WASHINGTON (CN) - The Central Intelligence Agency admitted it spied on Muslims in the New York City metro area, but denied that that was "domestic spying," a civil liberties watchdog says in a federal FOIA complaint.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) claims the CIA blew off its FOIA request for records on the CIA Inspector General's investigation on CIA collaboration with the NYPD to keep tabs on Muslims.
"Beginning in 2011, a series of investigative articles by the Associated Press revealed that the New York Police Department ('NYPD') had conducted surveillance of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere," the complaint states.
"This surveillance included photographing members of the Muslim community as they entered mosques, infiltrating Muslim student groups, and conducting surveillance of Muslim stores and businesses.
"In a press conference in August 25, 2011, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed that the NYPD collaborated with the CIA and that a CIA officer had worked in NYPD headquarters."
EPIC claims CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood confirmed that the agency worked with the NYPD investigating Muslims.
Later in 2011, news reports indicated that the CIA inspector general had opened an investigation into whether that collaboration was legal.
"CIA spokesperson Preston Golson acknowledged the existence of the Inspector General's investigation. He stated that, at the conclusion of the investigation, the agency's Inspector General concluded that no laws had been broken and there was 'no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted "domestic spying,'" according to the complaint.
EPIC, a nonprofit, says it submitted its FOIA request in March, and the CIA said it was too busy working on a "'substantial backlog [from other requesters]'." (Brackets in complaint.)
EPIC appealed, but, "Through the date of this pleading, CIA has not disclosed a single agency record in response to EPIC's request," according to the complaint.
EPIC wants to see the records.
It is represented by staff attorney Ginger McCall.
The CIA is prohibited by law from domestic spying, which is the province of the FBI. The CIA is supposed to spy only in foreign countries.