Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2011, file photo, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speaks at a news conference as Mayor Michael Bloomberg listens in Brooklyn, N.Y. Former intelligence officials tell The Associated Press that when the CIA first embedded a veteran agency officer inside the New York Police Department the CIA's top lawyer never signed off on the arrangement. The CIA officer, Lawrence Sanchez, became the architect of controversial NYPD spying programs. Approval by the CIA general counsel would have been required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

WASHINGTON — The CIA's top lawyer never approved sending a veteran agency officer to New York, where he helped set up police spying programs, The Associated Press has learned. Such approval would have been required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment.

Normally, when the CIA dispatches one of its officers to work in another government agency, rules are spelled out in advance in writing to ensure the CIA doesn't cross the line into domestic spying. Under a 1981 presidential order, the CIA is permitted to provide "specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel" to local law enforcement agencies but only when the CIA's general counsel approves in each case.

Neither of those things happened in 2002, when CIA Director George Tenet sent veteran agency officer Lawrence Sanchez to New York, former U.S. intelligence officials told the AP. While on the CIA's payroll, Sanchez was the architect of spying programs that transformed the NYPD into one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies.

The CIA's inspector general cleared the agency of any wrongdoing in its partnership with New York, but the absence of documentation and legal review shows how murky the rules were as the CIA and NYPD formed their unprecedented collaboration in the frenzied months after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Testifying before the City Council in October, Kelly said the collaboration was authorized under the 1981 presidential order, known as No. 12333.

Kelly cited the section of the presidential order, 2.6c, that also requires the CIA's top lawyer to approve such arrangements, but he did not tell the city council that approval by the CIA's top lawyer was required.