This just in from The Associated Press: The White House has helped pay the New York Police Department millions to spy on the city’s Muslims, efforts which have gone so far as to put entire neighborhoods under surveillance.
Here’s the deal: The money comes from a little-known grant program called the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which has given New York and New Jersey some $135 million since Sept. 11, 2001. HIDTA is controlled by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. The setup is supposed to be for anti-drug efforts, but some HIDTA money has gone toward anti-terrorism work since the terrorist attacks.
The AP (via Wall Street Journal) reports that some of this HIDTA cash: “has paid for the cars that plainclothes NYPD officers used to conduct surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods. It also paid for computers that store even innocuous information about Muslim college students, mosque sermons and social events.”
Remember that last week, the AP came forward with an investigation revealing that the NYPD spied on Muslim college students all across the Northeast — even going so far as to send an agent on a whitewater rafting trip.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, responding to criticism, went on the defensive, telling reporters that such NYPD policies are necessary to protect basic freedoms. Bloomberg then took to the airwaves Friday, claiming that these practices are completely legal.
The AP’s newest revelations, though, threaten to strain the already tense relationship between the White House, NYPD, and American Muslims.
From the AP:
“The administration has championed outreach to American Muslims and has said law enforcement should not put entire communities under suspicion.
The Obama administration, however, has pointedly refused to endorse or repudiate the NYPD programs it helps pay for. The White House last week declined to comment on its grant payments.”
Some specs of the program’s intel gathering: cops took photos of mosques and jotted down license plate numbers, as well as recording Americanized muslims’ names in a database. Info indicates that the NYPD and HIDTA shared office space and supplies.
HIDTA was started at the height of the drug war, as a way of combatting the spread of illegal narcotics, and has since funded $2.3 billion in anti-trafficking efforts.
But Congress “is not provided with a detailed breakdown of activities. None of the NYPD’s clandestine programs is cited in the New York-New Jersey region’s annual reports to Congress between 2006 and 2010.”
In other words: It’s unclear how much of New York’s HIDTA money is being used to spy on Muslims.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.