In the years after the attacks on September 11th, 2001, the NYPD had at least four "embedded" CIA officers in their midst. And because at least one of the officers was on unpaid leave at the time, the officer was able to bypass the standing prohibition against domestic spying for the agency and help conduct surveillance for the police force. In his words, he had "no limitations."
The news comes from a FOIA request by the New York Times for a 2011 review by the CIA's inspector general of the embedded analysts. The report, published Wednesday by the paper, criticized the program's “irregular personnel practice," "inadequate direction and control,” and risks posed to the agency's practice and reputation. The existence of the review is public knowledge — it followed the Pulitzer-winning series of reports on NYPD spying on Muslims, which reported on the CIA's assistance to the NYPD, and vice versa:
"Though the CIA is prohibited from collecting intelligence domestically, the wall between domestic and foreign operations became more porous. Intelligence gathered by the NYPD, with CIA officer Sanchez overseeing collection, was often passed to the CIA in informal conversations and through unofficial channels, a former official involved in that process said. By design, the NYPD was looking more and more like a domestic CIA."
As the Times notes, the public statement on the CIA's review of the program stated that no laws had been broken. But the actual document shows that the agency had a much more mixed response to the program, and reveals more details on how the program worked:
"The report shows that the first of the four embedded agency officers began as an adviser in 2002 and went on an unpaid leave from the agency from 2004 to 2009. During that latter period, it said, he participated in — and directed — “N.Y.P.D. investigations, operations, and surveillance activities directed at U.S. persons and non-U.S. persons.”
C.I.A. lawyers signed off on the arrangement because the officer was on a “leave without pay” status at the agency and was “acting in a personal capacity and not subject to C.I.A. direction.” As a result, the official “did not consider himself an agency officer and believed he had ‘no limitations’ as far as what he could or could not do,” the report said."
Earlier this month, the ACLU sued the NYPD over the domestic spying program, which targeted Muslims. Meanwhile, the CIA itself isn't having the best news day either — but at least the Times story wasn't the result of a leak.