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Naming names in leak probe

April 21, 2003

Who was the TV reporter who received alleged classified and confidential anti-terror bulletins from Sgt. John Galasso of the Joint Terrorism Task Force?

Law enforcement sources identified him as Vince DeMentri of WB 11. The new detail adds another dimension to the investigation of Galasso by the Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. attorney's office, as DeMentri has had his own problems with the law.

After the World Trade Center attack, while working for Channel 2, DeMentri was arrested at Ground Zero and charged with disorderly conduct and impersonating a police officer. In December, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

DeMentri did not return calls to his office last week seeking comment.

Law enforcement sources say Galasso faxed the documents to DeMentri from a Police Department fax machine and from at least one other machine off-site in recent weeks.

It's unclear why Galasso allegedly leaked the items. "The question is why," said a federal official involved in the investigation. "Why did he do it?"

Officials regard the seriousness of the leak as nothing less than a top-secret matter of national security.

Another facet of the investigation is the role of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Law enforcement sources say he contacted WB 11, but whether it was to seek information from the station or persuade officials there not to run a story on the classified information is unclear.

Kelly spokesman Michael O'Looney would not discuss the case with Newsday, although Kelly acknowledged his involvement in the investigation to the New York Post.

WB 11 never ran a story. Instead, sources say, station officials cooperated with the investigation. News director Karen Scott has declined to comment. Both the station and Newsday are owned by Tribune Co.

The sources told Newsday that Galasso has been suspended, although he still is listed as working for the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The task force's commanding officer, longtime Intelligence Division veteran Charlie Wells, has been transferred to Brooklyn Detectives.

The leaked documents were described to Newsday as internal FBI records known as "terrorist bullets," consisting of nationwide terrorism updates.

How Galasso's leak will affect the task force, which is staffed by NYPD detectives and FBI agents, remains unclear. The FBI has traditionally regarded the NYPD as leak-prone.

Also unclear is how the leak will affect relations between the FBI and the NYPD, which under Kelly is seeking to duplicate the bureau's overseas intelligence-gathering through its own newly created overseas unit.

Budget. There are four things Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg might consider cutting to ease the city's budget crisis.

Rudy Giuliani's police bodyguards. Rudy still has them, though Donna, Andrew, Caroline and Judy no longer do.

Bloomberg said last week that Kelly re-examines the bodyguard issue every three months and concluded a month ago that there was "still a significant risk coming out of Rudy's service for the city."

Memo to Kelly: Take a harder look.

NYPD deputy commissioner for administration. This high-level position was created during the Giuliani administration by former police Commissioner Bill Bratton when his chief of staff, Peter LaPorte, wanted the same status as Bratton Deputy Commissioners John Miller and Jack Maple.

Bratton's successor, Howard Safir, then filled the position with his Fire Department crony Richie Sheirer. When Sheirer left, Safir appointed a longtime crony, Al McNeil, to succeed him.

Safir's successor, Bernie Kerik, appointed his longtime crony, police Officer Tibor Kerekes, to succeed McNeil. Now Kelly has appointed his longtime crony, Paul Browne, to succeed Kerekes. Browne, who earns $',000, was a speech-writer under Kelly when he was commissioner a decade ago, then followed Kelly to Haiti, the Treasury Department and the Customs Service.

While the Police Department's Web site lists Browne's resume, it says nothing about his duties or mission as deputy commissioner. He was not in his office Friday. O'Looney, declined to specify Browne's duties other than to say, "You enjoy tearing good people down."

Mayor's director of communications. This is City Hall's equivalent of the deputy commissioner of administration. Another position created under the Giuliani administration, it is redundant, as the mayor's office has a press secretary, too. The first communications director, Crystine Lategano, was accused by Giuliani's estranged wife, Donna Hanover, of having an affair with him.

The second, Bill Cunningham, formerly served as Bloomberg's campaign manager. He earns $168,000 but despite making big bucks, returns phone calls sporadically. Such was the case Friday.

NYPD's overseas intelligence unit.

True, this incipient service is funded not by the city but by the Police Foundation, which underscores how tenuous the concept is.

Further advice to Kelly: Take the foundation's money and purchase television sets for every office at One Police Plaza. Then you can watch the Arabic station Al-Jazeera 24 hours a day.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.