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Terrorism Conviction, Message Uncertain

May 29, 2006

What is the message sent by the conviction of the Pakistani immigrant Shahawar Matin Siraj for planning to blow up the Herald Square subway station?

Message number one: A potential terrorist is out of circulation and the Intelligence Division of the New York City Police Department under Deputy Commissioner David Cohen is capable of making terrorism cases without the help of the FBI.

Message number two: For better or for worse, the NYPD is deeper inside some Brooklyn mosques than anyone has imagined. It was an NYPD informant -- to whom the department paid $100, 000 -- who met Matin at a mosque and egged him on.

Message number three: Without the informant’s encouragement, Matin might not have pursued his plans as far as he did. More than a few people attending his trial, including at least one from a law enforcement agency, have suggested that Matin belongs not in the big house but in the bug house.

Says a former top department official: “It’s like in a gun case. I like to get a gun dealer who has a proven track record. Did he sell to anyone else or did he become a gun dealer because we [the department] put him up to it?

“Yes, he [Matin] had it in his heart to do these things. Is it good we got him because someone else might have put him up to it? If I am the P.C. [police commissioner], I am all for doing it.

“But what did we accomplish here? A potential murderer is where he belongs but how much are we culpable for? Who knows? Only the guy in prison.”

The Next Big Question.
Will Matin’s conviction now embolden Commissioner Kelly to pursue his favorite terror suspects – political protestors?

Last week, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote to Kelly, saying, “We continue to be troubled by the department’s insistence with equating political demonstrations with threats of terrorism and civil disorders.”

He added that Kelly had “unlawfully refused to cooperate” with the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s investigation into allegations of police misconduct at the Republican National Convention, during which hundreds of protestors were arrested for no apparent legitimate reason. His use of the word “unlawfully” referred to the fact that the city charter mandates the police cooperate with all CCRB investigations, not those Kelly chooses to.

Attorneys for the arrested protestors have cited at least four instances of police lying under oath about arresting demonstrators.

Beginning with the first anti-Iraq war protest march in Feb. 2003, Kelly has equated demonstrators with terrorism. During that protest march, detectives questioned arrested protestors in their jail cells about their friends, schools they attended, organizations they belonged to and their political affiliations. The police compiled the data on what came to be known as a “demonstration debriefing form.”

When this became public, Kelly said that neither he nor Deputy Commissioner Cohen knew about the forms, and ordered them discontinued. But as a lawyer, albeit a non-practicing one, he said he defended the questioning, maintaining the arrestees had been “debriefed” as “part of the arrest process.”

The presiding federal Judge Charles Haight disagreed with Kelly, who never cited those arguments again, at least not publicly.

The Fighting McCarthys [Con’t]
Now that Commissioner Kelly has let him skate after his New Jersey dust-up with the Palisades Parkway police, Deputy Commissioner for Operations Garry McCarthy is apparently feeling his oats again.

A year and a half ago – on Jan. 9, 2005, to be specific, a month before he was arrested and handcuffed by the Palisades police following an argument over a parking ticket issued his daughter – McCarthy involved himself in another car stop. This one involved the arrest of a relative in Manhattan for drunken driving.

When a cop on the midnight tour of the Manhattan North Task Force pulled the relative over, the relative telephoned McCarthy but the cop refused to speak to him. Instead, after consulting with his sergeant and lieutenant, the cop arrested the relative.

McCarthy was not happy. He began calling the borough commander, Assistant Chief Raymond Diaz, to have the cop, sergeant and lieutenant transferred. Behind-the-scenes negotiations with a union trustee ultimately produced a back-door apology. After the Jersey incident, he backed off.

Last week, sources say, McCarthy again involved himself in the Manhattan North Task Force car stop. This time, it involved a friend of his, summonsed by a cop for talking on his cell phone while driving.

When the cop asked McCarthy’s friend why he had been talking while driving, the friend answered, “Because I got a f… phone call.”

Again, McCarthy was not happy. Again, he attempted to have the cop transferred. The cop, however, comes from a police family. A relative is an inspector. So far there have been no transfers.

Neither McCarthy nor the Task Force captain, William Crossan, returned calls, seeking comment.

Spotted in Sao Paulo.
While former commissioner Bernie Kerik sweats out possible indictment in the Bronx, his number one cook/ bottle-washer/ wheeler-dealer/manipulator John Picciano has surfaced in Sao Paulo, Brazil, supposedly in the employ of a New York-based security company. Though Picc is not believed to be involved in the Bronx case, which is based on an allegedly mob-connected company paying for renovations to Kerik’s Riverdale apartment, is it coincidence that he fled the country as the grand jury began sitting?

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Copyright © 2006 Leonard Levitt