Is the CIA using the LAPD to spy on citizens?

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A week after the Associated Press reported that the CIA’s general counsel never approved sending a veteran agent to assist New York’s police department in setting up a domestic spying program, former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton made supportive comments about the program and implicated the LAPD in collaborating with the CIA on similar schemes.

“In dealing with information intelligence as it relates to terrorism, the CIA has a lot of information that is appropriate for use by American police forces,” Bratton said Tuesday.

He added:

“So what you really do need is a cohesive exchange of information — always within the law, and if you recall the law actually helped to create the 9/11 incident, when the law prohibited the CIA and the FBI from exchanging information.”

When pressed on whether he collaborated with the CIA during his tenure as LA police chief, Bratton said:

“We had interactions with the CIA in the sense of meeting with them from time to time, certainly, just in order to make them aware of our capabilities and our needs. There is nothing that precludes that and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Actually, if the LA collaboration turns out to be as “murky” as the NY operation, which was aimed at collecting information on Muslim American citizens, then there just might be something illegal about it.

A 1981 presidential directive (Executive Order 12333) permits the CIA to provide “specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel” to local law enforcement agencies but only when the CIA’s top lawyer approves a set of rules pertaining to the arrangement that are spelled out in writing beforehand. The order still abides a ban on domestic spying by the CIA.

The AP is now reporting that, according to multiple intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, rules were not put into writing and the CIA’s top lawyer did not sign off on a 2002 action by then-CIA director George Tenet to send veteran agent Lawrence Sanchez to set up “spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.”

The AP says that a series of their own investigative reports since August of last year have revealed that “the NYPD developed spying programs that monitored every aspect of Muslim life and built databases on where innocent Muslims eat, shop, work and pray” — all with the CIA’s help. The report continues, “Plainclothes officers monitored conversations in Muslim neighborhoods and wrote daily reports about what they heard.”

In September, the newly appointed CIA Director David Petraeus launched an internal probe into whether or not the agency broke the ban on domestic spying in regards to its relationship with the NYPD. The inspector general eventually concluded that there was no wrongdoing.

According to the latest AP report, Sanchez left the department in late 2010 but was replaced by a clandestine CIA operative whose role at the NYPD remains unclear.

“Officially, he is there on a sabbatical to observe the NYPD’s management. [Police Chief] Kelly said the operative provides the NYPD with foreign intelligence. CIA Director David Petraeus described him as an adviser. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described him to Congress as an analyst, then Clapper’s office acknowledged that was incorrect.”

Clapper also acknowledged that “it did not look good for the CIA to be involved in any city police department.”