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The NYPD and Judith Miller

May 14, 2007

Upset by Jim Dwyer’s articles in the New York Times, detailing the NYPD world-wide, possibly illegal, spying on non-violent groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention, the department sought a sympathetic ear.

It found one in the discredited former Times reporter, Judith Miller, whom the Times forced to resign, largely because of her faulty reporting on the Iraq war.

Miller was given rare access to the department’s top officials.

She said she also reviewed “600-plus pages of still-secret [NYPD] intelligence documents” — describing them as “raw intelligence files.” Presumably these were the same files used by Dwyer, who appears to have obtained them from sources outside the NYPD.

The NYPD then denied any role in Miller’s obtaining those files, and demanded an investigation into who leaked them to Dwyer.

Miller’s article, defending the NYPD’s surveillance at the RNC, appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 3.

“Stung by the [Times’ spying] criticism,” she began, “Police Commissioner Ray W. Kelly, David Cohen, the Deputy Police Commissioner for Intelligence, and Paul J. Browne, the NYPD press spokesman, outlined in interviews the nature of the police’s concerns, its conduct and the goals of its intelligence surveillance.”

Those documents, she writes, “list numerous peaceful organizations and individuals planning to attend the RNC, including three elected officials, street theater companies, church groups, antiwar organizations, environmentalists, and .people opposed to the death penalty.”

She quotes Cohen — who was a senior CIA official before joining the NYPD — as saying that the “‘co-mingled threat’ of ‘terrorism, anarchist violence and unlawful civil disobedience’ drove both the surveillance program and the policies of mass arrest and blanket fingerprinting” of 1,806 persons at the convention. Virtually all of them were released with all charges dismissed.

Miller writes that the “intelligence documents appear focused mainly on estimating the number of and motivations of people who were planning to attend the convention as well as potential threats to the gathering, its delegates and the police.”

Although those threats appear least important in her recounting, the bulk of her article quotes Cohen justifying the police surveillance because of the terrorism threat.

Citing Cohen, she writes: “Since 9/11, he said, the city has experienced or prevented 11 separate terrorist plots…. The 18-month period between the selecting of New York and the convention itself was ‘the most intense threat period of the post-September 11 era to date,’ Mr. Cohen said.

“Six terrorist attacks by al Qaeda-related or inspired groups in far-flung Casablanca, Jakarta, Istanbul, Moscow and Madrid killed nearly 300 people and wounded more than 3,000,” Miller writes.

She herself refers to Madison Square Garden, where the convention was held, as “ground zero” to the protestors.

Now let’s see:

bulletMiller’s articles before the Iraq war quoted sources confirming that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, had links to Al Qaeda and all sorts of other nonsense.

bulletIt was Dwyer, whom The Times sent to Lebanon, who exposed what he termed “the rotten foundation” of Miller’s reporting.

bulletMiller subsequently spent a couple of months in jail, protecting the confidentiality of Lewis [Scooter] Libby, an operative of Vice President Cheney. Libby was subsequently convicted of perjury over his discrediting a critic of the Iraq war.

bulletThe New York Civil Liberties Union— which has those 600 pages of secret police spying files — has sought to be able to publicly release them.

bulletThe NYPD opposes their release, saying the public will misinterpret them, and has called for an investigation into who leaked them to Dwyer.

bulletIn a letter city lawyers filed in federal court May 4 after federal judge James C. Francis, IV ordered their release, Kelly, Cohen and Browne state they “did not provide Miller …. with the documents and did not direct anyone else in the NYPD to do so and to the best of their knowledge no one in the NYPD provided them to her.”

That’s rich. Does anyone believe that, in Kelly’s secrecy-obsessed department, those secret documents materialized for Miller without permission from Kelly, Cohen and/or Browne?

bulletIf Kelly/Cohen/Brown are telling the truth, when will they start an internal investigation into who leaked the documents to her, much as Kelly did a year ago when he investigated detectives suspected of leaking confidential information to the media in the murder of Imette St. Guillen?

bulletIf Kelly pushes it, maybe Miller will soon pack her bags and return to prison to protect the identity of her NYPD source[s].

Can It Be True? Is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly considering hiring former Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman as Deputy Commissioner of Administration? Let’s explain.

Chapman, one of the department’s highest-ranking black officers under former commissioners Bill Bratton and Howard Safir, retired a decade ago. Most recently, he served as Chief of Police of Bridgeport, Conn. After last year’s 50-shot killing of Sean Bell, he was quoted in news accounts as praising Kelly’s leadership of the NYPD.

If Kelly does bring Chapman back, he will join a growing circle of Kelly’s new black friends. These include Master Reginald Ward, the stealth director of Mount Vernon police department, and rapper Sean [P. Diddy] Combs, at whose restaurant last November, Kelly accepted the Sepia Skin Cream Company’s “Presidential Excellence and Diversity Award.” [Combs received Sepia’s “Chairman’s Entrepreneurial” award.]

Chapman may also be able to offer Kelly some personal personnel advice. Back when Chapman was feuding with Chief of Department Louis Anemone, he accused Louie of “ghettoizing” the department’s few top black officers by placing them directly under Chapman’s command.

The same charge was directed against Kelly last year when he appointed Douglas Zeigler, the department’s highest-ranking black chief, to head the Community Affairs Bureau. At the same time, Kelly appointed another black chief, Gerald Nelson, to head the School Safety Division, which Kelly then placed under Zeigler’s jurisdiction.

Finally, If Kelly does bring back Chapman, will he follow in the path of Charlie DeRienzo, now the Deputy Commissioner of Training? When Kelly became police commissioner in 2002, he personally lobbied then New Jersey governor James McGreevey to appoint DeRienzo head of the Port Authority police. After DeRienzo bombed out two years later, Kelly hired him back as Deputy Commissioner of Administration. Charlie didn't do much of anything in that job. So what would Chapman do? As they say, zero divided by two is still zero.

Can It Also Be True? Has Police Commissioner Ray Kelly granted a pistol permit to retired Inspector Robert Wheeler III? Let’s explain.

Wheeler, one of the NYPD’s few ranking black officers, shot a teenager whom Wheeler claimed had attempted to rob him in Washington D.C. on Dec. 9, 2005. Wheeler left/fled the scene, reported the robbery by telephone to the D.C. police but failed to mention he had shot the teen or that he was a New York City police officer. Two days later, after returning to New York, he alerted the department.

Kelly took no action until Dec. 28, five days after this column reported some of these egregious lapses. Kelly then removed Wheeler’s gun and placed him on modified assignment. Wheeler remained there, drawing his salary until he retired a few months ago.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt