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Unconventional surveillance

April 9, 2004

Here's an update on some of the NYPD's Intelligence Division's foreign and domestic travails.

Newsday has learned that the group of political demonstrators Intel detectives monitored or spied upon in Boston in February, leading to a dust-up with the Massachusetts state police, is the Black Tea Society.

[CORRECTION: Urszula Masny-Latos is an adviser to the Black Tea Society, Friday's One Police Plaza column incorrectly identified her role. Pg. A08 C 4/10/04] The group's attorney, Urszula Masny-Latos, described it as a nonviolent amalgam of recently formed youth groups that plan to demonstrate at the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer.

An except from Black Tea's Web site, captioned "Tweedle-dum vs. Tweedle-dee" reads:

"This November if you want to vote for a rich white male, pro-war, pro-cop, pro-god, pro-death penalty, pro-Israeli Occupation of Palestine, pro-US Occupation of Iraq, pro-national ID card, pro-patriot act, pro-NAFTA, anti-Gay Marriage, pro-video surveillance, pro-prison industrial complex, pro-no child left behind, anti-universal health care candidate, then this is the election for you!"

"The group just wants to be in the streets voicing their disapproval only through nonviolent means," Masny-Latos said.

She described the February meeting as comprising about 100 people - most of them from Massachusetts but some from Philadelphia and New York - holding workshops at Boston's downtown Community Church. "Before each event, they announced they were for activists only," she said. "They asked specifically for any officers or agents or politicians to identify themselves and leave the room. No one knew there were undercover police officers."

Under what is known as the Handschu agreement, the NYPD operates under stringent rules concerning the monitoring of legitimate political protest. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has sought to modify the rules in light of Sept. 11. Federal Judge Charles Haight Jr. initially agreed, but later changed his mind after he learned Intelligence Division detectives had questioned arrestees at an antiwar march a year ago about their political and personal relationships.

"I do have to admit that I am a bit spooked by all this ... skullduggery," wrote a person who attended the Boston meeting. "So I would prefer it if my name wasn't printed ... Part of me wants to scream out and say, 'Put me on the list, dammit! I've done nothing wrong!' But another part is very afraid that next time I go to the airport I'll be persona non grata."

 

The Massachusetts state police also monitored the Black Tea meeting. Spotting a car pulled up with New York plates, they followed it when the meeting ended, stopped it on the Massachusetts Turnpike for speeding and discovered its two occupants were Intel detectives.

The train in Spain. Here now is the latest Intel news from Madrid on the terrorist train bombings. Two NYPD officials told Newsday that contrary to what this column reported, Intel detectives did meet last month with the Spanish National Police and that it was the FBI's liaison, special agent Eddie Sanchez, who was shut out of the meeting. Said one police official: "We came in just before the Moroccans, which was where the investigation was heading."

The boot? A top Port Authority official says superintendent of police Charles DeRienzo - who is to return to the NYPD as deputy commissioner for administration - was told to clean out his desk at the Port Authority.

Your Humble Servant reporter put the question to DeRienzo, Port Authority spokesman Tony Ciavolella and Ciavolella's boss, PR Director Kayla Bergeron: Was DeRienzo fired?

None returned calls.

Former commissioner Bill Bratton created the title of deputy commissioner for administration a decade ago. It's always been given to a friend of the commissioner. In a published report last week, DeRienzo said his top priority will be to work with other agencies to protect the city from terrorism. No doubt he'll begin with the FBI, which is furious at the NYPD for not informing them when Intel detectives come into their jurisdiction. Then he can talk to the fire department and Office of Emergency Management, which supposedly coordinates police and fire responses, although in the two plus years since 9/11, there is no agreed-upon protocol between the two agencies should a terrorist attack occur.

White-shirt lunch. A Brooklyn police official was drinking at a "white-shirt" luncheon (captains and above) at Smithwicks restaurant and bar on March 31 before turning up at the crime scene of 2-year-old D'mani Spruill, shot to death while sitting with his father inside a car, police sources said.

An officer at the luncheon said it kicked off at 12:30 and went until 6, when the shooting occurred.

Keeping track. Forty-seven weeks have passed without a grand jury being impaneled since the fatal police shooting of unarmed African immigrant Ousmane Zongo in a Chelsea warehouse during an undercover operation.

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© 2004 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.