NYPD Spying Led to Lunches, Not Terror Leads

Adam Martin
NYPD Spying Led to Lunches, Not Terror Leads

OK, so the New York Police Department's potentially civil-rights-violating program of spying on Muslims didn't generate any terrorism leads, the deputy chief who ran it testified in June, but it did have some perks. One that caught our attention, courtesy of a tweet from Mother Jones's Adam Serwer: Officers paid multiple visits to some sites they were monitoring because they liked the food.

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The Associated Press' Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who won a Pulitzer for their reporting on the NYPD spying program, reported Tuesday's story from a deposition given by Assistant Chief Thomas Galati on June 28 as part of a lawsuit called the Handschu case, which challenges police surveillance. In his deposition, Galati explained some of the commonplace activities that could trigger police surveillance, such as people speaking Urdu together, or having a conversation in a Lebanese cafe, Goldman and Apuzzo reported. But the testimony, which Apuzzo shared in full (PDF) via Twitter, carried some more trivial details about the spying program that also shed light on its arbitrariness. For example, one thing that could keep police coming back to a site they were monitoring was the possibility of a good meal, Galati said.

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The surveillance program as a whole is pretty disturbing from a civil liberties point of view, but this little detail is kind of great because not only does it illustrate some arbitrariness in how police relate to their surveillance targets, it also humanizes the officers. After all, we all have to eat, and given the choice wouldn't you also want to pay more work-related visits to a place where you could get a decent meal?