(CNSNews.com) – John Miller, deputy commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism for the New York City Police Department, told Congress Wednesday that the NYPD operates on information, behavior and actions in its counterterrorism efforts and does not place spies in the Muslim community to watch people engaged in “constitutionally protected activities.”
“We operate under the Andrew guidelines, and the Andrew guidelines specifically say that we operate on information, on behavior, on actions, but we do not place undercovers or spies or people into the community to watch people who are engaged in completely constitutionally protected activities – whether that’s at a restaurant, a house of worship, or a meeting,” Miller said.
At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on local law enforcement counterterrorism efforts, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) drew a parallel between counterterrorism efforts today and law enforcement efforts in going after the Mafia.
“I really wouldn’t want this to get caught up in semantics, but the ranking member, if we use terms like profiling or whatever, there’s also good police work though, and you and I are old enough to remember … that when they were going after the mafia in New York, the FBI or the NYPD were in the Italian American community, not because they didn’t trust Italian Americans,” King said. “They knew that’s where the threat was coming from.
“Also, when they were going after the Westies – whether it was Hell’s Kitchen or every bar in the west side of Manhattan, there were police undercovers, there were FBI undercovers to try to get information,” King said, referring to an Irish-American New York gang. “And as an Irish American, I didn’t consider that profiling. I mean that’s where the threat was coming from.
“It was coming from the Irish American communities – certain elements of it, even though 98-99 percent are law-abiding,” he said.
“I just think in New York where you have a number of Muslim communities and neighborhoods … and there are, the overwhelming majority are cooperating and supportive, but if there is going to be something happening, I don’t see how it’s considered unconstitutional or bad police work to have undercovers, to have informers, the same that’s done when you’re tracking down any other type of crime where it’s coming from a particular community or organization,” he added.
“We operate under the Andrew guidelines, and the Andrew guidelines specifically say that we operate on information, on behavior, on actions, but we do not place undercovers or spies or people into the community to watch people who are engaged in completely constitutionally protected activities – whether that’s at a restaurant, a house of worship, or a meeting,” said Miller.
“We’re also not lacking for business. I think Representative King, and there’s very few in Congress who know as much about this as you do, given the time that you’ve spent in this field, that in the 15 years since 9/11, through every suspicious encounter that’s been reported, we have amassed a large number of names, incidents, reports, and when they’re filed away as you’ve seen the other day or in the Orlando case or you can pick your case, there’s two schools of thought on that,” said Miller.
“One is, well if you already knew about this person, why weren’t they stopped? That is one that often doesn’t consider the thresholds that we have to operate under,” he said.
“The other is that if you have that many contacts with that many people over that period of time, it’s increasingly likely that the next time something happens, it’s gonna involve somebody that you knew, heard about, investigated, bumped, or otherwise checked out,” Miller added.
“Now, that’s a good thing, in that when you’re assessing who to look at first and they come up in those records, it gives you a basis to go forward. Well, it’s also a liability in that people have somewhat of a misconception about our ability to put someone under surveillance, leave them there indefinitely,” he said.
Miller defended the police department’s handling of Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was charged with planting bombs in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, injuring at least 29 people.
According to Fox News, Rahami’s father contacted the FBI in 2014 to report a violent family incident. Mohammad told the FBI at the time that his son was a terrorist, may have been trying to obtain explosives, and was “associating with bad people,” according to an FBI statement released Tuesday. According to the FBI, Mohammad eventually recanted his statement, and no evidence was found through interviews and database checks that Rahami had been radicalized.
“In the case of the New York case, these were contacts that happened in 2014 with no demonstrable thing that happened in between that time and this time,” Miller said, adding that “it’s not realistic to say every time someone comes on the radar, you’re gonna be able to follow them or their friends and associates for an extended period of time while you have investigations that are on the front burner involving people who are demonstrably dangerous.”
“Would it violate any guidelines with Rahami - and we’re assuming a hypothetical here - if there are at least I believe two encounters with the FBI – one because of the travel, one because of the assault against family members and his father saying he was a terrorist, for the local police to be told about that so that they would be alert to anything else they might here?” King asked.
“I’m not saying any warrantless search. I’m not saying hounding the guy, but I’m just saying for the street cop to say, keep your eyes and ears open on this guy in case you hear something about him that he would be at a different level than just the ordinary citizen walking down the street,” King added.
“Based on my understanding of our guidelines, it wouldn’t. Based on my recollection of the attorney general guidelines and the FBI’s domestic intelligence operations guide, I don’t believe it would either,” Miller responded.
“I just want to get that on the record,” King said, “because of many of the unfair allegations that have been made against the NYPD over the years from certain organizations and from the media.”