Not A Terrorist Was Stirring ….
December 22, 2008
On the night before Christmas, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly decided to take a stroll to ponder his future since Michael Bloomberg had stabbed him in the back by deciding to run for a third term as mayor.
Rather than stroll down Fifth Avenue — the route of previous commissioners, beginning with Bill Bratton in 1995 — Kelly decided to walk north from Police Plaza on Center and Lafayette Streets towards Chinatown, then arc back to City Hall.
Kelly could not get City Hall out of his mind. He wondered whether Bloomberg’s decision to run for a third term had less to do with his presidential, vice presidential and gubernatorial aspirations falling flat than with his desire to prevent Kelly from becoming mayor.
“Should I stay on as police commissioner for Bloomberg’s third term?” Kelly asked himself. Then he pondered whether Bloomberg would allow him to stay on. The mayor was capable of all sorts of deceit, as Kelly well knew. To gull the public after 9/11, Mayor Mike had promised that Kelly would try to persuade Bernie Kerik to remain as police commissioner. HoHoHo!
Bloomberg had also promised more transparency for the Police Department than existed under Giuliani. HoHoHoHo!
“Would he run for a third term with me at his side, then dump me after the election?” Kelly asked himself. What a disaster that would be. That would mean no more invitations to Christmas parties thrown by moguls like John Catsimatidis honoring Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell; no more pictures with socialites like Patricia Duff; no more spreads in Men’s Vogue, displaying Kelly’s gold cufflinks and Charvet tie.
Kelly had been so disturbed about his possible loss of social status that he had recently lost control and overstepped his bounds, taking on the Washington Big Boys. As Kelly approached Foley Square, his latest Big Boy target passed him. Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed down the steps of the federal courthouse into a waiting limousine, but not before shouting to Kelly, “I’m just putting the kybosh on your latest wiretap warrants, Ray. Merry Christmas!”
Mukasey was apparently referring to the frothing letter Kelly had written him in October, grousing that the Justice Department was too slow in approving wiretap warrants for suspected terrorists. It had all blown up in Kelly’s face. Kelly’s letter and Mukasey’s response had been leaked to The New York Times. Mukasey had accused Kelly of acting “contrary to the law” and not sharing information with the FBI. The Times article had portrayed Kelly as a troglodyte, to the right of George Bush.
The night after the letters became public, Mukasey collapsed while giving a speech.
“Glad you’ve recovered from your fainting spell, Mike,” Kelly shouted back. “Happy Holidays.”
In those leaks to The Times, Kelly saw the hand of his darkest enemy, the man who had fired Kelly in 1993, Rudy Giuliani. Mukasey was said to be a protégé of the former mayor. Or was it that the former mayor was a protégé of Mukasey? Whatever, Mukasey’s son Mark now worked at Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, representing a financial officer at the firm of Bernie Madoff, who is alleged to have stolen $50 billion in a Ponzi scheme. Given his son’s representation, Mukasey had recused himself from the Madoff investigation.
“There is treachery everywhere,” Kelly said out loud.
“Commissioner, are you all right?” shouted Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, rushing up to him. “I heard you say ‘treachery.” For the past three years, Browne had accompanied Kelly on his Christmas Eve stroll, keeping his customary few paces behind, in the manner of commoners to royalty.
“What are you talking about, Paul?” said Kelly. Although Browne had served Kelly for 15 years, Kelly often found Browne’s prattling tiresome.
Crossing to Lafayette Street, they were joined by a third man. To the untrained eye, he appeared to be behaving oddly, stopping and eyeing every passerby. He seemed particularly unsettled by a group of middle-aged Chinese women who were holding cameras and pointing to various buildings.
This was Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen.
The Chinese women happened to be tourists from Hong Kong. When Kelly asked Cohen why he kept staring at them, Cohen nodded knowingly and answered cryptically with one word: “Mumbai.”
Browne, meanwhile, had approached the group and begun lecturing them on why Kelly would have made a better a mayor than Bloomberg.
They walked on, past 26 Federal Plaza where the FBI has its offices. There in the street stood its outgoing Assistant Director Mark Mershon. He was holding a briefcase, trying to hail a cab.
Kelly pretended not to see him. Although Mershon had declared nearly three years before, in this very column, that getting along with Kelly was his top priority, Kelly had snubbed him by not attending Mershon’s farewell luncheon on December 17th.
Instead, the highest-ranking NYPD official there had been Chief James Waters, who commanded the NYPD side of the Joint Terrorist Task Force. In 2004, when Kelly infuriated Mershon’s predecessor, Pat D’Amuro, by publicly praising an NYPD detective while downplaying the role of the FBI in capturing a radical Muslim cleric, Waters had added, “Nobody is better than the New York City cops at this kind of thing.”
D’Amuro had retaliated by leaking an internal memo he had written, criticizing Kelly’s behavior. The following year D’Amuro left the Bureau and went to work for — you guessed it — Giuliani.
Suddenly, a man dashed up to them. Cohen was prepared to call the Threat Assessment Unit until he realized it was Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Richard Falkenrath. Occasionally, Falkenrath still walked, even though the department had leased him two top-of-the-line luxury cars with leather upholstery, a GPS navigational system and the full lights and siren package: cost to city taxpayers, $20,000-a-year.
“Commissioner, I just passed a homeless man, sleeping atop a grate. He woke up and asked me for a quarter,” Falkenrath related. Falkenrath was stammering as he spoke. He appeared to be terrified.
Ever since a homeless man had knocked at his door in Riverdale last September, begging for a glass of water, Falkenrath had not been himself. Believing the homeless man might belong to a sleeper cell, Cohen had placed him in a psychiatric ward for five weeks, then had detectives escort him to a relative’s home in Chicago. Cohen called this “domestic rendition.”
Now every time Falkenrath passed a homeless man, he risked a nervous breakdown
“Not to worry,” said Kelly to his shaken Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism. “Why don’t you accompany us to City Hall?”
“Paul!” Kelly shouted to Browne, who had stopped to lecture a family from Sioux Falls, South Dakota about the excellent job the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau had done in apprehending three cops, one of whom had allegedly sodomized a man with a police baton on a subway platform.
As they reached City Hall’s east gate, Cohen spied two men in the shadows. Cohen noticed only that one of the men was grey-haired, short and impeccably dressed in a pin-striped suit. The other was thin and wore an open-collared shirt. Cohen heard them utter the words “too rigid” and “martinet.” He wondered whether “rigid” and “martinet” were code words for another Mumbai.
Kelly also noticed the two men. He also heard the words “too rigid” and “martinet.” In the same breath, he also heard them utter his own name.
Unlike Cohen, he recognized the men. The short guy was Mayor Mike. The other was his top assistant Kevin Sheekey.
As Bloomberg and Sheekey vanished into the shadows, Kelly seethed. “There is treachery everywhere,” he said out loud. “How dare they call me such names? “Who is more accommodating, fair-minded and easy-going than I am?”
“Nobody, boss,” answered Browne, Cohen and Falkenrath together.
“If any of you ever forget how nice I am …”
He did not have to complete his sentence before they answered in unison, “Yes, boss.”
Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt