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2013-09-17

From Mosques to Soccer Leagues: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spy Unit Targeting Muslims, Activists

Guests

Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press and co-author of Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.

Adam Goldman, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press and co-author of Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America.

Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York and the advocacy & civic engagement coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities.

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Since 9/11, the New York City Police Department has established an intelligence operation that in some ways has been even more aggressive than the National Security Agency. At its core is a spying operation targeting Arab- and Muslim-Americans where they live, work and pray. The NYPD’s "Demographics Unit," as it was known until 2010, has secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and built a vast database of information. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from domestic spying. Just last month, it emerged the NYPD has labeled at least 50 Muslim organizations, including a dozen mosques, as terrorist groups. This has allowed them to carry out what are called "terrorism enterprise investigations," sending undercover informants into mosques to spy on worshipers and make secret recordings. We’re joined by the Pulitzer-winning duo who exposed the NYPD’s spy program, Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, co-authors of the new book, "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America." We’re also joined by Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, which was among the groups targeted by the NYPD.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: It’s been 12 years since the 9/11 attacks, but only now is a full picture emerging of what could be one of its most controversial legacies. In the aftermath of 9/11, the New York City Police Department established an intelligence operation that in some ways has even been more aggressive than the National Security Agency: at its core, a spying operation targeting Muslim Americans, where they live, work and pray. The NYPD’s Demographics Unit, as it was known until 2010, has secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and built a vast database of information on Muslim Americans. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from spying on Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: Just last month, it emerged the NYPD has labeled at least 50 Muslim organizations, including a dozen mosques, as terrorist groups. This has allowed them to carry out what are called "terrorism enterprise investigations," sending undercover informants into mosques to spy on worshipers and make secret recordings. That news came just weeks after a group of Muslim Americans filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD’s spy program, alleging what they call unconstitutional religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance. At a news conference, plaintiff Asad Dandia described his run-in with a man who turned out to be a police informant.

ASAD DANDIA: In March of 2012, I was approached by a 19-year-old man. He came to me telling me that he was looking for spirituality and that he was looking to change his ways. He said he had a very dark past, and he wanted to be a better practicing Muslim. So I figured what better way to have him perform his obligation than to join this organization? In October of 2012, he released a public statement saying that he was an informant for the NYPD. When I found out, I had a whole mixture of feelings. Number one, I was terrified, and I was afraid for my family, especially for my younger sister, who were exposed to all of this. I felt betrayed and hurt, because someone who I took as a friend and a brother was lying to me.

AARON MATÉ: That’s Asad Dandia, one of the plaintiffs in the suit by Muslim Americans against the NYPD for spying. Arguments in the case began last week.

Well, while the spy program has been intrusive, it’s also been ineffective. The NYPD has even admitted that the Demographics Unit failed to yield a single terrorism investigation or even a single lead. In a deposition last year, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, Assistant NYPD Chief Thomas Galati, said, quote, "I could tell you [that] I have never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006. I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival."

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the NYPD spy program was first exposed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Associated Press. Two lead reporters on the story have just come out with a new book that expands on their ground-breaking reporting. The book is called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. Co-authors Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman join us here in New York. They shared the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Matt, lay it out. Lay out this book for us—in a nutshell, how you got on this story and what you found.

MATT APUZZO: Sure. Well, our book really goes a lot deeper and a lot broader than we were able to do even in all the many stories we wrote for the AP. What we really focused on is how, in the aftermath of 9/11, about how the NYPD, working hand in hand with the CIA, built an intelligence apparatus that focuses on American citizens like no other police department in the country. You know, this active-duty CIA officer and a retired CIA officer built an apparatus by which, you know, the sort of army of informants is out there, and we have these demographics officers who—their job is just hang out in neighborhoods and listen for what people are talking about.

Some of what we’ve seen in these files, it’s a file that says, "We saw two men speaking at a cafe, and they were talking about what they thought about the president’s State of the Union address, and here’s what they thought." What do they think about drones? What do they think about foreign policy? What do they think about American policies toward civil liberties, you know, TSA? Are we too—are we too discriminatory against Muslims? I mean, all this stuff ends up in police files, and their justification is, well, we need to know what the sentiment of these communities are, so we can look for hotspots.

AARON MATÉ: Adam, talk to us about how this plays out. So, you have NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly working with David Cohen from the CIA, and they set out to create basically a map of all of New York’s ethnic neighborhoods?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, that’s what the Demographics Unit was doing. They wanted to literally map the human terrain of the five boroughs of New York. And they went beyond, too. They went into Newark, and they went into other places, as well—Newark, New Jersey. And so, they had this fear after 9/11, and they looked out into the Queens and Brooklyn and these other places where there were a lot of Muslim Americans and thought, "We don’t know much about these communities." And they look at—they looked, as an example, people like Mohamed Atta, who was one of the 9/11 hijackers. And Mohamed Atta had radicalized. He had grown more religious. And he was—you know, he had given off these signals in front of the community, and they wanted to be in the communities in New York, so if there was anybody like Mohamed Atta, in fact, anybody who was radicalizing, they could—they would have listening posts. They would have eyes and ears in the community to pick up on that.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the things you write about is how, though, the undercover officers would go to the best Arab food restaurants, not coming up with leads, but because the food was good and just, quote, "spy" there.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Right. We found, while reporting the book, that these plainclothes officers working with the Demographics Unit were gravitating toward the better restaurants. There is a bakery, the Damascus Bakery in Brooklyn, that serves excellent pastries. And there’s the Kabul Kabab; there’s a kabab house in Flushing, Queens, that serves excellent kabab. And what the commanding officer in charge of the Demographics Unit started to see was there were many reports being filed from similar locations. And how do you spend $40 at the pastry shop? And so, eventually he determined that they were going there, filing these reports, simply because the food was good.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Apuzzo, talk about the main players here. Talk about Larry Sanchez. Talk about David Cohen, who had come from the CIA and went to the NYPD.

MATT APUZZO: Sure. So, Ray Kelly comes on board as police commissioner after 9/11 and says, "You know, look, we can’t rely solely on the federal government," and I think really smartly said, "We can’t do business as usual. We need to start developing our own intelligence and have a better sense of what’s going on in the city." So the guy he hired to do that is a man named Dave Cohen, who we profile really deeply in the book, who, you know, had made his career at the CIA, rose to the level of the deputy director for operations, basically our nation’s top spy. So he retired as the head of the clandestine service, and he was basically recruited out of retirement to start what is basically a mini-CIA at the NYPD.

And one of Cohen’s first thing is he then calls down to the CIA and says, "Hey, I need an active-duty guy who can be kind of my right-hand man." And George Tenet, the director of the CIA, sends Larry Sanchez to New York. And Larry is this very likeable guy, you know, skydiver, scuba diver, you know, a guy’s guy, and he’s active-duty, so he’s got a blue CIA badge. So he can start the morning, early morning, at the CIA station in New York and then kind of go over to NYPD. And he’s directing domestic operations for NYPD. I mean, he’s telling officers how to do collection or where to focus their efforts. And he really was the architect of the Demographics Unit. So, this guy, active-duty for the CIA, was really the intellectual father of the Demographics Unit.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We are speaking with the Puliltzer Prize-winning reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, who have written the book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. We’ll be back with them in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, reporters for the Associated Press, co-authors of the brand-new book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. We are also joined by Linda Sarsour. She is here in New York City, a leading Arab-American activist with the Arab American Association of New York, a national network for Arab-American communities. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté.

AARON MATÉ: Well, before break, we were talking about Larry Sanchez, who came to the NYPD from the CIA. And let’s turn to part of a 2007 hearing before the Senate Committee—the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that looked at the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts. This is then-Senator Joe Lieberman questioning New York City Assistant Police Commissioner Larry Sanchez, the analyst who came to the NYPD from the CIA.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: I’m paraphrasing, but I think you said that the aim of this investigation and of the NYPD was not just to prevent terrorist attacks, obviously, post-9/11 in New York City, but to try to prevent—understand and then prevent the radicalization that leads to terrorist attacks. So, in the end of it, what are the steps that you come away with that you feel, in this very usual area, unremarkable people, not on the screen of law enforcement—how do you begin to try to prevent the radicalization that leads to terrorism?

LARRY SANCHEZ: Let me try to answer it this way. The key—the key to it was first to understand it and to start appreciating what most people would say would be non-criminal, would be innocuous, looking at behaviors that could easily be argued in a Western democracy, especially in the United States, to be protected by First and Fourth Amendment rights, but not to look at them in a vacuum, but to look across to them as potential precursors to terrorism. You know, New York City, of course, has created its own methods to be able to understand them better, to be able to identify them and to be able to make judgment calls if these are things that we need to worry about.

AARON MATÉ: That’s Larry Sanchez testifying in 2007. Matt Apuzzo?

MATT APUZZO: You know, one of—Adam and I have watched that clip and read that transcript, I don’t know, dozens of times, and one of our great regrets is that this happened in 2007, and nobody, not—and including us, said, "Hey, that guy just got up and said stuff that’s protected by the First Amendment shouldn’t be viewed as such and should be viewed as a potential precursor to terrorism, and that the NYPD has these sort of unspecified methods to decide how to ferret that out." I kind of watch that now, and I remember when that happened, and now I’m kind of like, "How the heck did I not—you know, how did the reporter in me not say, 'Geez, well, what are these methods?' Why the heck did it take four years before...?" You know, Adam and I look back now, and we’re like, "Geez, they told us they were doing this stuff. They told us. You know, they laid it all out there. And, you know, why weren’t we, as journalists, as a public, more skeptical, and why weren’t we willing to ask more questions?"

AMY GOODMAN: The FBI, Adam Goldman, and the NYPD were also competing with each other, so much so that they were going to sue each other. Can you explain what was happening?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, there was enormous friction between the FBI and the NYPD, mainly the NYPD Intelligence Division. And these two outfits would sometimes not work in harmony, mainly because Dave Cohen thought that the Intelligence Division and his detectives should go on their own. He didn’t want to be part of what they called groupthink. So, they said, "Look, we’ll go out, and we’re going to investigate, and if we find something, we’ll bring it to you." But the problem with doing is that sometimes these investigations were in late stages, and the FBI had concerns about what the NY—how they had developed these cases. And it flared up in the newspaper. And, you know, in the end, the FBI felt like, "Look, you just can’t go out and do your own thing. We’re going to stop this. We’ve got to work as a team. And that’s how you build—cooperation is how you build stronger cases."

AARON MATÉ: Matt, and then the spying, of course, also extended beyond the Muslim community. There’s reports in your book about spying on left-wing activists—

MATT APUZZO: Yeah.

AARON MATÉ: —on bicycle protests?

MATT APUZZO: Yeah, so, everybody remembers the bombing of the Times Square recruiting station, the pipe bomb. It didn’t—thankfully, didn’t injure anybody, but it was, you know, 3:00 in the morning, and it blew out a window. Well, in the aftermath of that, the NYPD—and we’ve seen this in the files—the NYPD did an investigation where they said, "You know, we’ve identified this blog that posts links to protests, news stories about protests and pictures of protests all around the world, confrontations, anarchist protests, radical protests, people throwing Molotov cocktails. That’s what this blog does." And they said, "You know, boy, that blog had a link up to a Fox News story about the Times Square bombing within three hours." And to the NYPD, the three hours seemed awfully quick. And so, they said, "Well, you know, maybe that suggests that these—that the guy who runs the blog knew in advance." And it turns out that at one point years earlier, one of the guys who ran the blog, this guy named Dennis Burke, you know, he had ties to Critical Mass, the guys who ride the bikes, you know, and Time’s Up New York, the protest group in New York City. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And Friends of Brad Will.

MATT APUZZO: And Friends of Brad Will, you know, the group that wants to get to the bottom of the death of an American journalist in Mexico. So, they actually open an investigation based on those facts. They open an investigation not only into Burke, but also into his associates in these other groups. And so, they infiltrated the Time’s Up guys, the Critical Mass guys, the Friends of Brad Will. They actually sent an undercover officer as part of this investigation out to the People’s Summit in New Orleans, which is this group of sort of anti-globalization groups, and the NYPD was there. And because of this investigation into the bombing, they actually put into files people who were organized, labor organizing for nannies, people who were talking about Palestinian conflict with the Israelis, people who were writing newsletters from sort of left-wing organizations—this stuff that had no connection—nobody believed there was any connection to the bombing, but it just shows you how this stuff sort of spirals away from its central focus.

AMY GOODMAN: Linda Sarsour, can you talk about, as you’re with the Arab American Association of New York, how the investigations that the NYPD was conducting, that Adam and Matt are describing, affected you and your community?

LINDA SARSOUR: So, Adam and Matt basically confirmed everything that our community already knew was happening, at least since immediately after 9/11. And the terrorist enterprise investigations that you heard also included, I believe, my organization. And what the NYPD wanted to do to my organization—they clearly laid this out in a secret document—is they wanted to recruit a confidential informant to sit on my board. So not only were they creating listening posts and going into our restaurants, coming to our events, coming—acting as clients in our organizations, they wanted to actually have someone who would have—who would be a deciding figure on my board. They’d have access to donors, access to information, access to financial information. And I think that the—we keep learning that the program is just more outrageous.

And what it does is it creates psychological warfare in our community. How am I supposed to know if the NYPD was successful in that endeavor? That’s number one. Number two is, the community right now is in a position where, how do we even know the guy next to us that’s praying at the mosque or the guy at the restaurant that’s like trying to open a conversation with us about something that’s happening in Egypt, for example—and for those people who know Arabs, particularly, we love to talk about politics. And a lot of us and a lot of our families came to the United States so we could have a place to practice our religion freely, to have our own political views. And now that we know that the NYPD wants to hear what our sentiment is, that’s—people probably don’t want to share their sentiment.

And the most disturbing of all is our Muslim student associations, who are calling us to consult about how political should their events be. Now, when I was in college, I wanted my events to be as political as possible. And if they weren’t, I wanted to make the—I wanted to figure out how to make them controversial. And the fact that our students feel like they can’t do that because there are going to be NYPD informants, because they can be taken out of context, and because they think something like what happened to Fahad Hashmi is going to happen to them, I think is a valid concern for them to have. So, I’m a New Yorker, and I hope other New Yorkers are outraged to know that the New York Police Department is spying on innocent Americans in their neighborhood.

And the last point I want to make is that these terrorist investigations, what happens is, is that if they open one, anyone who comes into that facility that’s under investigation is subject to that investigation. So, if my organization had this terrorist enterprise investigation, that means every client, every staff member, every family member, every vendor that we work with, is a subject to this investigation by the New York Police Department.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the NYPD soccer league.

LINDA SARSOUR: A program that the NYPD touts as a community outreach program, and something that we believed as a community we were involved in because we wanted to get kids off the street, we wanted kids to play sports, and it was organized sports competition between kids from different boroughs. I mean, it was fun. We joined as the Arab American Association of New York. We had a team, Brooklyn United. In 2009, we beat the Turks from Queens, and it was great, and it was fun, and we had a—we have a huge trophy from the New York Police Department.

What we learned later through secret documents is that the New York Police Department was using a sports league—now, imagine that your child is a part of this league and is being spied on by the New York Police Department. And what the New York Police Department did is they actually mapped out for you two different documents. One was, where do the South Asians play cricket and watch cricket, and where do the Arabs play soccer and watch soccer? For those of you that know soccer, Arabs are not the only ones that play soccer, definitely not in New York City anyway.

So I feel—I feel that the information just gets more outrageous, that, you know, even something as simple as sports, as playing soccer, is something that’s under the terrain of the New York Police Department, that our kids were subject to intelligence gathering and spying by the New York Police Department, when all they wanted to do was beat some people or some other kids in another borough. And I think our kids right now are like—you know, their families are like, "What’s this?" And I’m—you know, how am I supposed to explain to them that I didn’t know, that I was not—you know, had no intention of subjecting their children to intelligence gathering by the New York Police Department? So I personally get put in a situation that Commissioner Kelly and his people put us in. And actually, the Arab officers who work in the Community Affairs Department, I don’t know if they knew, but if they did know, shame on them for allowing us to be a part of something where they knew had other ulterior motives.

AARON MATÉ: Now, Linda, here in New York, there’s obviously a lot of public protest against stop-and-frisk. How has it been to organize resistance to this spying on your community? What are you finding in terms of the public’s reception to this program?

LINDA SARSOUR: You know, in New York right now—and I think in the country as a whole—I think that you’ll find it’s more likely for people to say, "Oh, stopping 685,000 blacks and Latino young people, that’s a little racist. You know, that’s kind of a little too much." And I think more—we’re finding more people. And I’m part of the stop-and-frisk movement as a person who’s not black or Latino. So I’ve seen that sentiment. But with the spying, it’s been hard to get people to understand that it’s the same thing. They’re both discriminatory policies that target communities of color, no matter what way somebody tries to explain it to me.

The problem with our movement is that it’s framed in the sense of personal security, so people are like, "Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the problem? What’s this inconvenience of some guy that listens to, like, your conversations?" And I think that’s where the fundamental principles of who we are as Americans and what our rights are, right to privacy—like, I don’t—I shouldn’t have to worry about working in an organization that has—that’s infiltrated by the New York Police Department. I hope no one else has to worry about that. But it’s been a little difficult for us to organize around this, but continue to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to MSNBC last month, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the report by our guests, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, that the NYPD has labeled mosques as terrorist organizations. Kelly insisted the NYPD’s operations are legal.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY: I haven’t seen the story, but they’re hyping a book that’s coming out next week. Actually, the book is based on a compilation of about 50 articles that two AP reporters did on the department. If it’s a reflection of the articles, then the book will be a fair amount of fiction. It will be half-truths. It will be lots of quotes from unnamed sources. And our sin is to have the temerity, the chutzpah, to go into the federal government’s territory of counterterrorism and trying to protect this city by supplementing what the federal government has done.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You do agree that entire mosques should not be labeled terrorist organizations, right?

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY: Absolutely, of course, of course.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: OK. Let’s—

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY: And again, we do—we do according to the law. What we’re investigating and how we investigate is done pursuant to a federal judge’s direction.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is reportedly one of the people being considered to head the Department of Homeland Security. Adam Goldman, there was a lot there, accusations that your reports are fiction and based on unnamed sources. Go ahead.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, one of the things we tried to do with this book, that the NYPD doesn’t do, is we tried to be incredibly transparent. If Ray Kelly gets the chance, he can read the book. He’ll find that many people spoke on the record about what the NYPD was doing, named individuals, including Hector Berdecia who ran the Demographics Unit. Another thing we tried to do was endnote all these secret documents that were leaked to us, so the reader themselves can go and look at the endnote and then go to our website, enemieswithinbook.com, and read the secret files themself and come to their own conclusions. So we lay all that out and in an effort to be completely transparent. The book is—the book is, as The Wall Street Journal said, assiduously reported.

The other point I’d like to make about Ray’s comments is that he—you know, he won’t engage with us on the book, and he’s never engaged with us, either on the book or our reporting. And Matt and I went to great lengths in the book to make a good case for why the NYPD felt like they needed these programs in the aftermath of 9/11.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the head of the Demographics Unit, who then came to be completely disturbed about what his unit was doing.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was a guy. He was a legendary narcotics detective. I mean, he was taking down drug dealers, taking guns off the streets. He was also a military reservist. And—

AMY GOODMAN: His name?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Hector Berdecia. And after 9/11, he spent time in Iraq, and he was there post-invasion. And he came back to New York, and they offered him this job to run this secretive unit that he was unfamiliar with. And he took this job. And he felt—he felt that, you know, hey, there are bad guys in New York, there are bad guys in New York, there’s al-Qaeda in New York, and he believed it. As he, himself, had said, he sort of drank the Kool-Aid. And as he went on running this unit, he began to get frustrated, and he began to see that, you know, he had really talented detectives, right, with really great language skills, right, and they weren’t making any cases. You know, it was just an effective way—it’s more about effectiveness: Is this an effective way to use resources of talented police investigators? You know, these were guys who were used to putting bad guys in jail, right? Taking drugs off the streets, taking guns off the streets. I mean, guns kill people, OK. And he, instead, was writing intelligence reports about where—what people think of the State of the Union address. And eventually he got—I think he got frustrated and disillusioned with the program. And—

AARON MATÉ: Matt, can you talk about the issue of oversight? Well, first of all, I mean, this raises a lot of civil rights issues. Has there been a response from the White House or from the Justice Department? And also, and then talk about what kind of oversight exists here in the city.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, and what—is this happening now?

MATT APUZZO: Yeah, everything that we talk about in the book, with the exception of a few sort of ancillary programs, but the core of the book, to our knowledge, is still happening now. It’s fascinating, the issue of oversight. You know, the NYPD gets money from the City Council every year, obviously. The City Council never held a hearing to actually look into the Intelligence Division’s programs. They were never—they’ve never been subjected to an audit. The Intelligence Division gets money from the White House under a drug-trafficking grant. The White House says, "We have no—we don’t have any—we don’t know what the money is used for. You can’t hold us to account for what the NYPD does with our money." Congress has funded these programs. They don’t know. They’re not equipped to know. They don’t ask. Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have spent, you know, a billion, $2 billion at the NYPD since 9/11. They say they don’t know what goes on, and the way the grants are set up, they don’t have the ability to know. There is essentially no outside oversight at the NYPD Intelligence Division.

The programs are opened in house. They don’t have to be approved by a judge. They don’t have to be approved by a prosecutor. Kelly likes to talk about how, you know, these—we have all the federal prosecutors and the district attorney, but they don’t actually decide when the Intel Division can open a case. So, there isn’t—there isn’t the kind of outside review that you would see at the CIA or at the FBI. And, you know what? From our standpoint, the lack of—the lack of transparency, the fact that this is all done in secret, with no public airing, was really what drove us to write this book, because you can’t—you know, people can’t give their informed consent to a program that they don’t know exists, they don’t know what they’re giving up, or they don’t know what they’re getting in exchange.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, as we come to the end of this conversation, Najibullah Zazi, of course, a key figure in your book?

MATT APUZZO: Sure, yeah. The book, in its essence, is a thriller book. I mean, it’s a chase. This is essentially 48 hours inside New York City as the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States tries to unravel the most serious al-Qaeda plot since 9/11 inside the United States—three young men, led by Najibullah Zazi, these guys from New York, with a bomb, bearing down on the New York City subways. I mean, had this been successful, this would have caused hundreds, if not thousands, of fatalities. And we take a real hard look, real critical look, or we think a real thorough look, at what—at what works and what doesn’t. And what we found is that every opportunity that Zazi interacts with these intelligence programs of the NYPD Intelligence Division, the PD misses him.

AARON MATÉ: They were in his neighborhood.

MATT APUZZO: They were in his neighborhood. They were in his mosque. They had turned his imam into a cooperative. They had an undercover in his mosque. They were in his co-conspirator student group. They were in all the restaurants in his neighborhood. They were in the travel agency where he bought tickets to go to Pakistan, the train. This was not a failure of, you know, resources and manpower.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened?

MATT APUZZO: Well, they didn’t—they missed him. Well, you have to read the book to find out how they stop him, come on! But they—the subways don’t blow up, so the real rush is, you know, good collaboration, good cooperation is what saves the day.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Adam, what most surprised you in doing this series of articles? You did scores of articles, and of course the book is more than the compilation of the articles.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Yeah, I think what most surprised us is while we were doing the series that led to the Pulitzer, we knew they were in the mosques, and we knew they were—you know, they had informants in the mosques, they had undercovers in the mosques. And Ray had said, "Well, we’re just following leads, and this is all legal." That’s been Ray’s—that’s Ray’s phrase, right? "It’s all legal." And we didn’t really didn’t understand, well, how is this all legal. How can you just be in a mosque?

AMY GOODMAN: People might be surprised even that the CIA is involved with local surveillance.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Right, right. And then, while we were reporting at the book, we obtained documents that showed, well, this is how they are doing it. We learned about the terrorism enterprise investigation. And so, now, holistically, we understood, oh, right, well, so they open this investigation on sometimes reed-thin suspicions, and they use that to gather intelligence on these mosques, the leadership of the mosques, for years and years and years and years and years. They never made a terrorism enterprise case. And by designating the mosque a terrorism enterprise, they could send in their informants, undercovers. You now, they send in people with spy gadgets, listening devices in their watches, in their key fobs. And that was—that was really extraordinary. I want to make—I want to make a point, one last point, about Ray and why we wrote the—

AMY GOODMAN: Ray Kelly, the commissioner of the—

ADAM GOLDMAN: Ray Kelly, right, the commissioner, and why we wrote this book. You know, we’re not questioning Ray Kelly’s patriotism, and we’re not questioning his authority as police chief to keep this city better. I guess what we’re doing is—and maybe to use one of Ray’s words—it’s chutzpah. I guess we have the chutzpah to ask questions about what the police department is doing and whether these tactics work.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we will continue to talk to you, as you continue to uncover what is taking place. I want to thank you both for being with us, and congratulations on your Pulitzer for your series of articles. The new book is Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. And thank you so much, Linda Sarsour, Arab American Association of New York and the National Network for Arab American Communities.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we look at a terrorist attack that occurred 50 years ago this past Sunday. It was September 15, 1963, and it happened in a Birmingham Baptist church. Four little girls were the fatalities. We’re going to speak with the fifth, who didn’t die but lost her eye. We’ll go to Birmingham, Alabama. Stay with us.

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