A Plane Screw Up
May 4, 2009
For the past eight years, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has convinced many New Yorkers that the federal government is incapable of protecting the city from another terrorist attack and he is the only obstacle standing between them and al Qaeda.
Last week, New Yorkers learned that this was not quite so.
In an event that resembled another 9/11, a low-flying Boeing 747 appeared over Lower Manhattan Monday morning, pursued by an F-16 fighter jet. The exercise, the brainchild of loopy federal officials, was actually a photo op of Air Force One, set against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty.
The feds had notified the NYPD of the flyover but insisted they keep it secret.
The NYPD’s response — or, rather, its lack of response — revealed a flaw in Kelly’s micro-managed department.
The result of its inaction was near panic throughout the city.
A stunned President Obama, saying he knew nothing about the operation, demanded an investigation.
A furious Bloomberg, saying that he, too, had not known of the operation and that, had he known, he’d have told the feds to bugger off, declared without naming names, “My administration failed me.”
Unlike the president, Your Humble Servant can all but guarantee that Mayor Mike will conduct no investigation.
The reason is obvious. Instead of blaming the lack of notification on some mid-level flunkie, as City Hall did, an investigation might reveal that the person who failed to notify Mayor Mike was his police commissioner.
In a further insult to our collective intelligence, Kelly’s spokesman Paul Browne offered the lame explanation that revealing the flyover would have violated federal law, although Browne allowed that the department might disregard the law in the future.
Furthermore, isn’t this the same Ray Kelly who in the past never let a federal demand for secrecy stop him from shooting his yap off?
Recall yet again how in 2004, after the FBI arrested a radical Muslim cleric in London, Kelly held a news conference, singling out for praise an NYPD detective and providing so much detail about him that the detective was returned home from London on security grounds.
Kelly’s failure to alert the mayor to the flyover raises a further question about what appears to this reporter to be his increasingly strained relationship with Mayor Mike.
Just a couple of weeks before, Kelly failed to alert the mayor to another significant move he made: ordering police reporters out of ‘the shack” at Police Plaza, where they have been based since 1973.
While the mayor publicly backed Kelly, one has to wonder how the mayor feels about Kelly’s picking an unnecessary fight with the media without first informing him, especially with the mayoral election this fall.
Given Kelly’s sensitivity to slights, real or imagined, could his actions have something to do with the fact that Mayor Mike never uttered a word of public praise when Kelly was rumored to be interested in running for mayor, and then pulled the rug out from under Kelly and announced he was running himself?
One also begins to wonder what else Kelly has kept from the mayor and whether he is deliberately keeping the mayor out of the loop because Kelly feels he is beholden to no one.
In that regard, Mayor Mike has only himself to blame. He has given Kelly more power than any police commissioner in history, failing to call him to account and allowing him to create, among other things, a terror-fighting apparatus that is accountable to no one.
Bloomberg has continued to back Kelly and Kelly’s own loopy Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen in federal court, appealing judicial decision after decision that calls for the release of data concerning the department’s alleged spying on citizens, ostensibly in the name of fighting terrorism.
In addition, Bloomberg has allowed and, by his silence, encouraged Kelly to thumb his nose at the federal government. How purposely antagonizing the very agencies that are supposed to protect the city from terrorism helps New York remains unclear.
How bizarre it all seems. Unlike Bill Bratton, whom his boss, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, saw as a rival and threat, Kelly seemed the perfect police commissioner for Bloomberg – loyal, ego-free and grateful to the mayor for a second chance at the job.
That was eight years ago. Today, we are seeing a man completely altered, one who appears to put his own interests before those of the mayor — and of New Yorkers.