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The Daily News and Cohen: Pile On The Love

October 1, 2007

Can someone please explain what’s between Mortimer Zuckerman’s Daily News and the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen?

Is it that Zuckerman and Cohen knew each other from Boston, where they both had lived? Is it that they are both Jewish? Is it that they share a vision of 9/11 and our strong involvement in the Iraq War?

Whatever it is, this column has noted the News’ yahoo editorials supporting both the war and the controversial former CIA official. The News even out-yahoos Rupert Murdoch’s Post.

Two years ago, this column reported that Zuckerman claimed he was being followed. Cohen and his Intelligence Division – rather than the local detective squad – investigated. The stated reason: Zuckerman suspected his pursuers were terrorists. They turned out to be retired detectives working as private investigators with no terrorist connection. [Just why they were tailing Mort is anyone’s guess.]

More recently, this column has pointed to the News’ support of Cohen over his refusal to hand over documents to the Civil Liberties Union regarding the NYPD’s world-wide spying on protest groups at the 2004 Republican National Convention. A federal magistrate has ordered the department to turn over Intel documents, while Cohen has argued this will harm our national security. [He’s probably afraid his world-wide network of detectives overstepped their mission and spied on harmless protestors.]

As unceasing as the News’ support of Cohen has been, its treatment last week of a law enforcement dust up at Kennedy Airport involving the arriving Iranian diplomatic delegation accompanying its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing less than insane.

According to law enforcement sources outside the NYPD involved in the incident, officials from the Secret Service, the Diplomatic Security Service, the Port Authority Police and Cohen’s Intelligence Division were all on hand to greet Ahmadinejad’s plane last Sunday.

The NYPD had brought out numerous cars to escort the Iranian motorcade into the city. The cars were to be escorted by the Port Authority Police, which have jurisdiction at the city’s airports, to the airport exit. There, the NYPD and Secret Service would take over jurisdiction into the city.

The four agencies conducted a run-through meeting hours before at an airport command post, set up for the three-week United Nations session. No areas of disagreement were brought up.

But, after the plane landed, Intel’s newly appointed Deputy Chief Thomas Galati, who recently came over from the Gang Unit, blocked the Iranians from leaving the airport.

The reason, he maintained, was that the number of Iranian armed security guards exceeded the number listed on the manifold that the U.S. requires visiting foreign delegations to submit in advance.

 

Galati then insisted on a weapons check of the delegation. The Secret Service, Port Authority, and Diplomatic Security Service maintained this would violate diplomatic protocol. [If we do this to them here, they can do it to us.]

Galati backed off. But, apparently acting on orders from Cohen, he then held up the Iranian motorcade for 40 minutes while the Port Authority, Secret Service, and Diplomatic Security officials fumed.

The Iranians were permitted to depart the airport only after the Chief of the Port Authority Police Christopher Trucillo contacted the NYPD’s Chief of Department Joseph Esposito.

So what did the 40-minute inconvenience accomplish, other than exacerbating already horrible relations with Iran and making our diplomats more vulnerable to Iranian retaliation?

A law enforcement official familiar with the incident pointed out that Galati had expressed no concerns about the number of Iranian armed security guards at the earlier run-through meeting.

He described Galati’s hold up of the delegation as “typical Cohen.”

“This isn’t the stuff you’re supposed to do,” he said. “This is petty tyrant behavior on our part. We’re acting like gun-slingers. It all should have been taken care of beforehand — before anyone got into a car. It’s typical Cohen and [Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly one-upsmanship.”

He might have added that, despite Kelly’s professed abhorrence of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, it’s something Giuliani might have done.

Now let’s return to the Daily News. The story was trumpeted three days after it occurred by columnist Michael Daly, who portrayed the NYPD as heroes.

Or as Daly put it, “The result was a 40-minute standoff where the NYPD vehicle at the head of the motorcade stayed put and the Iranians milled around on the tarmac like guys whose car had been pulled over on Junius Street. The scene was complete with a rough hewn cop, Deputy Chief Thomas Galati…Galati is with the Intelligence Division, headed by David Cohen, formerly of the CIA.”

The same day Daly’s story appeared, the News piled on the Cohen-love with its editorial.

“The NYPD stood tall against the heavily armed entourage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” it read. “Led by a chief by the name of Thomas Galati, the cops put the Iranians in their place until the feds insisted New York had to abide by diplomatic niceties….

“Every year, when the UN General Assembly convenes, everyone … takes for granted that the NYPD will provide top security …They did a bang up job again this week.”

The editorial concluded with the following: “The other day out at JFK, that included trying to check how many guns the Iranians were packing. Galati and his boss Deputy Commissioner David Cohen did their best to find out. For which we salute them heartily."

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt