NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard Levitt

Bye to Baghdad just in time

September 22, 2003

Baghdad Bernie Kerik - whose whereabouts for the past three weeks have been as mysterious as Saddam Hussein's - has surfaced in New York.

The city's former police commissioner checked in Friday, saying his future political career, such as Your Humble Servant's suggestion he run for Mayor of Passaic, N.J., was just "a lot of talk by people."

Instead, Kerik said, he "will do everything I can to get President George Bush re-elected."

Four months ago, Kerik's send-off to Baghdad to train an Iraqi police force was accompanied by a clamor of media ebullience. His disappearance from Baghdad the day before a bomb went off at the police office he was to visit was greeted with silence.

So what happened?

"I was lucky. I caught a hop [military transport] to Amman, Jordan, where I had some business the day before," he said. "I was supposed to leave on Sept. 3."

He left a day early. The day he was supposed to leave, a bomb went off at the police headquarters where the special operations office was run.

"I am there every day, and that day, I would have been saying good-bye," Kerik said.

Kerik said that after leaving Amman, he went to Europe to meet his family.

"I didn't have a day off in four months. I needed some time off. I decompressed," he said.

His Views on Iraq: "There are 900 Democrats. Everyone's got the answer. Unless you've been there, you don't have a clue. People at home know only one-tenth about how bad Saddam was. They should walk through the mass graves. I've seen a video of Saddam watching his Doberman eating a military general alive. No one in this country understands. There was torture of thousands and thousands of people."

His Views on the War: "People are still hung up on weapons of mass destruction. There is a link between 9/11 and now, and the link is radical Islam. The suicide bomber that drove the bomb into the United Nations in Baghdad is no different from the suicide bombers who drove the planes into the World Trade Center. There is an element in this world that despises us, that despises our culture and our freedoms. We have a choice. We can fight it in Iraq and Afghanistan, in that region, or fight it at home, in New York, in California and Miami. I'd much rather fight it there."

Meanwhile, Back in the United States: Baghdad Bernie is apparently so preoccupied with re-electing Bush that he has no recollection of the corruption allegations brought to him in 1995 by correction officer Robin Acosta. Kerik was first deputy commissioner of the Department of Correction at the time.

This Sept. 9, the day after Acosta's allegations appeared in Newsday, he was transferred by Deputy Warden Edward J. Watkins and assigned to the unpleasant swing shift known as "the wheel." Documents indicate the transfer was backdated to Sept. 1.

After a reporter's call Wednesday to correction spokesman Tom Antenen, the order was rescinded and backdated to Sept. 12.

The Official Word. Here is the official word on the retirement of New York's FBI head Kevin Donovan.

No one was offended that at Donovan's retirement dinner, Commissioner Ray Kelly made only a cameo appearance. The bureau was aware Kelly's aide Paul Browne had been calling, saying Kelly wanted to stay longer but had another engagement.

No one saw irony in remarks by Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism Mike Sheehan praising the excellent relations between the bureau and Police Department, despite a recent anonymous crack in which Kelly or one of his top aides said the FBI couldn't tell the difference between a Saudi and a Yemenite.

Here now is the official word on Donovan's successor, Pasquale D'Amuro: D'Amuro was selected for only two reasons: he is a New Yorker and an expert in counterterrorism.

Although D'Amuro denies it, others say his close friend FBI Director Robert Mueller also selected him to watch Kelly.

McCarthy Speaks. While refusing to talk to One Police Plaza Confidential about a 1983 St. Patrick's Day incident in the Bronx in which a uniformed but off-duty Garry McCarthy got into a confrontation with two men, McCarthy did talk to the Sun Times of Chicago. McCarthy, now a deputy commissioner and finalist for superintendent of police in Chicago, told the Sun Times: "You're killing me. I made a full report to the Police Board. It was a scenario I got into, and I learned things from it. That's the only time I got in trouble in this agency. The only blemish on an otherwise pretty good career." (Still more to come.)

« Back to top

© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.