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Ray Kelly: Still Running Rings Around the Bureau

March 10, 2008

The FBI may be leading the investigation into last Thursday’s bombing of a Times Square recruiting station. But why, then, is NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly appearing solo on television to explain it?

Inter-agency cooperation appeared to go smoothly at first — at least for the first few hours. At Thursday’s first post-bombing news conference at 9 a.m., Kelly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Mershon, the head of the FBI’s New York office, stood together as one.

Mershon said the investigation would be conducted by the Joint Terrorist Task Force. For those not in the know, the JTTF is comprised of FBI agents and NYPD detectives under the FBI’s jurisdiction. That means the FBI is the lead agency.

A few hours later, Kelly held a news conference at Police Plaza about a counterfeiting case with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. After that ended, Kelly held his own news conference and answered questions about the bombing, releasing a video of it. So far as it known, no one from the FBI was invited.

No big deal, you might say, except that, since returning as Police Commissioner in 2002, Kelly has run rings around the Bureau when it comes to taking credit for terrorism operations.

We’ve already written ad nauseum of his attempts to bypass the JTTF through the NYPD’s Overseas Spy Service under Deputy Commissioner David Cohen, whom we will now refer to as ”Confidential Cohen,” a term of endearment first uttered by Mr. James Breslin.

Just last week, Kelly announced that the NYPD and the Madrid police department in Spain had agreed to share anti-terrorism information. That’s an especially touchy subject for the FBI because Kelly touts as one of his Overseas Spy successes the dispatching of NYPD detectives from London to meet with Madrid police following the train bombing there before the FBI did. In so doing, the detectives bypassed the FBI legal attaché assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Spain.

It’s not clear what information that Madrid police meeting yielded. The NYPD never informed the FBI what they learned. The FBI surreptitiously got hold of the detectives’ report and determined it was mostly newspaper clippings.

We’ve also written ad nauseum about Confidential Cohen’s domestic spy service, also meant to bypass the JTTF. This included sending Intelligence Division detectives out of New York City’s jurisdiction to other states on undercover anti-terrorism missions without alerting either local authorities or the FBI, with sometimes comical results. [See NYPD Confidential columns on the New Jersey scuba-diving sting, where Jersey officials ordered the NYPD detectives out of the state.]

Eventually, Confidential Cohen’s anti-terrorism maunderings morphed into spying on protest groups at the 2004 Republican National Convention, with sometimes equally comical results. [See NYPD Confidential columns on the NYPD’s infiltration of a meeting of the Black Tea Society in Boston, after which Mass. State police stopped the detectives on the Mass pike for speeding and nearly arrested them.]

Sometimes, the results were not so comical. Cohen’s spying is now the subject of a court case filed by the NY Civil Liberties Union. Cohen has maintained that releasing any information about the NYPD spying could alert terrorists to its surveillance techniques, therefore damage national security.

When Mershon took over two years ago, the FBI line changed. FBI Director Robert Mueller told him his first priority was to get along with Kelly.

Asked how he would handle a joint investigation into a terrorist act in New York City, which by law the FBI is mandated to lead, Mershon said in these very pages in 2006: “It is an issue of maturity and judgment from the top, of the pureness of heart, so to speak, of the leaders of those agencies. It will not be done in an atmosphere of subordinating another agency. …The reality is you have to walk into that room, let out a deep breath and hope everyone in there is as mature and as like-minded as yourself. You have to share completely and make it crystal clear that anyone who violates this is not part of the team.”

Asked if NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would sign on to that, Mershon said, “I do genuinely expect that. I would be shocked if I don’t see that.”

Now let’s return to the Times Square bombing, which occurred last Thursday at about 3:45 a.m.. when someone wearing a hood and riding a bicycle threw a bomb at an empty recruiting office. Whether or not the perpetrator is an Al Qaeda operative, or as seems more likely, a grey-bearded anarchist from the 1960s, the bombing would seem to qualify as a terrorist act.

Law enforcement sources believe the bombing is linked to explosions at the British and Mexican consulates in 2005 and 2007 and may also be linked to bombs set off outside a Barclay’s Bank on Wall Street in 2000, Swiss Bank in 1997 and Planet Hollywood in 1997.

Maybe Confidential Cohen might even have had him under surveillance for the RNC.

At any rate, who on Friday morning did in-studio appearances at both Fox News and CNN to discuss the bombing but Ray Kelly? Your Humble Servant caught his image Saturday night on Fox News while searching the airwaves unsuccessfully for Mershon.

Moving On Up. Just who is it that finances the NYPD’s Overseas Spy Service since there’s nothing in the city charter to pay for cops living and working overseas? It’s the fat cats of the New York City Police Foundation, which holds its annual fundraising dinner this week. The dinner’s not being held at Police Plaza, as in the past, but at the Waldorf Astoria, no less. Tickets are $1,500. Just think, the foundation was begun as an anti-corruption measure after the Knapp Commission of the early 1970s. Now it describes itself in its website as “providing resources not covered in the city budget.” Back in the day, tickets to its dinner cost $100.

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