What’s in the NYPD’s 1960s/70s Political Surveillance Files?

Document: NYPD Political Surveillance Files “Handschu” Inventory [PDF]

In the 1960s and the 1970s, the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division spied on – and infiltrated and disrupted – politically radical individuals and organizations, including the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords (Puerto Rican activists), gay-rights advocates, Lyndon LaRouche’s groups, various Cubans, and the antiwar movement. It was the NYPD’s version of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO surveillance/harassment of political activists, which was happening at the same time.

While researching a book on the Young Lords, Baruch history professor Johanna Fernández was stonewalled in her quest for documents and was eventually told that all records of NYPD surveillance during that era had been lost. After the media reported this in June 2016, the city coincidentally “found” 500 boxes of records – an estimated 1.1 million pages of documents – during a routine inventory of a warehouse in Queens. This incredible archive will supposedly become available to the public, but the city refuses to say how or when.

It turns out that in 1989, those records – or at least a huge portion of them – were inventoried as part of a lawsuit (the Handschu case) against the NYPD for its surveillance activities. The Village Voice posted an inventory in its article about the so-called rediscovery of the archive .


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