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NYPD: Branch in Israel is old news

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/16/2013, 4:34 p.m.
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The New York Police Department's reach is international, but the department says that reach isn't anything new.

According to Middle East-based website Al-Monitor, the NYPD has officially opened a branch in Israel's Sharon District Police headquarters in Kfar Saba. The department chose veteran NYPD Detective Charlie Ben-Naim to lead the new branch.

Ben-Naim is a former Israeli who went to study in New York and eventually married a local city resident before joining the local police force. He's been involved in extraditing criminals, transmitting intelligence and providing assistance in locating missing persons in Israel and the United States.

However, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told the AmNews the NYPD presence abroad isn't a new thing.

"It's old news," Browne said. "At the invitation of the foreign countries involved, the NYPD assigned a detective to Israel seven years ago and detectives to cities in 10 other foreign countries, including Canada, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Jordan, Singapore and England."

"Further, FBI Director Robert Mueller has publicly supported the NYPD overseas liaison program as an important element in the NYPD's continuing efforts to prevent another terrorist attack against New York City," Browne concluded. The NYPD stationed officers in London, Lyon, Hamburg, Toronto and Tel Aviv at several points the past decade.

With the NYPD involved in counter-terrorism activities, opening a branch in Israel seems like the logical choice if you're Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, but what about domestic issues the Police Department has had regarding "anti-terrorist" activities?

The AmNews recently reported that court testimony released by the New York Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights attorneys showed that a member of the NYPD admitted to finding no leads after six years of surveillance on Muslims in the tristate area. All of this comes on the back of last year's Associated Press reports about the NYPD spying on Muslims.

However, Browne told the AmNews last month that the AP's accusations are false.

"The AP's premise that the Demographic Unit was used for wholesale spying on Muslims, using undercover officers and informants to do so, was false," Browne said back in August. "The small unit, about eight people, surveyed places a terrorist might go to use a foreign-language Internet cafe, get a job off the books, find a place to stay, etc. Neither confidential informants nor undercover officers were assigned to the Demographics Unit. It did not conduct investigations."

The NYPD has built, with the assistance of the CIA, counter-terrorist branches of its department to conduct investigations and carry out spy missions of alleged terrorists or monitor terrorist activity. The CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans, but the New York City Council and the federal government have never been told what exactly is going on with the NYPD's operations. The City Council finances the department, and several reports have stated that the feds have given over $1 billion to the NYPD since Sept. 11, 2001.

Officials from the FBI have raised concerns about NYPD activities in the past.