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No connection to intelligence

September 30, 2002

Since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly could not cite one instance, real or hypothetical, in which the Handschu guidelines hindered police in fighting terrorism, the only thing to be said with certainty is that his attempt to abolish them is the Police Department's first power grab since the World Trade Center attack.

It is a historical decision, and one consistent with the actions of law enforcement agencies across the nation in abrogating the civil rights of citizens, from secret tribunals to people held without criminal charges to lack of public access to court proceedings.

Handschu's little-known guidelines stem from a 1971 suit filed by 16 plaintiffs, including one Barbara Handschu, who contended that the department violated their civil rights by unlawful surveillance. The guidelines include such safeguards for citizens as establishing suspicion of criminal activity before the department can begin investigating a person's or group's political activity.

The consent decree that followed 14 years later in 1985 appeared to recognize a history of law enforcement abuses. Those abuses included the NYPD's notorious Red Squad during the 1950s and its Bureau of Strategic Services [BOSS] of the 1960s, as well as the FBI's Cointel-Pro, whose "black bag jobs" aimed at student and black radicals in the 1970s were directed by J. Wallace LaPrade in New York.

The two-year conspiracy trial of Black Panthers in 1971 has faded with time. The Black Panther Party was infiltrated by police under the direction of Frank Hogan, who was the Manhattan prosecutor. The jury acquitted all of them within three hours.

In seeking to abolish the guidelines, Kelly maintained no other police department in the country operates with such restrictions. Chicago's, he said, abolished theirs a year ago. Kelly did not mention that Chicago's guidelines had been put in place after the slaying of Black Panther Fred Hampton in 1969 by Chicago police.

Kelly's initiative appears to be the brainchild of the NYPD's own Dr. Strangelove, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen, formerly of the CIA. Cohen seems to view his role as such deep cover that he refuses to be interviewed. He even refused to divulge his age when sworn in earlier this year.

In the department's court brief, which will be heard by U.S. District Judge Charles Haight, who oversaw the 1985 Handschu consent decree, Cohen described himself as the CIA's former deputy director of intelligence from 1991-1995, providing "the day-to-day leadership for the CIA's analysis program."

From 1995-1997, Cohen said, he was the CIA's deputy director for operations, whose duties included "oversight of the CIA's global network of offices and personnel, the furthering of CIA relationships with foreign intelligence services and operational efforts against terrorists, narcotics traffickers and weapons proliferators."

His brief did not mention what he did between 1997-2002 nor the circumstances of his leaving the CIA. And nowhere in his brief does he cite a specific reason to abolish the guidelines.

Instead, after citing the two WTC attacks on Sept. 11 and two other attacks that he says authorities prevented in 1993, Cohen mentions that the Sept. 11 attack was planned in Hamburg, Sweden and Afghanistan.

"This method of operational planning and development makes it virtually impossible to detect plans for attack under the constraints of the Handschu guidelines," he said without explaining why.

Later, he says - again with no specifics - that "the counter productive restrictions imposed on the NYPD by the Handschu Guidelines in this changed world hamper our efforts every day."

Contrary to what Cohen says, abolishing the Handschu guidelines will do nothing to prevent terrorism if the city's top law enforcement officials in both the NYPD and the FBI remain as dumb and as lazy as they were in the past.

In 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated on the East Side by Sayyid A. Nosair, an Egyptian emigrant. During the investigation, then Chief of Detectives Joseph Borrelli insisted the killing was the work of "a lone gunman." When Nosair was arrested, a search of his home in Cliffside Park, N.J. turned up formulas for the construction of bombs, political tracts and documents, video and audio tapes advocating the destruction of tall buildings, symbolic statues and buildings of political significance.

Until the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the arrest of two associates of Nosair as conspirators, those materials, all in Arabic, had sat in boxes, untranslated by the FBI.

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© 2002 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.