The New York City Police Department is invoking a concept frequently employed by intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA to deny a request for financial records on the unit that surveils Muslim communities.
Even to release a budget for the secretive Zone Assessment Unit, the NYPD claimed in a letter to HuffPost, would allow someone to "form a mosaic that depicts covert public safety activities that would be jeopardized."
The NYPD's denial of appeal was issued Dec. 6, which comes 10 months after the initial request was made under the state Freedom of Information Law, in the waning days of Commissioner Raymond Kelly's tenure. National security lawyers and a New York state public records expert told HuffPost they have never seen a local law enforcement agency invoke the so-called mosaic theory, which was frequently cited by the administration of President George W. Bush to deny federal information requests.
"There may be more behind the theory here than what appears in this three-page document, but it looks on its face to be an unsubstantiated invocation of the mosaic theory," said Columbia University law professor David Pozen, a widely cited expert on the concept. "This on its face is a pretty bare assertion of potential harm that's hard to argue against—because it's hard to know what their theory is."