Photo Caption: This July 13, 2011, photo shows the apartment complex in New Brunswick, N.J., where an apartment was rented by an undercover NYPD officer. On June 2, 2009, a building superintendent at the complex just off the Rutgers University campus called 911 after stumbling one of the NYPD’s biggest secrets - a safe house, a place where undercover officers working well outside the department’s jurisdiction could lay low and coordinate surveillance. The Associated Press has obtained a copy of the 911 call that exposed the NYPD safe house. In 2011, the AP requested a copy of the 911 tape. The New Brunswick Police refused. After the AP sued, the city turned over the tape and emails this week that described the NYPD’s efforts to keep the recording a secret. (AP Photo/Matt Apuzzo)
He saw something. He said something. And he inadvertently uncovered a secret spying operation that the New York Police Department was running outside its jurisdiction.
In June 2009, a building superintendent at an apartment complex near the Rutgers University campus opened the door to unit 1076 to conduct an inspection. Tenants had been notified of the inspection weeks ago and the notice was still stuck to the door.
He turned his key, walked in and immediately knew something was wrong. A colleague called 911.
The caller, Salil Sheth, and his colleagues had stumbled upon one of the NYPD’s biggest secrets: a safe house, a place where undercover officers working well outside the department’s jurisdiction could lie low and coordinate surveillance.
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD, with training and guidance from the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and far beyond. Detectives infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and kept tabs on Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers.
The NYPD kept files on sermons, recorded the names of political organizers in police documents, and built databases of where Muslims lived and shopped, even where they were likely to gather to watch sports. Out-of-state operations, like the one in New Brunswick, were one aspect of this larger intelligence-gathering effort.
The Associated Press previously described the discovery of the NYPD inside the New Jersey apartment but, after a yearlong fight, New Brunswick police released the tape of the 911 call and other materials this week.
The call from the building superintendent sent New Brunswick police and the FBI rushing to the apartment complex. Officers and agents were surprised at what they found. None had been told that the NYPD was in town.
At the NYPD, the bungled operation was an embarrassment. It made the department look amateurish and forced it to ask the FBI to return the department’s materials.
In February, NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal matters, Andrew Schaffer, told reporters that detectives can operate outside New York because they aren’t conducting official police duties.