[News] Wall Street’s Secret Spy Center, Run for the 1% by NYPD

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 6 12:25:46 EST 2012


February 06, 2012
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/06/wall-streets-secret-spy-center-run-for-the-1-by-nypd/

How 60 Minutes Blew the Story


Wall Street’s Secret Spy Center, Run for the 1% by NYPD

by PAM MARTENS

On September 25, 2011, just eight days after the 
Occupy Wall Street protests began in Zuccotti 
Park in lower Manhattan, the much acclaimed CBS 
News program, 60 Minutes, aired a fawning look at 
the thousands of surveillance cameras affixed to 
buildings and lampposts throughout New York 
City.  The cameras feed live images of people 
going about their everyday lives to a $150 
million computer center equipped with artificial 
intelligence to integrate and analyze the daily 
habits of what are, for the most part, law-abiding Americans.

The thrust of the 60 Minutes  program was the 
fine job of counter terrorism being done by the 
NYPD and its Commissioner, Raymond Kelly. It was 
a triumph in public relations for a police 
department about to go on an assault spree 
–  pepper spraying and punching  peaceful 
protestors;  kicking, ramming and arresting 
journalists attempting to cover the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

On air, the reporter, Scott Pelley, said the 
surveillance center was “housed in a secret 
location,”  as one would expect of a real counter 
terrorism program ­ as opposed to a program to 
simply quash dissent.  Mr. Pelley also said the 
program was run by the NYPD.  As it turns out, 
neither of those assertions were accurate.

The New York Times, the worldwide news agency 
Agence France-Presse (AFP), Wired Magazine, the 
New York City Council had all previously reported 
the location of the supposedly super secret 
counter terrorism  center on their public web 
sites: 55 Broadway in the bowels of the financial 
district.  What was a secret about the operation, 
and not reported by 60 Minutes to its viewers, 
despite being well aware of the facts, is that 
the center is jointly staffed and operated by the 
NYPD along with the largest Wall Street firms – 
the same firms under investigation in 50 states 
for mortgage and foreclosure fraud and widely 
credited with causing the Nation’s economic 
collapse.  The Wall Street firms that were 
involuntarily  bailed out by the 99% are now policing the 99%.

In a telephone conversation with the co-producer 
of the program, Robert Anderson, he conceded that 
he was aware of the presence of the Wall Street 
firms in the center.  It would have been hard to 
miss them.  The facility is designed with three 
long rows of computer workstations.  The outside 
of each cubicle bears a brass plaque with the 
names of the occupants: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorganChase, etc.

You won’t find photographs showing these firms in 
the surveillance center in any U.S. corporate 
news outlet, but a foreign news service has them 
openly displayed – a news organization servicing 
countries of the former Soviet Union.  These 
photos were taken during a large gathering of 
reporters and photographers at the invitation of 
the NYPD.  As shown in the photos, the event was 
hosted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police 
Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Very secret counter 
terrorism operation, indeed, with global 
reporters and photographers coming and going in both 2010 and 2011.

<http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/10/18/wall-street-firms-spy-on-protestors-in-tax-funded-center/>As 
we reported in October, the surveillance plan 
became known as the Lower Manhattan Security 
Initiative and the facility was dubbed the Lower 
Manhattan Security Coordination Center. It 
operates round-the-clock with 2,000 private spy 
cameras owned by Wall Street firms and other 
corporations, together with approximately 1,000 
more owned by the NYPD.  At least 700 additional 
cameras scour the midtown area and also relay 
their live feeds into the downtown center where 
all film is integrated for analysis.  The $150 
million of taxpayer money that’s funding this 
corporate/police spying operation comes from both 
city and Federal sources, with the cost rising 
daily as more technology is added.

Not only is it unprecedented for corporations 
under serial and ongoing corruption probes to be 
allowed to spy on law abiding citizens under the 
imprimatur of the largest police force in the 
country, but the legality of the operation by the 
NYPD itself is highly questionable.

During the 60 Minutes program (at elapsed time 
8:50), the following exchange takes place between 
the reporter Scott Pelley and Jessica Tisch, the 
NYPD Director of Counterterrorism Policy and 
Planning who played a significant role in 
developing the Lower Manhattan Security 
Coordination Center. (Tisch is in her early 
thirties and did not come up through the ranks of 
counter terrorism or law enforcement. She is the 
granddaughter and one of the heirs to the fortune 
of now-deceased billionaire Laurence Tisch, who 
built the Loews Corporation.  Her father, James 
Tisch, is the CEO of the Loews Corporation and 
was elected by Wall Street banks to sit on the 
Federal Reserve Bank of  New York until 
2013,  representing the public’s interest.  Ms. 
Tisch is apparently standing in for the public’s 
interest in this surveillance operation:  rather 
than public hearings, Ms. Tisch drafted the 
guidelines for the program herself.)

Pelley: “Tisch showed us how the system can 
search for a suspicious person based on a 
description – a red shirt for example.”

Tisch: “And I can call up in real time all 
instances where a camera caught someone wearing a red shirt.”

Pelley: “So the computer looks essentially 
through all the video, finds all of the red 
shirts and puts it together for you.”

Tisch: “Video canvasses that used to take days 
and weeks to do, you’ll now be able to do with the snap of a finger.”

Tisch snaps her fingers for added emphasis.

Unfortunately, electronic surveillance of 
individuals at the snap of a finger is exactly 
what New York State law prohibits.  New York 
Code, Section 700.15,  requires a warrant for 
video surveillance and the warrant is only 
issuable “Upon probable cause to believe that a 
particularly  described  person  is committing, 
has committed, or is about to commit a particular 
designated offense.”  Blanket surveillance of 
hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens 
with cameras that pan, tilt and rotate to track 
individuals to the doorsteps of their 
psychiatrist, debt counselor, Alcoholics 
Anonymous, or prosecutor’s office – shared with 
corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of 
these same individuals, is breathtaking in its 
blatant disregard for privacy rights.

In a letter dated March 26, 2009 to Police 
Commissioner Kelly, following years of being 
stonewalled with its Freedom of Information Law 
requests for more details on the surveillance 
program, the New York Civil Liberties Union 
warned:  “
virtually all of the enormous 
information gathered and maintained by the system 
will be about people engaged in wholly lawful 
activity
we believe this entire enterprise is illegitimate and inappropriate
”

In a 2006 formal report on the camera 
surveillance network, the NYCLU noted that 
“Today’s surveillance camera is not merely the 
equivalent of a pair of eyes. It has super human 
vision.  It has the capability to zoom in and 
‘read’ the pages of the book you have opened 
while waiting for a train in the subway.”  The 
report further explained that “New York City has 
a long and troubled history of police 
surveillance of individuals and groups engaged in 
lawful political protest and dissent.  Between 
1904 and 1985 the NYPD compiled some one million 
intelligence files on more than 200,000 
individuals and groups ­ suspected communists, 
Vietnam War protesters, health and housing 
advocates, education reform groups, and civil rights activists.”

An even bigger problem for New York City came on 
January 23 of this year when the U.S. Supreme 
Court issued a rare unanimous decision in United 
States v. Jones.  All nine justices agreed that 
the use of an electronic GPS tracking device 
placed on an automobile by law enforcement 
constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment and required a warrant.

Writing the decision for the court, Justice 
Antonin Scalia stated: “As Justice Brennan 
explained in his concurrence in Knotts, Katz did 
not erode the principle ‘that when the Government 
does engage in physical intrusion of a 
consti­tutionally protected area in order to 
obtain information, that intrusion may constitute 
a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Writing a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia 
Sotomayor expanded on the potential for 
unconstitutional law enforcement actions using 
electronic surveillance devices: “GPS monitoring 
generates a precise, comprehensive record of a 
person’s public movements that reflects a wealth 
of detail about her familial, political, 
professional, religious, and sexual associations. 
See, e.g., People v. Weaver, 12 N. Y. 3d 433, 
441–442, 909 N. E. 2d 1195, 1199 (2009) 
(‘Disclosed in [GPS] data . . . will be trips the 
indisputably private na­ture of which takes 
little imagination to conjure: trips to the 
psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion 
clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip 
club, the criminal defense attorney, the 
by-the-hour motel, the union meet­ing, the 
mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on 
and on.’) The Government can store such records 
and efficiently mine them for information years into the future.”

Electronic surveillance cameras deployed in New 
York City, however, do for more than GPS devices: 
they film the individual, their features, their 
companions, and show just what doorsteps they are 
entering in their comings and goings throughout the day; week after week; 24/7.

What zealous prosecutor or Wall Street 
whistleblower or investigative reporter is safe 
from being targeted by this surveillance juggernaut.

The electronic tracking capability described by 
Ms. Tisch on 60 Minutes, where an individual in 
the snap of a finger is tracked all over 
Manhattan, with no warrant and no more probable 
cause than wearing a red shirt, seems just what 
Justices Scalia and Sotomayor had in mind as illegal activities.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo are 
civil rights attorneys who co-founded the 
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.  They have 
filed a class action lawsuit against Police 
Commissioner Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg and the City 
of New York over the arrest on October 1, 2011 of 
more than 700 peaceful protestors on the Brooklyn 
Bridge.  Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard had this to say 
about the sprawling surveillance program in New York City:

“The clearly stipulated and clearly defined 
requirement of probable cause, a central 
guarantee that protects individuals from 
over-reaching police authority, has been 
eviscerated in practice and in policy by the 
all-pervasive surveillance tools that make 
certain people and groups the ‘usual suspects’ in 
an environment that authorizes racial, religious 
and political profiling as the de facto law of 
the land. The NYPD is engaged in mass 
surveillance and mass aggregation of data on 
persons who not only have engaged in no criminal 
activity, but for whom there is no probable cause 
or individualized suspicion to believe they have 
engaged, or are engaged, in criminal activity. 
This is a perversion of civil rights and civil 
liberties by the government that is spreading across the country.”

Chris Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the 
NYCLU, said in response to my question 
concerning  the significance to New Yorkers of 
the Jones Supreme Court decision: “This decision 
opens the door to the argument that police camera 
systems that systematically track the movements 
and whereabouts of people in public places 
trigger constitutional scrutiny.  We have long 
believed that LMSI [Lower Manhattan Security 
Initiative]  violates the privacy rights of 
law-abiding New Yorkers, and this ruling from the 
Supreme Court supports that view.”  (Mr. Dunn is 
also an adjunct professor at the NYU School of 
Law where he teaches in the Civil Rights Clinic 
and he authors the Civil Rights and Civil 
Liberties column in the New York Law Journal.  He 
has written a detailed analysis of the United 
States v. Jones decision in his current column.)

Mr. Dunn’s opinion is buttressed by a powerful 
corporate law firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale, 
which ironically lists among its clients the Wall 
Street firms Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and 
JPMorganChase.  The firm co-authored the 2007 
report for the Constitution Project titled: 
“Public Video Surveillance: A Guide to Protecting 
Communities and Preserving Civil Liberties.”

The report singles out New York, interpreting its 
law as follows: “Several state statutes regulate 
aspects of public use of video surveillance.  In 
New York, for example, video surveillance can 
only be conducted as part of a police 
investigation into the allegedly criminal 
behavior of an individual pursuant to a 
warrant.  Because of what the statute terms ‘the 
reasonable expectation of privacy under the 
constitution of this state or of the United 
States,’ the bar for authorizing or approving 
such a warrant is set quite high, and the alleged 
crimes must be quite serious.  Arizona, in 
contrast, merely makes it a misdemeanor for a 
person to use video ‘surveillance’ in a public place without posting notice.”

This vast surveillance program in New York City 
has had no public hearings to develop proper 
guidelines, no public overseers, no legislative 
mandate and is operating with no checks and balances.

The City Council’s  Committee on Public Safety, 
chaired by Peter Vallone, did tour the Lower 
Manhattan Security Coordination Center on June 
16, 2011.  The minutes of the meeting on the City 
Council’s  public web site list only the date, 
time and location.  A phone call and email 
request to Mr. Vallone’s office to make the full 
minutes available to the public was met with silence.

I asked Michael Cardozo’s office, Corporation 
Counsel for New York City, to give me a statement 
as to the legality of this NYPD-Wall Street 
surveillance program.  Mr. Cardozo declined to be 
quoted but his associate, Deputy Communications 
Director, Connie Pankratz, said: “It is perfectly 
legal to use security cameras in public 
spaces.  This is no different than having a 
police officer watch or follow someone on a public street.”

That analogy is like comparing a pea shooter to a 
heat-seeking missile.  These cameras can pan, 
tilt, rotate and zoom.  The live feeds are 
integrated with cameras from all over Manhattan 
which can simultaneously analyze the images using 
artificial intelligence to look for specific 
human features or clothing colors.  To quote Ms. 
Tisch on 60 Minutes: “Nobody has a system like this.”

I filed two Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) 
requests with the NYPD in the Fall of 2011.  New 
York State has an inspiring sunshine law, which 
acknowledges that “The people’s right to know the 
process of governmental decision-making and to 
review the documents and statistics leading to 
determinations is basic to our society. Access to 
such information should not be thwarted by 
shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or 
confidentiality. The legislature therefore 
declares that government is the public’s business 
and that the public, individually and 
collectively and represented by a free press, 
should have access to the records of government 
in accordance with the provisions of this article
”

Notwithstanding the noble intent of the law and 
notwithstanding the legislative mandate to 
respond in 5 business days or a period reasonable 
to the request, both of my requests received a 
written response stating it would take five 
months to answer ­ five months or 30 times longer 
than the legislative intent.  The NYPD has 15,000 
non uniformed employees available to fulfill the 
legislative mandate to permit participatory 
government.  If it wanted to honor the 
legislative mandate, it could assign more staff 
to the Records Access Department.  Until it does, 
it is functioning in contravention of the state legislative mandate.

In the 2010 book “Heat and Light: Advice for the 
Next Generation of Journalists” by Mike Wallace 
and Beth Knobel, the producer of the 60 Minutes 
episode on the surveillance center, Robert Anderson, is quoted as follows:

“Mike [Wallace] has always said that we are 
seekers of truth, and that’s what we are.  We are 
seekers of truths that people would be better off 
knowing, and that they probably don’t know.  And 
we are looking for something that is hopefully of 
some significance, because the more significant 
it is, the better the story it is for us.”

There are two significant stories at the 
surveillance center at 55 Broadway.  The first is 
that the largest police force in the country has 
secretly deputized as its partners the same giant 
Wall Street firms that are serially charged with 
looting the public but never prosecuted, no 
matter how big the crime. The second significant 
story is that the largest police force in the 
country has tapped the public coffers to the tune 
of $150 million to operate what legal experts say is an illegal program.

Kevin Tedesco, Executive Director of 60 Minutes, 
had this to say about my concerns with the 
program:  “We find your inquiry somewhat 
puzzling.  This was a story about defending 
against terrorism, probably the most important 
issue of our times.  You have only to look at 60 
Minutes’ record to see that we frequently report 
on Wall Street institutions, the most recent of 
which, “Prosecuting Wall Street” was broadcast on 
December 4.  Robert Anderson, the producer of the 
story on the command center, produced  “The Next 
Housing Shock,”  an investigation about 
misleading and fake mortgage documentation that 
cast a harsh light on financial institutions when 
it was broadcast on August 7 and April 3.  No one 
told us what to report or not report in those 
stories and neither did anyone in this one.  We 
appreciate the chance to respond.”

I willingly concede that 60 Minutes regularly 
provides outstanding investigative reports.  I 
have previously referenced their 
groundbreaking  work in my writing.  Robert 
Anderson’s work on “The Next Housing Shock” 
brings the audacity and collusiveness of the 
foreclosure crimes into sharp focus and admirably serves the public interest.

But rather than deflecting my criticisms, Mr. 
Tedesco ends up making my case by pointing to the 
December 4 broadcast of “Prosecuting Wall 
Street.”  This is a story alleging systemic 
corruption at Citigroup made by a Vice President 
of the firm, Richard Bowen; a man so confident of 
his facts that he testified before the Financial 
Crisis Inquiry Commission.   Mr. Bowen had his 
duties reassigned and was retaliated against and 
told to remain off the premises once he brought 
the corruption to the attention of the most senior executives at Citigroup.

Charges like these have been made for over a 
decade against Citigroup by other key 
employees.  No senior executives have ever been 
prosecuted.  Now a Citigroup representative sits 
alongside police in a high tech center where it 
can monitor the comings and goings of 
pedestrians, including potential 
whistleblowers.  If that’s not significant, I don’t know what is.

Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years. 
She spent the last decade of her career 
advocating against Wall Street’s private justice 
system, which keeps its crimes shielded from 
public courtrooms.  She maintains, along with 
Russ Martens, an ongoing archive dedicated to 
this financial era 
at  www.WallStreetOnParade.com. She has no 
security position, long or short, in any company 
mentioned in this article.  She is a contributor 
to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of 
Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. She can be 
reached at <mailto:pamk741 at aol.com>pamk741 at aol.com




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