Spies in New Brunswick

Who can feel safe or free with government agents secretly and unlawfully monitoring them?

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On June 2, 2009, a janitor in an office building in New Brunswick, N.J., noticed what he thought was terrorist-related literature and sophisticated surveillance equipment in an office he had been assigned to clean. He told his boss, who called the local police, who notified the FBI. Later in the day, the FBI and the New Brunswick police broke into the office and discovered five men busily operating the equipment. Four of the men were police officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the fifth was a CIA agent.

The conundrum faced by all of these public servants soon became apparent. Who should arrest whom?

Should the FBI agents and the local cops arrest the NYPD and the CIA agent for violating the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions, both of which prohibit searches and seizures without search warrants, and for violating federal and New Jersey laws against wiretapping and surveillance? Should the NYPD and the CIA agent arrest the FBI agents and the local cops for breaking and entering and obstructing a governmental function without a search warrant? Did the FBI and the local cops even have a search warrant? Was the NYPD/CIA surveillance a lawful governmental function?

No one at the scene of this unique encounter was arrested. In return for not becoming a defendant, everyone agreed not to become a complainant. The FBI and the New Brunswick police went home, and the NYPD cops and their CIA mentor went back to their surveillance—even though everyone in that office had sworn the same oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the laws written pursuant to it.

Among those laws are the state statutes that limit the authority and jurisdiction of local cops to the municipality that employs them, and the federal statutes that limit the legal ability of CIA agents to steal secrets only from foreigners outside the U.S. Stated differently, the NYPD has no authority or jurisdiction to engage in surveillance in New Jersey, and the CIA has no authority or jurisdiction to engage in surveillance in the U.S.

Nevertheless, we now know from the candid admissions last week of NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly that the NYPD has been spying without search warrants on Muslim groups in New Jersey and elsewhere for 10 years. Former New Jersey acting governor and current state Sen. Richard Codey recalls authorizing the NYPD—and not the CIA—to inspect railroads and ferries that travel back and forth between New Jersey and New York in 2005. He says he never authorized surveillance. No public official in New Jersey has come forward to acknowledge awareness of all this, and Kelly says the spying will continue. But he needs a search warrant.

Can the police spy on us? Only if they have probable cause to believe that criminal behavior is taking place and a search warrant signed by a judge. Short of probable cause about the very persons on whom they are spying, not about a group to which those persons belong by birth or by choice, the police may not lawfully spy, and judges will not sign search warrants without specific probable cause about specific persons. The specificity is required by the language of the Fourth Amendment. That language also guarantees that quintessentially American right—the right to be left alone—by establishing articulable suspicion as the linchpin of all police pursuit of anyone for anything, and probable cause as the trigger for search warrants.

Can the police choose a target upon whom to spy based on the target's religion? No. The courts have been clear that under no circumstances may religion lawfully be the sole or even the principal basis for surveillance. That's how World War II got started: German police targeted Jews because they were Jews, and for no legitimate law enforcement purpose and without probable cause.

Was the New Brunswick operation criminal? Yes, it was. It's not too late to charge the NYPD officers or the CIA agent in state or federal court for spying. It's also not too late to charge the FBI agents and the New Brunswick cops in state or federal court for failing to obtain a search warrant (if they didn't have one), and for malfeasance in office by not arresting the spies.

The sacrifice of liberty for safety is illusory. The liberty lost does not return. The safety gained is not real. Who in New Jersey voluntarily gave up his liberty? Who can feel safe or free with government agents secretly and unlawfully monitoring them? What is the reliability and vitality of constitutional guarantees if those in whose hands we repose them actively violate them? What religious group might law enforcement target next? How dangerous to personal freedom is a cabal of law enforcement when it looks the other way to avoid prosecuting its own?

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  1. “Later in the day, the FBI and the New Brunswick police broke into the office and discovered five men busily operating the equipment. Four of the men were police officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the fifth was a CIA agent.”

    Tragedy ensued? Damn, so close.

    1. No dog to shoot first.

    2. I think the fact that they all had a good chuckle and went about their illegal business constitutes a tragedy.

      A shootout with a half-dozen casualties would, in some ways, have been less of a tragedy.

      1. You’re tapdancing on the boundaries of disgustingcreaturehood.

        1. Yep. I really feel sick in that I can put myself right in the spot, figure out what was going through their minds, and imagine them bro-fiving each other.

        2. I’ll cross the boundary then.

          It would have been hilarious if the cops and feds had all shot each other dead in a hail of bullets so their criminal actions could have been exposed to all.

        3. What is more tragic, Tulpa, a society riven with gangs of jackboots using the latest technology to spy on disfavored (religious) groups, or a society where peace officers take their duty to the public seriously?

          I’m thinking its the former. In a society with the latter, the secret police in their illegal surveillance outpost would be a legitimate target for peace officers.

          1. Funny how my name never gets brought up in these discussions.

    3. Nothing else happened.

  2. It has always amazed me what people will put up with from cops just because they’re cops. Try anything like how they act back on the cops, and those same people will flip out.

    1. Cops are able to do their legitimate duties because nobody will interfere with them.

      Unfortunately this means that they can do things they are not supposed to do, and nobody will interfere with them.

    2. The people that you are amazed about are Americans: the most cowardly, law-abiding people that slither across the face of our planet.

      1. Tell me about it!

        1. Really. We’re more “rules following” than obedient.

          OK, we’re law-abiding, too…

          1. I know, rite! Canadians are such BADASS lawbreakers! Americans are pussies lol!

            1. See how uppity you get once ya been nuked, bitches.

  3. I doubt they argued about arresting each other. They probably all went to Scores.

    1. Just tap me on the head if I overstay my welcome.

  4. I’m sure New Yorkers feel a bit more paranoid than the rest of the country post-9/11. I understand that. But, it does not grant the powers-that-be in the city to shred the Constitution. It certainly does not grant their police powers outside their jurisdiction.

    Why is The Fat Man not going balls-out for Ray Kelly’s head on a plate here? The man ordered his goons to break NJ law in a directed assault on the civil rights on her people. It’s a winning argument every time, and with every group out there.

    And where is the ACLU coming down on this one? I’m not saying they’re silent, but I’ve yet to see them go apeshit, which is the proper response.

    1. Why is The Fat Man not going balls-out for Ray Kelly’s head on a plate here? The man ordered his goons to break NJ law in a directed assault on the civil rights on her people.

      Because a huge amount of NYPD cops live on the other side of the tunnel.[See: Cop Land]

      1. No, they don’t NYC doesn’t allow their cops to live in NJ.

        1. You’re saying Stallone lied!?!

          1. Hard to believe, I know.

        2. Right. And NYPD weren’t allowed to live on Long Island until 1958, but somehow my cop grandfather managed to get a house out there in 1953 and retain his job.

    2. Why is The Fat Man not going balls-out for Ray Kelly’s head on a plate here?

      Christie was formerly the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, so he’s lawn order and stuff, and will never go after another law enforcement agency for surveiling the ‘Terrorists’.

      1. I just hope it comes out that they were surveilling in Virginia as well. After the idiotic and misleading comments Ray Kelly and Bloomberg have been making about VA in their anti-gun rants lately, coupled with the fact that they admittedly ran operations down there in the past, there’d be a bench warrant put out for their arrest.

        So, please, please, please God. Let there be a secret NYPD operation in Virginia.

        1. It would be awesome if NJ or VA actually went after these fucknuggets, but I won’t hold my breath.

        2. If I was a Muslim in NYC, I’d probably phone up some friends in Virginia and work with the cops there to set up a sting. Bonus points if you can get grounds for an arrest warrant for Bloomberg too.

    3. “….it does not grant the powers-that-be in the city to shred the Constitution.”

      The fuck you say

  5. Nothing to hide?

    Nothing to fear!!

    TEAM RED FTW!

    Plus, since TEAM BLUE is in power, it’s cool on the left too now. Everybody wins! Who said washington can’t work together?!

      1. Damn, how’d you get me?

        Now Boehner’s not gonna cut me a check for this week.

    1. Nothing to hide?

      Nothing to fear!!

      It’s probably very un-libertarian of me, but I do agree with this stance. Granted, I’m grateful that the Constitution prohibits the police from ransacking my house whenever they please (my kids do that enough already). But if they want to tap my phone, they’re just going to be bored to tears. If they want to use cameras with facial recognition software when I’m out in public to see if I have outstanding warrants, they’ll be sorely disappointed by the results. I’m really a very boring kind of guy, nothing to see here, no reason to worry about who might see it.

      1. Cool. A federal agent will arrive to be stationed in your home shortly to ensure your kids are getting proper meals according to federal guidelines.

      2. There are so many laws out there that you probably commit several felonies on a daily basis and don’t even know it.

        This allows the police to single out people that they don’t like, and if they watch them long enough they can find some excuse to arrest them.

        1. Three Felonies a Day. How the feds target the innocent.

        2. The answer is to cull the code, not disrupt legitimate investigations.

          1. I would hope by “legitimate investigations,” you mean the ones that get the approval of a judge by way of a warrant, Tulpa.

          2. That code exists for a good reason, or it wouldn’t be there.

            The law is the law is the law is the law is the law is the law.

            1. I thought it was dunphy until I saw the capitalization.

              hth.

          3. The answer is to cull the code, not disrupt legitimate investigations.

            And, of course, legitimacy is determined by reference to the code.

            Nicely circular, like all ratcheting mechanisms.

      3. Except it’s BS. Dishonest cops, DAs, and judges mean you have plenty to fear. See The Thin Blue Line for just one example. Also, the Innocence Project.

      4. Clearly you’re a man of principle.

        /sarc

      5. I dont have anything to worry about because I have nothing to hide and you shouldnt either

        1. So, care for a tax audit, Dave?

        2. It’s not about hiding or not hinding anything, it’s about the government breaking their own laws. The CIA is forbidden by law to operate on US soil. Cops are required to get search warrents, and oh yah, stay in their own fucking jurisdiction (New Jersey != New York City). If the government isn’t even going to try and pretend to follow their own laws anymore than this country is no longer a “free” country. I wouldn’t that would be a difficult concept to grasp, but I guess I was wrong.

          1. Loki…let me get this straight. You think that when government agents do something that would get you thrown in prison they are breaking the law? Pretend to follow their own laws? You think those are for them?

            1. Laws are for the little people.

            2. I knwo, silly me. It’s almost like I’m some kind of wide eyed idealist or something.

          2. Cops don’t have to stay in their own jurisdiction. They just don’t have the authority to act coercively without permission from the jurisdiction they’re operating in.

            1. That’s incorrect, Tulpa. At least when they cross state lines, as the laws of New York do not apply outside of the state of NY.*

              You’re just wrong here.

              *Let alone when they are involved in a fishing expedition as opposed to a warranted and legitimate investigation for a specific crime.

      6. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear is the best way to marginalize authoriarian mission creep.

        One day we will realize Orwell’s big brother is largely reality and wonder how we let it get there. The above line of thinking will be the reason society slept as government built.

        1. One day

          Unfortunately, that day should have come years ago.

      7. I try to stay as squeaky clean as I can because it keeps me from attracting any unwanted attention. The BS ‘nothing to hide nothing to fear’ line only works to that extent. They wont aim at you if they cant see you.

        However, I am not so naive to think that it can never happen or that being squeaky clean would work in any way to my advantage.

        It has also occured to me that having a wrap sheet that consists of one seat belt ticket six years ago might inspire them to really let the hammer down on me.

        1. Funny story: I’ve had several incidents for “Driving after consuming while under 21.”

          I got off free while a friend of mine who had never run into the law before in his life had his license suspended for a year and had to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and classes.

      8. It’s probably very un-libertarian of me, but I do agree with this stance.

        You’re right, it is very unlibertariaan of you.

        How’s that boot polish taste, anyway? Because if you’d stop servicing that jackboot for a moment, you might realize that whether you have anything to hide, you have much to fear from the error-prone minions of the Total State, who are also not noted for having good impulse control.

      9. Prohibited from ransacking whose house?

  6. IF YOU’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR! WHAT thirtyandseven SAID!

    IF WE NEED TO GIVE UP SOME TEH FREEDUMZ FOR SECURITY = POST 911 WORLD, BITCHES! DUH! SMALL PRICE TO PAY! CAN’T BE “FREE” IF YOU’RE DEAD FROM TEH TOURRRISTS MOOSLWM EVULDOERS KOCH!

    GEEEZ, YOU LIBBERFIBBERANDPAULTARDIANS! IT’S NOT A SUICIDE PACT!!1!!1!won!1

    1. You’re getting too good at this, dude. One day you’ll get trapped inside the retard minds your spoofing, and next thing you know, you’ll be handing out greenpeace flyers and reporting the rest of us to AATTTAAACCKK WAAAAATCH.

      That being said, I’m trying hard not to keel over laughing in class after reading that post.

      1. Or his head will explode like that guy in Scanners.

        1. What is this “spoof” of which you speak?

          *confused look*

    2. Moreso, “it’s” not a license for the government to do whatever the hell it pleases.

      1. As a practical matter government agents can do whatever the fuck they pleases because nobody will stop them since they are the ones who stop people from doing things, and they certainly aren’t going to stop their own.

        The only difference between government and organized crime is that the government has more guns.

        1. They won’t if they keep selling guns to organized crime.

  7. Now I wanna hear “Soul Finger” real bad…

    1. You waited this long?

      Then you deserve it.

    2. MMMMMMM, VANESSA ANGEL. THE URKOBOLD HUNGERS.

      THE URKOBOLD WILL BE IN HIS DACHA.

  8. Hey, look over there! Some judge sent a RAAAAAAAAAAACIST e-mail! This demonstrates serious lack of good sense judicial temperament.

    Keep up the good work, Bloomie, and don’t let pesky niceties like some antique suicide pact get in your way.

  9. Those boots aren’t going to lick themselves, you know.

  10. Do you see the bottle? Bottles are not made out of glass. They are made out of a compound that the Grey’s have manufactured on their home planet. It contains a chemical which contaminates the liquids we drink. That’s why more and more beverages are coming in bottles. That’s why the corporations want you to drink bottled water. They already have the fluoride in the tap water as well. You have to push through their barriers!

    1. Do you see the bottle? Real bottle made out of glass. Filled with a super carbonated fruity soda made with real cane sugar. Your grocery store’s best kept secret in the Latin food section. Less than a buck a piece. Hecho en Mehico. Good shit.

      1. You should be named Veritas instead of space-ace above, because you speak the truth.

  11. Most of the idiots in this country don’t give a shit….so on it goes.

    1. Honey Badger don’t give a shit….

      1. Different sort of not giving a shit. If Americans were Honey Badgers, this would be a much freer country.

  12. The author is trying to make a mountain out a molehill. Since when external surveillance requires a search warrant?

    1. Or even a jurisdiction for that matter!

    2. “” Since when external surveillance requires a search warrant?””

      Does your definition of external include the inside of a building? They had officers spying on people in places of worship. Who knows if they were wiretaping phones or not.

  13. One man’s governing document is another (several thousand) mens toilet paper.

  14. When the people who represent the law break the law then there is no law. And all that is left is a struggle to survive.

    1. That’s why Del’s ghost brought all this.

  15. *horns*

    SOUL FINGER!
    SOUL FINGER!
    SOUL FINGER!

    *horns*

  16. The gem of this article, and arguably of this decade: “The sacrifice of liberty for safety is illusory. The liberty lost does not return. The safety gained is not real.”

  17. typical government apologist – “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

    1. On the other hand, if you cause water damage, it’s all-out war on you.

  18. I was under the impression World War II got started when Germany invaded Poland. The rest of enlightened Europe seemed to be pretty content to let them persecute the Jews until they crossed international boundaries.

  19. One quibble. I’m pretty sure that the NYPD has no jurisdiction in NJ, unless they were in hot pursuit of a suspect (not the case here). AFAIK, FBI doesn’t enforce local laws, and may not have arrest authority. Does CIA actually have arrest authority? If so, does it apply to US citizens on US soil (pre-Holder, anyway)?

    1. Just to clarify, FBI does have arrest authority, but I’m not sure if this is only for violations of federal laws.

    2. As an area resident (two towns from NB, moving to its southern neighbor) I am completely unsurprised by NYPD involvement anywhere around here. Hell, the 123rd precinct might have a greater presence at Menlo Park Mall between 8 and 6 than the Edison PD (though actually patrolling for crime would distract the EPD from their core function: rampant, debilitating corruption).

      Their activity isn’t right and it’s probably not legal, but this is NY being NY. Shrug.

  20. The Bar-Kays must be having trouble getting gigs!

  21. Jurisdiction? We don’t need no stink’n jurisdiction.

    1. Ray Kelly’s response is basically terrorist don’t have jurisdiction restrictions, so why should the NYPD?

      It should be no surprise that Rep. King says the NJ Gov’s comments are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.

  22. …is all happening under Team Blue’s turn at the throne of power.

    Never forget that.

    1. Only right-wing terrorists would complain about that.

      You’re on our list now, asshole.

  23. Who is safe? Well, according to the NYPD, anyone who isn’t muslim. Probable cause? Let’s see… Will jihad work? Ok, substitute catholic. The NYPD is suveilling catholics because… um, let’s see… Look, when we go shopping, we discriminate among fruits and vegetables to choose the most promising. I assume the NYPD does the same. I assume they’re not wasting the taxpayers’ money. God bless them.

  24. So, name names. Good story for the paranoid. Without detail how do we know this tale is true?

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