Audit Notes: Steve Jobs, WSJ on Hacking, NYPD As Domestic CIA

Awful news just hit the tape that Steve Jobs’s health has finally forced him to resign as CEO of Apple:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple”s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

If there’s any positive here it’s that Jobs says in the second paragraph of his letter that he’ll remain as chairman of the board, which introduces a little positive uncertainty about his health.

But it’s clear this is one of the very last chapters in one of the greatest business stories in history. You’ll hear lots about Jobs in the coming days and weeks. That he was a giant, a genius, and a visionary.

You know what? None of that is hyperbole.

— I was pretty critical of The Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago in criticizing a thin story it put out on a non-News Corp. hacking-scandle angle.

So I’d be remiss not to note that the Journal finally gave its parent company’s hacking scandal the leder treatment this weekend, revisiting the story that broke the scandal wide open nearly two months ago.

It’s smart to go back and report out the Milly Dowler hacking, and the paper puts valuable new information on the record, including finding two earlier editions of the one Notw story referring explicitly to a Dowler voicemail. The early pieces referred to three voicemails the paper hacked. The Journal also reports that hacking the voicemails sent eight NotW journalists to an Epson factory where, implausibly, they thought the 13-year-old Dowler might have gotten a job.

And this is fun information about the ethics at NotW:

Former News of the World staffers say it wasn’t unusual for the News of the World’s editors to put a reporter’s byline on a story not written by that person. In fact, one reporter whose name appeared on hundreds of News of the World stories over the years—Edward Trevor—doesn’t actually exist, former staffers say.

— This doesn’t have anything to do with business news, but I’m going to point it out all the same since it’s the best thing you’ll read for a good while. The Associated Press unloads a 5,000-word investigation into the intelligence-gathering activities of the New York Police Department since 9/11, which the AP’s Adam Goldman writes “was lookinging more and more like a domestic CIA.”

Here’s the excellent lede (or it was the lede. Somebody has reedited the story since I first saw it, putting the color lede down in the body):

In June 2009, a New Brunswick, N.J., building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.

The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers.

From that apartment, about an hour outside the department’s jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.

And the nut graph:

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the New York Police Department has become one of the nation’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies, targeting ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government, an Associated Press investigation has found.

These operations have benefited from unprecedented help from the CIA, a partnership that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying.

The department has dispatched undercover officers, known as “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.

Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which has given NYPD more than $1.6 billion since 9/11, is told exactly what’s going on.

Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit.

Read it all.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,