An obscure White House grant helped pay for the NYPD to spy on Muslim neighborhoods, according to a report Monday, prodding city and state officials to again defend the department's controversial tactics.
Since 9/11, the Bush and Obama administrations have approved $135 million to the New York and New Jersey region through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, or HIDTA, according to The Associated Press.
The AP found that some of the money was used for anti-terrorism efforts, such as paying for cars that the NYPD used for surveillance and for computers that stored information about Muslim college students and mosque events.
Those uses detailing the NYPD's activities were never cited in reports to Congress, which approves the money for HIDTA, between 2006 and 2010, according to the AP.
While the White House has so far stayed neutral on the NYPD's program and declined to comment on the grant payments, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday the department uses "a cadre of first-rate attorneys [to] vet everything that we do."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also stood by the department, telling reporters Monday, "I don't believe there's any reason to second guess the NYPD's methods either."
But Muslim and civil liberties groups aren't backing down from demands that the federal government now investigate the lawfulness of the NYPD's actions.
"The NYPD is spying on countless innocent Muslims up and down the eastern seaboard, but who is watching the NYPD?" asked Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director, in a statement. "The lack of oversight is stunning and it demands attention at the local, state and federal level."