'Enemies Within' Examines Toll of Surveillance on Privacy Rights

Thursday, 05 Sep 2013 01:52 PM

By Christiana Lilly and John Bachman

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Matt Apuzzo, co-author of the book "Enemies Within," tells Newsmax that the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism surveillance programs are troublesome and add to the ongoing debate about government intrusion.

Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, both Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, co-wrote "Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America." The book delves into the NYPD's counterterrorism efforts and the toll it may taken on the privacy rights of ordinary American citizens.

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"This isn't a story about, oh look, the NYPD's violating the law. This is again to parallel to the NSA debate that's going on in Washington. This is a book that talks about where we are, what we've made legal, what we've accepted as a society, what we've allowed our government to do to its own people. That's an important discussion to have," Apuzzo said.

The book is published at a time when Americans are distrustful of their government following a number of scandals, including the disclosure of National Security Agency's top secret PRISM phone and Internet data collection program.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended his department's surveillance programs, saying they have produced results. But Apuzzo disputes Kelly's assessment.

Apuzzo cited a 2012 story in ProPublica claiming the NYPD "overstated" and "exaggerated" their claim that they have stopped 14 terrorist plots since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks due to surveillance programs.

"There have been a number of [plots], some extremely legitimate and serious like the plot to bomb Times Square, which only failed because he was a bad bomb maker, not because of anything the federal government or the NYPD did," Apuzzo said.

One of the most notable cases handled by NYPD's counterterrorism unit was the investigation of Najibullah Zazi, considered the single greatest al-Qaida threat since 9/11. He had plans to detonate bombs in the New York City subway system in 2009. The police and the CIA infiltrated his mosque and collected data on the plot. Zazi was arrested after he was tipped off about the surveillance.

Apuzzo said the investigation was done at a cost. He said files were created on "American citizens who had just no connections to terrorism whatsoever."

"There's not a lot of oversight and they're spending a lot of money, they're monitoring a lot of people, a lot of American citizens, and what are we getting for that? And so that's kind of what our book raises," Apuzzo said.

The author also claimed that the New York City Council, Congress, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security, are blindly throwing money into the police counterterrorism programs but "can't even tell you how many dollars they've spent and what it's been used for.

"You're talking about this incredibly large, intrusive government agency that operates with almost no independent, outside oversight."

"We interviewed many, many men and women from the NYPD and the NYPD Intelligence Division, specifically, and they're really good, dedicated people who want to keep the city safe," Apuzzo continued. "But the way the programs have been built here, this idea of putting people in plain clothes and just sort of going and hanging out in cafes, and hanging out in mosques, and sort of keeping tabs on what's being said and monitoring rhetoric, that's really complicated."

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