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Releasing Raw Terror Files: Inside Dave’s Brain

August 13, 2007

So Federal Magistrate James Francis IV has ignored the bleating of Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen and ordered the police department to release 600-plus pages of documents on groups it spied on before the Republican National Convention.

Some of the NYPD’s spying reportedly occurred across the country and even overseas.

Cohen is the former CIA spook whose most singular qualification to head Intel appears to be the disdain for the FBI he shares with the man who appointed him, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Cohen had declared in June that disclosure of any portion of the Intel’s “raw, unevaluated” field reports would destroy its effectiveness in fighting terrorism.

Such disclosures, Cohen argued, extended to the “case number, date of report, unit reporting, person reporting, date, time, location of activities being reported, description of activities, including names of organizations and individuals monitored, topics discussed, conversations engaged in or overheard and things observed.”

As catastrophic as Cohen claimed the release of these documents would be, these same 600-plus pages of secret Intelligence documents somehow turned up last May in the hands of Judith Miller, the discredited New York Times reporter, whose claims that Saddam possessed of weapons of mass destruction helped lead us into war in Iraq. After her reporting back then was revealed to be have been nonsense [“You’re only as good as your sources,” she explained], the Times pressured her into resigning.

Meanwhile, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, Miller described those raw, unevaluated reports as listing “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.”

It is unclear how any of this related to terrorism. And you wonder why Cohen wants to keep the reports secret?

A more interesting question is how Miller got hold of those top-secret documents. While the NYPD denied it had given them to her, and even demanded an inquiry into “leaks,” Miller began her Journal article with this: “Stung by [the New York Times’ spying] criticism, Police Commissioner Ray W. Kelly, David Cohen, the Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Paul J. Browne, the NYPD press spokesman, outlined the nature of the police department’s concerns, its conduct and the goals of its intelligence surveillance.” O.K., Reader, you figure it out. If you think, as Your Humble Servant does, they came from someone way high up in the police department, isn’t it strange the same documents are supposedly too sensitive for public perusal?

Believe it or not, Cohen’s position not to release the reports has its supporters.

We turn now to the Daily News, which once referred to itself as the “Honest Voice of New York” and which is now owned by Mortimer Zuckerman, a real estate developer who happens to be a personal friend of Cohen.

Back in 2005, readers of this column might recall, Zuckerman discovered he was being tailed. He either convinced Cohen, or Cohen humored Zuckerman into thinking, his tail might be terror-related because Zuckerman is a supporter of Israel.

So Cohen put Intel on the case. And guess what? Intel discovered Zuckerman’s pursuers were two retired NYPD detectives with no terrorist connections, hired as private eyes by an employer who was apparently interested in learning something more personal about Zuckerman. We won’t go any further than that here.

As for terror, a better place to find it is on the Daily News editorial page. Of Magistrate Francis’s decision to release the Intel files, it opined last week, “Wiser thinking must prevail. … What qualifies him to make such a determination?”

Of the Intelligence Division under Cohen, the same editorial, citing no evidence, said, “Think of it as the city’s CIA but competent.”

Meanwhile, the Times headlined an editorial last week as “The Need to Know.” It included these two sentences. “The administration has refused to say how much warrant-less spying it has been doing… ..Instead of answering these questions, the administration has done its best to ensure that everyone stays confused.”

That editorial was referring to the Bush administration. It could have been about the New York City Police Department.

He's Back. As we reported back in May, former Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman has returned to One Police Plaza.

Police sources say Kelly introduced him last week at an executive staff meeting as the new Deputy Commissioner of Training.

As we also reported, he succeeds Charlie DeRienzo, a shill Kelly also brought back to Police Plaza after a brief episode heading the Port Authority police.

Chapman, the NYPD’s top-ranking black officer under Howard Safir, had a slightly longer episode as police chief of Bridgeport, Conn., where he was known for taking plenty of sick days.

Rehiring him is another indication Kelly is ready to run for mayor. In the darkest days of last year’s 50-shot police killing of Sean Bell, Chapman went out of his way to praise him publicly.

Chapman joins Kelly’s clique of new friends who include Reggie Ward, the stealth director of Mount Vernon’s police department, and rapper Sean [P. Diddy] Combs, at whose restaurant last November Kelly accepted the Sepia Skin Cream’s “Presidential Excellence and Diversity” award. Combs received Sepia’s “Chairman’s Entrepreneurial” award at the same ceremony.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt