By Philip Newman
Chanting, placard-carrying demonstrators picketed the Manhattan office of U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) Tuesday to protest legislation to permit the assigning of CIA agents to local police.
But a Maloney spokesman said the proposed law was about the sharing of information in an effort to improve a patchwork of cooperation between local and federal authorities since the World Trade Center attack in September 2001.
“Carolyn Maloney, go away. We don’t want the CIA,” about a dozen pickets and leaflet distributors chanted despite icy winds that produced a 10-degree windchill in front of 1651 Third Ave. near 93rd Street.
The demonstrators representing The Campaign to Demilitarize the Police, carried signs that read “Stop CIA Spying Before It Starts” and “Stop HR 3439,” the title of the proposed bill that Maloney and U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) jointly introduced on Nov. 4. The bill had previously been introduced in 2001.
The protesters’ group was formed Nov. 5, the day after the bill was introduced, according to its Web site.
Phil Kraft, a spokesman for Maloney, said the congresswoman “shares the concern over the idea of the CIA conducting local law enforcement.
“She has stated that any extension of power by the CIA is something she would oppose aggressively,” Kraft said.
He pointed out that the bill is aimed at increasing information and discussion over security information in the fight against terrorism. The bill is titled “The JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) Enhancement Act.”
Kraft said he talked with the demonstrators and offered to meet with them to discuss the proposed legislation. He said he hoped to get together with the protesters soon.
Maloney represents parts of Astoria and other sections of western Queens as well as some of the East Side in Manhattan.
The proposed legislation seeks to amend the CIA Act of 1949 by allowing for deployment of CIA agents in local police departments and precincts and assigning local police to the Central Intelligence Agency.
“The CIA has a long history of violating international law as well as conducting illegal surveillance of lawful protest by Americans,” said Frank Morales, a spokesman for the Campaign to Demilitarize the Police, which is preparing to demonstrate at the Republican National Convention in New York this summer.
“Imagine, if you will, an exhausting day of work for the CIA agent in your community. Somewhere between the long hours of ferreting out international terrorists, they would have to compile exhaustive lists of anti-war activists, NRA enthusiasts, anarchists, foreigners, civil rights attorneys, anti-racist organizations and environmentalists.”
Morales said the danger the proposed legislation “poses to civil liberties is even greater given the recent repeal of the Handschu Agreement, a 1971 restriction the New York Police Department's ability to spy on political activists.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.