convention.

The report includes cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans as some of the places members of the police squad visited to gather intelligence.

"There was no political surveillance," said David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer to the AP.

Cohen’s testimony is part of the ongoing lawsuit over NYPD's handling of protesters at the Republican Convention.

"This was a program designed to determine in advance the likelihood of unlawful activity or acts of violence," Cohen added.

One such individual who was caught up in Cohen’s task force was Jordan Flaherty.

Flaherty’s name appeared in one of the police reports which were obtained by the AP.

Flaherty, a writer for The Huffington Post, attended the People’s Summit in New Orleans back in 2008. The summit is known as a convention for liberal groups who oppose America’s stance on economic policy and the effect trade agreements have on the US, Mexico and Canada to come together.

As Flaherty introduced a film, he was unaware that an undercover NYPD officer was in the crowd observing his every move and listening to every word.

"One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City," officers wrote in April 25, 2008.

"Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine,” the report stated.

According to Flaherty, the event in the report was a film festival in New Orleans that same week, but the journalist said the film he presented wasn’t related to the summit and believes that law enforcement isn’t being straight forward about the reach of their spying task force.

"The only threat was the threat of ideas," Flaherty said.

NYPD has been under fire recently for spying on Muslims students. In 2009 three NYPD officers went to speak to local authorities to investigate the students who were attending the University at Buffalo.

According to the police, their mission was “to develop assets jointly in the Buffalo area, to act as listening posts within the ethnic Somali community.

NYPD in the past has defended its work, claiming the threat of terrorism means police cannot wait for a crime to happen in order for officers to open an investigation. Under the department's policy officers are allowed to go anywhere the public goes and can prepare reports for "operational planning."

The NYPD’s tactics have been compared to the "pre-crime" unit in the film Minority Report, where people are arrested for crimes that they have not yet committed, but are expected to – which results in many people fearing their practices.

"I think this idea of secret police following you around is terrifying. It really has an effect of spreading fear and quashing dissent."