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FBI needs PR poo-bah

May 6, 2005

More than a month after Pasquale D'Amuro retired as head of the FBI's New York office to join the firm of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, no replacement has been named for him.

And, according to FBI sources, none of those under consideration, including the heads of the Boston and San Francisco offices, has any connection to New York.

Some Bureau officials, who spoke anonymously to Newsday, view the situation as symbolic of a leadership void in the New York office that has gone on for nearly a decade.

Low morale - in what is considered the bureau's flagship, with 1,100 agents and one-tenth of the bureau's entire staff - has been exacerbated by another factor: the dominance of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who law enforcement officials say has taken credit for FBI accomplishments.

Says a former top NYPD official who worked closely with the bureau: "They do a horrible job of promoting themselves. This is a very public office, and if they don't have a guy able to put on a public face, it is not going to work.

"They need a guy who likes to be on stage, a guy with a big ego who loves himself enough to get in the papers and on television. The fatter his head, the better prestige for the bureau. They need to take a play out of Kelly's book."

It was not always thus.

In 1993, after the World Trade Center bombing, Kelly, then in his first go-round as commissioner, stood shoulder to shoulder with Jim Fox, then head of the bureau's New York office. Their united appearance on national television provided a semblance of strength and unity to a stunned nation.

While Kelly now serves an unprecedented second term as commissioner, everything for the bureau has changed. Since 9/11, it has been criticized both for ignoring warnings that might have prevented the attack and for not sharing information with local authorities.

 

Instead of the flamboyant Fox or his successor Jim Kallstrom, a series of faceless bureaucrats have headed the New York office, each serving an average of only two years, all of them lacking the ego to bask in the media limelight.

D'Amuro was the most recent. He had been sent to New York because he had worked in the office previously and had a background in international terrorism. In addition, he was said to be close to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who, said an FBI source, wanted him "to keep things under control" - specifically to rein in Kelly. Instead, Kelly ran rings around him.

By the time D'Amuro arrived, Kelly had gone beyond the City Charter and had begun an NYPD international spy service, stationing detectives overseas in direct competition with the FBI.

He also began sending detectives on undercover operations outside the city without informing the bureau, which has national jurisdiction.

And he expanded the police side of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, amid concerns by some bureau officials that he was trying to take it over.

When the task force arrested the radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri in London in June, Kelly singled out police detective George Corey for praise and distributed his picture to the media. That action prompted Corey's wife to protest his public identification and D'Amuro to issue a memo rebuking Kelly for "security concerns" and for ignoring the contributions of others on the task force.

Through a Giuliani spokeswoman, D'Amuro declined to comment for this article.

More recently, said a current FBI official, the NYPD appears to be taking credit in more traditional crime areas. Two weeks ago, a joint FBI-NYPD task force on organized crime arrested a number of alleged Gambino family associates in connection with an off-shore Internet gambling ring. While the FBI agents attended the mobsters' arraignment in federal court in Manhattan, Kelly made some NYPD detectives available to the media.

Or take yesterday's bombing outside the British consulate. While the FBI and NYPD are conducting a joint probe, it was Kelly - not anyone from the bureau - who spoke to the media.

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.