Earlier this month Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalists Matt Appuzo and Adam Goldman published Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. The book detailed not only how the NYPD focused unprecedented resources and time into spying on Muslims after 9/11, but also how some of those resources were used to spy on activists. In 2008 following a minor explosion that caused some damage to the door of the Time’s Square Army recruitment station the NYPD focused attention on one particular activist: Dennis Burke (A.K.A. Thaddeus) who was publishing the website Bombs and Shields. The site posted about the explosion hours after the incident, including a link to a Fox News Story on the action. This was enough to justify a police investigation to both Burke and “certain of his associates.”
According to documents leaked from within the NYPD to Apuzzo and Goldman, the NYPD knew that Burke was behind the website thanks to a “confidential source,” who had infiltrated activist circles and provided information as far back as 2005. The identity of the confidential source remains unknown! Beyond Burke other organizers were targeted including William DiPaola and B. Neubauer who along with Burke were members of the environment direct action organization Time’s Up!.
All of this spying was orchestrated by the NYPD Intelligence Division, which was formed post 9/11 by former CIA Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) David Cohen. The”confidential source” who provided information about Burke as far back as 2005 and attended activists events may still be enmeshed within activist circles. If that’s not the case it’s likely that other snitches, informants, and undercover officers are active and are undoubtedly playing a more than passive role. As Matt Appuzo said in an interview with Sam Seder of the Majority Report promoting the book: “an undercover” NYPD officer “was assigned to infiltrate these groups: Time’s Up! New York, Critical Mass, Friends of Brad Will.”
The NYPD followed connections, some of them tenuous to say the least, all the way to New Orleans where undercover police officers attended the People’s Summit, and reported back to their superiors in NYC. One of their reports erroneously identified an activist named Jordan Flaherty as “a main organizer” of the summit. Flaherty did introduce a film at an associated film festival, but was not an organizer of the festival or the summit. News of the NYPD’s New Orleans excursion came to light as a result of the same documents leaked by sources withing the NYPD, possibly by a disgruntled officer frustrated by seeing the department wasting time and resources, or maybe just with their bosses generally, we don’t know. Appuzo and Goldman wrote about the Louisiana spy mission all the way back in March of 2012, but it wasn’t until this September, with the release of their books and accompanying source documents that a broader picture of the surveillance effort came to light.
These newly revealed details aren’t the first indication that law enforcement might be actively trying to infiltrate activist communities within New York City. In November 2009 the FBI brought a case to trial in Austin, Texas, but failed to convict Kate Kibby for allegedly threatening the FBI snitch Brandon Darby via email. Prior to the trial the FBI offered Kibby a deal on two occasions to make the charges go away were she to agree to become an informant herself, either locally in Austin or in New York City. Kate turned down that job offer, but sadly it is likely that someone out there didn’t turn it down and is posing as a friend and comrade of activists in NYC today.