New York City Surveillance Center Staffed with Employees from Large Wall Street Firms

09/02/2012 17:24

Source: Counterpunch

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.

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.


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