How I Stopped Worrying about Civil Liberties and Learned to Love the CIA/NYPD Fusion Center, Update 1, 2

Posted on August 27, 2011


Jeffrey Goldberg continues his mission to make people wonder how he got/keeps his job. Today he dissects an Associated Press article that reveals a startling relationship between NYPD and the CIA in a program that relies on profiling Muslim communities. In his analysis, Goldberg reveals a stunning laziness, and ignorance of the concept and purpose of civil liberties: Goldberg confines his criticism to the introductory paragraphs [perhaps because he didn’t read the whole article], to which he remarks:

Two aspects of these opening paragraphs stood out to me. The story asserts that these targeting programs would run afoul of civil liberties rules if they were practiced by the federal government. But they’re not practiced by the federal government. The city obviously has its own, vetted-by-lawyers rules governing these programs, which, I might add, are overseen by a mayor who is a champion of Muslim-American equality, and a police commissioner who is  sensitive to civil liberties concerns.

Yes, the lede does say that the program would “run afoul of civil liberties if [it] were practiced by the federal government”. That is because the federal government has ostensibly strict rules and governance [I have to emphasize ostensibly] about how its policing and surveillance powers are to be used. As the article notes in later paragraphs, the Justice Department does have the capacity to investigate local police forces for civil rights abuses, as the Holder Justice Department did recently in several metropolitan areas. And Goldberg’s suggestion that everyone relax because the mayor and police commissioner are alright dudes, is simply laughable on its face. This champion of Muslim-American equality forced Debbie Almontaser out of her position at the Khalil Gibran Academy because of a pro-Palestinian statement she was associated with. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that she had been discriminated against by Bloomberg’s Department of Education which “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel”.

But in any case, it’s simply ludicrous to make the kind of remark Goldberg does. That one should simply trust our benevolent leaders. The most fundamental unit of meaning behind the concept of civil liberties, is that leaders cannot be simply trusted because they have an honest face, or have said some nice things about certain groups in the past. Neither are we to let go of our attachment to civil liberties because “most Americans” believe that processes that suspend the civil liberties of certain groups are fine as long as they are carried out by “prudent” people in city governments. It may be news to Golberg, but the constitution protects freedom at the city level, not just the at the level of federal government.


Goldberg responds to critics, who like me, and almost anyone who does actually care about civil liberties, called him on his asinine plea to give the Bloomberg administration and NYPD faith-based agency to do what they like. Though it seemed unlikely that Goldberg could top his absurd opinion about the NYPD, he outdoes himself in royal fashion:

On another issue raised by a couple of readers — the immateriality, in my eyes, of the claim that the federal government is disallowed from using the techniques employed by the NYPD — my thinking on this is (partially) as follows: New York City is a much-more liberal place than the country as a whole, and is more attuned to civil liberties issues than either the Bush or the Obama administrations (history will remember Obama in this context for maintaining many of Bush’s counterterror programs he once criticized). I have a certain amount of faith that the NYPD isn’t overstepping its bounds in this matter, because of the city government’s baseline level of civil liberties sensitivity, and because I’m somewhat familiar with the way these programs are vetted in New York, and the vetting is fairly rigorous. It is also true that I tend to give the NYPD a bit more slack than other agencies, because of the extraordinary nature of the threats against the city, and, obviously, because the vast majority of New Yorkers, who experienced 9/11 directly, deserve (and demand) the protection the NYPD is trying to provide.

Faith. At least he’s honest. Those who rely on fact, however, are less hopeful. Even the NYPD acknowledges that it racially profiles, and that it has no basis for that profiling. As a RAND corporation representative told NPR:

Well, the question was whether there’s evidence of racially-biased policing. And the big question that comes up is in fact 90 percent of the stops involved people that were non-white. About 55 percent of those stopped in 2006 were black. And I think the big concern is when you compare that to the race distribution of the city, there is only about 25 percent black, so that immediately kind of generates concerns.

This is the police force that Goldberg has placed his complete faith in to work as an adjunct of the CIA. Just to be clear racial profiling is one of the most patently obvious civil liberties issues. Maybe its time Jeff looked up the term “civil liberties”. He might find that he doesn’t actually know what the term means, and that he is an antagonist to the concept, rather than the supporter he believed himself to be.

Update 2:

Another example of the trouble-free NYPD Goldberg knows and loves. During the Caribbean Day Parade today, Jumaane D. Williams, a Brooklyn area City Councilperson, was thrown to the ground and handcuffed when police didn’t believe he was a city official. Despite the fact that Williams was wearing a badge identifying his position, and that heh had been given permission to access the area by a high ranking officer, Williams was treated…well, he was treated like thousands of other people of color, immigrants and African Americans are on a daily basis by the NYPD. Hurray, Goldberg, my hero.