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Port Authority Police: Sacrificed To Ambition

July 28, 2008

The Port Authority Police Department learned a painful lesson about power and politics last week: its sacrifice on 9/11 pales next to the ambition of a relentless leader.

The 1,600-officer PAPD lost 37 officers in the World Trade Center attack — “the most police officers in the history of law enforcement in one event,” says its union president Gus Danese.

Now, however, the 36,000-officer New York City Police Department will control key operations at the 9/11 site. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has convinced everyone that he and the NYPD are better at fighting terrorism than the PAPD.

Kelly has made the same claims vis-à-vis the FBI and has fought with them for the past six years to prove his words.

Since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has also been fighting with the Port Authority and its police department

He won the first skirmish when he successfully lobbied then New Jersey Governor James McGreevey to appoint his friend, retired NYPD Inspector Charles De Rienzo, as PAPD Superintendent.

The PAPD’s previous superintendent, Fred Morrone, had been one of the 37 officers lost on 9/11.

Alas, Charlie lasted only two years. The PAPD never trusted him. Its leadership felt his loyalty was to Kelly.

In 2004, De Rienzo returned to the NYPD as Deputy Commissioner of Administration, saying he wanted to work as a liaison with other departments, fighting terrorism. Instead, Kelly assigned him to a series of highfalutin-sounding jobs such as heading the Facilities Management Division, which meant he was a high-class janitor.

A year later, Kelly fought another battle with the Port Authority, this one over the Freedom Tower. At first glance, Kelly won, although his victory may dampen the project’s financial prospects.

That battle was joined when Deputy Commissioner of Counter Terrorism Mike Sheehan, a professional military man, objected to plans that would have placed the tower 25 feet from West Street, a major thoroughfare. This, in Sheehan’s opinion, made the Freedom Tower vulnerable to a truck bomb.

Although Sheehan lacks an engineering or architectural decree, he was influential enough to force the Port Authority back to the drawing board. Their redesign sets the building back 90 feet from the street and reinforces its 200-foot base with a concrete wall covered in steel and titanium.

But these changes keep the first 23 floors of the 69-story tower shrouded in darkness because the building will have virtually no windows. Sunlight might seem to be a natural for a tower named Freedom.

But, hey. It will be interesting to see how high insurance costs will run and how many tenants the Freedom Tower attracts.

Still, Kelly raged on. In 2006, he objected to what he termed lax security at the four entrances to the Ground Zero construction site.

He sought to replace the PAPD — which guarded the site’s four entrances, at Church, West, Vesey, and Liberty Streets. The PAPD had placed its officers just inside the gates to each entrance in parked patrol cars.

In an urban version of a Mexican standoff, Kelly placed NYPD officers just outside the gates in their patrol cars. Though only a few feet apart, the officers from the two agencies did not communicate. They eyeballed each other from their cars.

After a few months of wasted manpower, Kelly withdrew his officers from this foolishness.

Last week’s final battle saw Kelly attempt to banish the PAPD from the entire construction site. Although he won the right to establish an NYPD “World Trade Center Unit” of 600 cops that will run anti-terrorism operations inside the site; and although the Port Authority will foot the bill for new “ring of steel” security equipment that Kelly favors, the PAPD will retain a presence there.

“The families of the PA officers killed want the Port Authority police to maintain a presence, and we have,” Danese told the Daily News.

There are even those who dare to say that unless Kelly is elected mayor, control of the World Trade Center will, in the next city administration, revert to the Port Authority. and the PAPD.

Academic Terrorism. It’s a tough and complicated world out there, fighting terrorism from academe’s ivory towers.

Take the NYPD’s “scholar in residence” program, funded to the tune of $180,000 by what the department says is a private foundation.

That’s not our friendly Police Foundation, which funds just about everything related to terrorism in the NYPD while refusing to inform the public about it.

Rather, it’s an outfit called the Counter Terrorism Foundation, a right-wing, neo-con-sounding think tank in Washington D.C. [Check out its website. You can decide for yourself what they’re about.]

It’s headed by someone named Andrew Cochran, who didn’t return an e-mail seeking a description of his organization.

As for the NYPD’s $180,000 scholar, Dr. Marc Sageman, he may soon be embroiled in an academic controversy.

Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a self-described “progressive” group outside Boston, writes in a magazine called The Public Eye: Sageman’s book, Leaderless Jihad, “lacks the citations generally considered appropriate in scholarly work, and in two instances constitute intellectual plagiarism.”

Sageman — whose address is Rockville, Maryland [which makes one wonder how often the NYPD’s $180,000 scholar shows up at Police Plaza] — did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

However, Berlet shared Sageman’s denial to him about the plagiarism allegations. Sageman doesn’t seem too exercised. He seems to be saying that when writing, you don’t always have to attribute original sources.

Wrote Sageman: “Each time we see the sun move in the sky, we do not refer to either Ptolemy or Copernicus.”

This further suggests that Sageman is not merely a psychiatrist, PH.D. and terrorism fighter, but also a philosopher.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt