NSA surveillanceNYPD police chief Raymond Kelly criticizes NSA for secrecy surrounding surveillance program

Published 18 June 2013

NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly yesterday pointedly criticized the secrecy surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA), saying that Americans would probably be comfortable knowing their conversations are monitored. Kelly also said that if Snowden is correct in his allegations that the surveillance system can be readily abused, then there is a need for more oversight of the NSA. He said that more transparency about the checks on and supervision of what NSA analysts can monitor would help put the public at ease.

NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly yesterday pointedly criticized the secrecy surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA), saying that Americans would probably be comfortable knowing their conversations are monitored.

“I don’t think it ever should have been made secret. I think the American public can accept the fact if you tell them that every time you pick up the phone it’s going to be recorded and goes to the government,” Kelly said. “I think the public can understand that.”

He was speaking at a dedication two new harbor patrol boats.

The New York Post notes that in criticizing the secrecy around the NSA’s surveillance programs, Kelly was breaking ranks with U.S. law-enforcement officials who have largely been supportive of the NSA.

Kelly said that if Snowden is correct in his allegations that the surveillance system can be readily abused, then there is a need for more oversight of the NSA.

“[Snowden] indicates that there’s some sort of malfeasance, people . . . sitting around and watching the data. So I think the question is ‘What sort of oversight is there inside the NSA to prevent that abuse, if it’s taking place?’” Kelly said.

He added: “[Snowden] tried to give the impression, it seems to me, that these system administrators had carte blanche to do what they wanted to do,” he said. “I think it’s a problem if that’s in fact what’s happening.”

He said that more transparency about the checks on and supervision of what analysts can monitor would help put the public at ease. “We can raise people’s comfort level … that we have these controls and these protections inside the NSA,” Kelly said.

The New York Daily News notes that although Monday was the first time Kelly publicly commented on NSA surveillance, he is no stranger to the issues of controversial surveillance. The NYPD was subject to harsh criticism when it was revealed it closely monitored Muslim communities – not only in New York City, but in New Jersey as well – in an effort to spot terrorist plots.

Critics said the NYPD’s monitoring amounted to racial profiling.

Kelly also could not have been happy with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision, toward the end of a bitter court case, to recommend a federal oversight of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program.

Today, the New York Civil Liberties Union and other civil liberties groups will be announcing a series of legal steps related to the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims.

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