New York (CNN) -- The Central Intelligence Agency is denying a news report that it has helped the New York Police Department conduct covert surveillance on Muslims. The agency said suggestions that it engaged in domestic spying were "simply wrong."
The spy agency said the report "mischaracterized the nature and scope" of the CIA's support for the New York police.
A senior CIA officer is assigned to work with the NYPD, an official familiar with the agency's cooperation with New York police said Thursday. The officer would not be involved in law enforcement activities," said the official, who did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
"This senior officer's assignment is part of a program that gives him an opportunity to observe the best practices, leadership lessons, and management methodology of a large organization also involved in the fight against terrorism," the official told CNN.
The Associated Press reported recently that the NYPD Intelligence Division dispatched CIA-trained undercover officers into minority neighborhoods to gather intelligence on daily life in mosques, cafes, bars and bookstores. It said the police have used informers to monitor sermons during religious services and that police officials keep tabs on clerics and gather intelligence on taxi cab drivers and food-cart vendors, who are often Muslim, in New York.
The NYPD has blasted the report as "fictional."
"Even for a piece driven by anonymous NYPD critics, it shows that we're doing all we reasonably can to can to stop terrorists from killing more New Yorkers," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
"We're going to do all we reasonably can to keep New York safe," Browne said in an e-mail. "We do so in partnership with the FBI and other federal agencies, and we uphold the Constitution in doing so."
New York-area Muslims and civil liberties advocates called for investigations and hearings after the report was published on Wednesday.
"This (alleged program) is a waste of precious resources, and it raises serious constitutional concerns," said Udi Ofer of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group in the United States, referred to the alleged activities as a "potentially illegal program" to monitor the Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey.
CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report.