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NYPD vet will speak for FBI

August 12, 2005

The FBI is about to get a new spokesman. His name is John Miller.

Yes, the same John Miller who a decade ago served as the NYPD's deputy commissioner of public information under Bill Bratton.

The same John Miller who is now chief of counter-terrorism under Bratton at the Los Angeles Police Department.

And the same John Miller who between those stints worked for ABC-TV and somehow interviewed Osama bin Laden in his cave in Afghanistan before 9/11.

It is not known what prompted FBI Director Robert Mueller to abandon his passive, laissez-faire attitude regarding the bureau's public relations.

That attitude has allowed the FBI to be criticized unmercifully for its 9/11 failings, from ignoring warnings that might have prevented the attacks to not sharing information with local authorities.

The criticism - all unanswered - has been so harsh and unrelenting that the future shape of the organization and its responsibilities are in doubt.

This has been visible on a smaller scale in New York City, where Police Commissioner Ray Kelly seeks to position the NYPD at the center of the fight against terrorism.

His establishment of a counter-terrorism bureau under former CIA official David Cohen, his sending NYPD detectives on undercover missions to other states and his stationing detectives overseas have all been direct challenges to the FBI.

In addition, Kelly and his spokesman Paul Browne have run public relations circles around the bureau by taking credit - real or imagined - for all sorts of terrorism-related FBI accomplishments.

A year ago, after the FBI and NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force captured radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza Al-Masri in London, Kelly held a news conference singling out Detective George Corey for praise and distributed Corey's picture to the media.

The then head of the FBI's New York office, Pasquale D'Amuro became so exasperated that he released a memorandum criticizing Kelly for ignoring the contributions of others on the task force and rebuking him for "security concerns."

Now let's return to Miller, himself no shrinking violet when it comes to attracting media attention and who, assuming he gets the job, will have the title of assistant director, reporting directly to Mueller, said FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell.

According to John Timoney, who served as Bratton's chief of department and first deputy in New York, and who is now police chief of Miami, Miller has unique qualifications.

As a reporter, he developed extraordinarily close relations with local and federal authorities. In his current job as chief of counter-terrorism, he "knows as much about terrorism as anyone around," Timoney says.

Miller's only problem came as Bratton's spokesman at the NYPD. Miller was so effective he lasted only a year before Mayor Rudolph Giuliani forced him to resign because Bratton was getting more favorable publicity than Giuliani.

Who's a shnorrer? The department line on civilian photographer Walter Taylor, as expressed by a member of the department's photo unit, is that Kelly's attack on Taylor at the Finest Foundation dinner at the Plaza last April was appropriate because another photographer had been assigned and Taylor showed up only to shnorren a free meal.

If that is true, why didn't Kelly come down on the two deputy commissioners who attended the affair and received free dinners? Or for that matter, why has Kelly said nothing about the shnorring top brass who attended the dinner of Reginald Ward's New York Law Enforcement Foundation on a yacht last month?

The department's only non-shnorring member of the top brass seems to be Charles Campisi, chief of internal affairs.

Come in, Pitch. After this column sent out an all-points bulletin on John Picciano, chief aide to former commissioner Bernard Kerik, amid concerns by family members that he has disappeared, Pitch sent the following e-mail:

"Where I am and what I am doing is my business not yours and who I choose to speak to is also my business. My family is well taken care of with my pension and other means."

But Pitch, where are you?

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© 2005 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.