Statement in Support of Officer Angwang

Restore The Fourth recently wrote a letter in support of NYPD Officer Baimadajie Angwang (read more about his case below). We addressed it to Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), who has been a champion of AAPI Americans’ civil liberties and an outspoken critic of the unconstitutional surveillance conducted under the “China Initiative.” Officer Angwang will soon face an administrative trial to determine if he will be dismissed from the NYPD, despite the fact that all charges brought by the DOJ were dismissed months ago. We need public outcry against this blatantly unconstitutional, racially motivated surveillance. We hope Rep. Chu and others will follow suit.

Read the full letter below:

About Officer Angwang and Targeted Surveillance

Baimadajie Angwang, a New York City police officer, U. S. citizen and Marine Corps veteran, was arrested in September 2020, charged with acting as an illegal agent of the Chinese government and jailed pre-trial for six months. He was accused of providing intelligence on local Tibetans to agents at the Chinese consulate. He was also accused of lying on security forms and questioned as to whether his citizenship forms were predicated on false claims (formally charged as wire fraud, obstruction, and making false statements). 

In January 2023, a federal judge dismissed the charges against him. Prosecutors moved to dismiss the indictment “in the interests of justice” because of “additional information bearing on the charges.” The additional information has yet to be publicly released. This was after he spent months incarcerated in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where he experienced inhumane conditions, including the withholding of medical treatment. Officer Angwang was called “the definition of an insider threat” by the head of NY’s FBI office, but they later quietly dropped all charges against him. 

The explanation lies in a shoddy national security case largely hidden from Officer Angwang, his defense, and the public. The prosecution relied on recorded phone calls between Angwang and Chinese consular officials. The prosecution called these conversations nefarious, but deeper scrutiny revealed them to be nothing more than Officer Angwang’s efforts to maintain a positive relationship with the consulate, whose help he needed to obtain a visa to visit his parents in China. However, the recording of consular phone conversations raises serious Fourth Amendment and privacy concerns, because there seemed to have been no probable cause for seizing and searching communications involving Officer Angwang.

Officer Angwang’s case represents a broader practice by the intelligence community. Asian Americans are the target of warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12,333. These authorities allow the government to acquire communications of foreigners abroad. However, Americans in contact with foreign nationals inevitably have their communications swept up in this surveillance dragnet. Since evidence gathered in the interest of “national security” is classified, Officer Angwang and others have no opportunity to dispute it and their reputation is therefore ruined even when charges are mysteriously dismissed.  In the absence of pro-privacy, pro-Fourth Amendment legal safeguards, the intelligence community has relentlessly abused its authorities. For more on this issue, see our letter below: