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Who Speaks Up For the FBI? Not the FBI

July 9, 2007

Perhaps when the history of the FBI’s post 9/11 failures is written, someone will write that its greatest failure might have been failing to publicize itself.

Take the recent British terror scare.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his 24-hour public relations machine — i.e. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne — didn’t miss a nanosecond after the two unexploded bombs were discovered in London. He pointed out that Chief James Waters, who heads NYPD’s section of the Joint Terrorist Task Force, was at that very moment attending a security conference in nearby Scotland. Presumably, Browne’s message was to inform New Yorkers the NYPD was on top of things on the European front.

Presumably, too, it was to make New Yorkers forget that when the bombs were discovered, the NYPD’s London-based detective, as the Daily News reported, was attending a promotion ceremony back at One Police Plaza.

Meanwhile, no one — least of all the FBI — thought to inform New Yorkers that accompanying Waters to Scotland was the JTTF’s top-ranking official — the FBI’s Joe Demarest.

And get this! What top FBI official from Washington accompanied Demarest to the Scotland conference? Why none other than the FBI’s Assistant Director in charge of public relations John Miller [who did not respond to an e-mail seeking an explanation, clarification or whatever.]

That’s strange, because in the past, Miller has not hesitated to return reporters’ phone calls. Recall that he served as spokesman for Kelly’s successor in 1994, Bill Bratton, and was as good as Kelly’s man Browne is in garnering favorable publicity for his boss. In fact Miller garnered so much favorable publicity for Bratton that a year later, Mayor Rudy Giuliani forced Miller to resign.

This reporter does not pretend to understand the FBI’s internal intricacies — specifically, why the Bureau does not allow Miller to speak up for itself.

As a former FBI agent put it, “What is the downside in saying what the NYPD has said, in explaining what the FBI is doing to protect the public?”

The result, in New York, is that — as with the recent London bombs and the Glasgow car explosion — the FBI has allowed Kelly pursue his agenda while ignoring its own.

Since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has been skillful in exploiting this FBI weakness — most notably in placing his NYPD overseas spy corps of detectives in London and other spots to compete with the FBI.

Notably in January 2006, the FBI’s newly appointed New York bureau head Mark Mershon stated that his first priority upon arriving here — as per direction from FBI Director Robert Mueller — was to placate Kelly.

Mershon stated then that the Bureau recognized Kelly viewed his overseas detectives as “the signature accomplishment of his administration” and added that the FBI supported it. In his words: “They’re doing something we are not.”

NYPD Transparency. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert got it right when he wrote last week that if what Ray Kelly and his police department are doing had occurred under Rudy Giuliani, the town would be in an uproar.

Herbert revealed that, in February 2005, a police officer had arrested a Bronx schoolgirl for cursing in the hallway and that, when her principal interceded, he also arrested him. The principal was suspended. Although the charges were dropped and he was reinstated, he left New York the following year. Kelly, meanwhile, defended the officer, saying, “The principal was simply wrong.”

Herbert then discovered that, seven months later, in September 2005, the cop was involved in another incident and was placed on modified duty and his gun removed. The department — i.e., Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Browne, known in this column as “Mr. Truth” — refused to explain to Herbert what that second incident involved.

So Herbert did some more reporting. He discovered it involved the cop’s stalking, kissing, and harassing a 17-year-old Bronx schoolgirl at Truman High School.

He also learned that the cop subsequently had his gun returned to him and that he returned to patrol. Browne refused to explain why that was.

Aren’t charges brought against a police officer public information? Isn’t the disposition of a case involving a police officer also public information?

And just think: When he ran for mayor, Michael Bloomberg promised more transparency in the police department than existed under Giuliani.

More From Mr.Truth.
While refusing to provide answers to Herbert, Deputy Commissioner Browne wasn’t too busy to announce a “media alert” on “the farewell walk-out” of Deputy Commissioner Charles DeRienzo, including four fact-filled paragraphs describing his accomplishments.

The first two paragraphs take DeRienzo through his 33-year career in the NYPD to 2002 when he took command of the Port Authority Police Department.” [Mr. Truth was too modest to mention that DeRienzo secured his job through the personal intercession of Kelly, who telephoned then New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, making DeRienzo probably the only person in the history of the NYPD whom Kelly went out of his way to help.]

But let’s allow Mr. Truth to speak for himself. As Port Authority Director, Brown wrote, DeRienzo “was responsible for the management of all 1,700 officers and commanders of the PAPD, including their deployment, budgeting, training and discipline. In this capacity, he was responsible for the daily police operations and security at four airports, the PATH subway system, two Container Ports and the Port Authority river crossings, and was instrumental in creating the PAPD’s new Office of Counter Terrorism, Intelligence and Training. In May 2004, Mr. DeRienzo returned to the NYPD as Deputy Commissioner of Administration.”

We’ll pause there and add only this. DeRienzo was dumped by the Port Authority after two years. When Kelly took him back, he expressed a desire to work as a liaison with other departments in counter-terrorism. Instead Kelly placed him in charge of Plant Management, otherwise known as the Department of Mops and Brooms.

As Browne concluded in his media alert, DeRienzo “was responsible for a variety of special projects assigned to him by the Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.”

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt