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Congressman and Kelly: No Big Love

May 21, 2007

It took a former small-town mayor from Mississippi to articulate what every bigshot law enforcement official in the country believes but lacks the guts to say.

The former mayor from Bolton, Miss [area, 1.5 sq miles, population, 630] is named Bennie Thompson. Recently, he became the Democratic Party chairman of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee. In a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last March, he criticized the NYPD for exceeding its jurisdiction by operating outside New York City.

Or as Thompson’s letter to Kelly said — according to the Daily News, which obtained a copy — “I am concerned ... that the measures implemented by the NYPD Intelligence Division may have gone too far.”

In an interview with the News, Thompson said the NYPD should not be conducting undercover anti-terrorism operations in other cities without informing the local authorities. It is essential, he said, that the NYPD “respect the jurisdictions of police departments elsewhere by letting them know when NYPD officers are present.”

In a telling remark, Thompson added that “law enforcement partnerships based on mutual respect are ultimately what will make us safer.”

Note the word “respect.” When it comes to law enforcement, our police commissioner respects no one — other than himself and apparently his Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen, who heads the department’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Since returning as commissioner in 2002, Kelly has gone out of his way to bad-mouth and/or circumvent the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He has also refused to cooperate with other big-city police departments in terrorism-related activities.

This column has reported on the NYPD’s 2003 undercover bribery operation of scuba shop owners on the New Jersey shore without informing Jersey authorities; and on its 2004 monitoring/infiltrating of a political group, the Black Tea Society, at a Boston church without notifying Massachusetts authorities. When Jersey authorities learned of the scuba operation, they ordered NYPD detectives out of the state. After the Boston church meeting, Massachusetts state police, not knowing who the NYPD detectives were, stopped them on the Mass Pike and nearly arrested them for speeding.

Kelly’s and Cohen’s most notable anti-terrorism program has been the creation of an NYPD international spy service, with NYPD detectives based overseas in direct competition with the FBI and CIA. Since no provision exists in the city charter to base detectives outside the country, their expenses have been paid by wealthy New Yorkers through what began as an anti-corruption mechanism that evolved into the police commissioner’s professional slush fund with no outside oversight — the Police Foundation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller initially resisted the NYPD’s overseas spy service. He brought in his Washington buddy, Special Agent PasqualeD’Amuro, to head the Bureau’s New York office and rein in Kelly. When in 2004 Kelly held a news conference citing the work of NYPD detective George Corey for the arrest in London of radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamsa al-Masri, while ignoring the work of other detectives and agents who helped effect the arrest, D’Amuro publicly criticized him, stating, “This is not the way we do business.”

But Director Mueller then changed course. He began describing Kelly’s overseas ambitions as his “signature accomplishment.” D’Amuro left the Bureau to work for Rudy Giuliani, whom Kelly has also criticized over his handling of 9/11.

D’Amuro’s successor, Mark Mershon, said in an interview last year that accommodating Kelly was now his and Mueller’s top priority in New York.

Last September, this column reported on the Manhattan Institute’s terrorism conference at the Roosevelt Hotel to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Initially, the NYPD co-sponsored the conference. But when Kelly learned that former police commissioner Bill Bratton and some of his former NYPD protégés who now hold key positions in law enforcement agencies across the country would also participate in the conference, he cancelled the NYPD’s sponsorship, and held a rival terrorism conference the same day at One Police Plaza.

Freedom of Information.
Following the department’s refusal to renew this reporter’s press card, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a Freedom of Information request with the police department. It seeks:

bulletCopies of every document in the department’s possession concerning this reporter, including, but not limited to, any files maintained by DCPI, the Police Commissioner’s Office or any other unit in the NYPD.

bulletFor every person who currently has a valid press pass from the Department, copies of all materials submitted by the person in applying for the pass and copies of documents identifying the reason[s] the Department issued his or her press pass.

bulletFor every person who since Jan. 1, 2002 has been denied a press pass, copies of all material submitted by the person in applying for the pass and copies of documents identifying the reason[s] the department denied his or her press pass.

Black or White?
Readers have questioned the accuracy of last week’s column, which included Prince of Buff-land Reggie Ward among Police Commissioner Kelly’s new black friends. Your Humble Servant has concluded that in such personal affairs, it is up to Reggie to decide if and how he wants to declare himself.

He did not respond to a telephone message left at his Buff-land group, the New York Law Enforcement Foundation.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt