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Ray Kelly’s Terror Fairy Tale

April 29, 2013

He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said what a big boy am I.

What better way for Ray Kelly to capture attention than to announce that the Boston Marathon bombers had planned to drive to New York and detonate their remaining bombs in Times Square.

And then, in tandem with the ranting of the Daily News, to criticize the FBI for not alerting him to this sooner.

Ginning up fears about the Boston Marathon bombings with hyperbolic claims is what fighting terrorism has become in New York City these past couple of weeks.

Kelly had been shut out of the spotlight after the Marathon. Instead, the national media had turned to his rival and nemesis, former Boston police commissioner Bill Bratton, to pontificate.

Nor had Kelly gained much traction when, the day before his Times Square claim, he announced that, after setting off their bombs in Boston, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhor Tsarnaev had planned to drive New York “to party.”

Little wonder that Kelly had been ignored. That wisp of information had come from the brothers’ car-jacking victim. “The two individuals were speaking in either Chechen or Russian language that the driver didn’t understand,” Kelly said, “but he thought he heard the word ‘Manhattan.’

“It may have been a word to the effect of ‘coming to party in New York,’” Kelly said.

His Times Square bombing claim didn’t seem any more credible.

The information, passed along to him from the FBI, came from Dzhokhor in his hospital bed.

Many thinking law enforcement folk — to say nothing of Congressional Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers [R. Mich.] — considered such a plan a momentary blip as the two drove around Boston after placing their bombs at the marathon.

Nonetheless, the mere mention of Times Square — site of an unexploded bomb placed by Faisal Shahzad in 2010 — allowed Kelly to flex his terrorism bona fides. He ordered a flock of NYPD patrol cars to Times Square, then lined them up in a show of force.

He also took a swipe at the FBI, saying they should have notified him sooner.

"We did express our concerns over the lag," Kelly said.

Asked what difference it would have made had he learned of it sooner, Kelly answered: "I don't want to speculate. The fact of the matter was there was a 48-hour lag."

[At the same time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the Times Square scenario as a plea for more federal money. Someday, his successor might provide an accounting of what specifically those millions of federal dollars have been used for.]

Meanwhile, the 48-hour time lag brought out the beast in the Daily News.

“The FBI’s dereliction in failing to instantly notify Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that the Boston Marathon bombers planned to attack New York was irresponsible, unforgivable, terrifying and grounds for overhauling its anti-terror protocols,” read last Friday’s editorial.

“The bureau allowed well more than 48 hours to pass before sending word that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had told agents that, in the massacre’s aftermath, he and his brother, Tamerlan, had determined to head to Times Square for more mayhem.

“The delay blocked the NYPD from immediately investigating whether the Tsarnaevs had allies in the city, a lag that would have been costly had the brothers been in league with conspirators here.”

Echoing such nonsense was the indefatigable Judith Miller, the ex-New York Times reporter perhaps best known for beating the drum for the Iraq war and, more recently, the amanuensis of Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen, who has masterminded the NYPD’s foreign and domestic spying operation.

Miller wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Boston attack “may well have been prevented entirely had the perpetrators lived in New York City.”

“In the dozen years since 9/11, the city has developed a counter-terrorism program that is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brother before they strike,” she said.

Of more legitimate concern to the NYPD was the sense — repeatedly sounded at the highest levels of its intelligence gathering apparatus — that the feds cannot be counted on to do their jobs.

Just as the CIA and FBI had failed to connect the dots of disparate plane-hijacking intelligence before 9/11, neither agency followed through on Tamerlan after Russian intelligence notified both in 2011 of his possible ties to radical Islam.

The FBI says it didn’t know that Tamerlan visited Dagestan, a Muslim region in southern Russia, in 2012 with an Islamic insurgency. Somehow, his name and date of birth were incorrectly entered into a data bank that checks flight manifests against a list of possible terrorists. And the Department of Homeland Security knew but didn’t tell.

Most important, no federal agency monitored Tamerlan when he returned from Dagestan to Boston.

The Washington bureaucracy has fallen over itself to justify its inaction, declaring each agency followed protocol. Whether from misguided civil rights concerns or the desire to get home for the weekend to beat the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, not one federal operative took that extra investigative step.

Would the NYPD have acted so? Say what you will about Kelly and Cohen and their pervasive spying on Muslims, taking the extra step is something they well might have done.

For once in his brief career as a professional NYPD yahoo, former civilian intelligence analyst Mitchell Silber may have been correct when he told Miller last week: “We would have been very reluctant to shut down an investigation if we knew all that it seems the Bureau knew or could have known, especially once he had traveled to a region of concern.”

[Note Silber’s use of “we,” although he left the department nearly a year ago.]

On the other hand, as reporting by NYPD Confidential and the Associated Press have documented, there is no mention in the NYPD’s key spying document, its 2006 “Strategic Posture” of Chechnya, the brothers’ homeland, or of Chechens.

Miller adds, improbably, in her Journal article that, if Tamerlan had lived in New York, his “sudden behavioral changes might well have been reported by concerned worshipers, the imam himself, or other fellow Muslims.”

She adds: “The NYPD maintains close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well a network of tipsters and undercover operatives.”

That’s another Ray Kelly terror fairy tale, which he presented a week ago to an obviously ill-prepared CNN interviewer, Fareed Zakaria, who failed to challenge Kelly when he said that the NYPD’s relations with the city’s Muslim community “are better now, in my judgment, than they have ever been.”

Kelly said to Zakaria in toto: “And I think we have a very strong working relationship with, certainly, the Muslim community. I have a group that I meet with on a regular basis of opinion-formers in the Muslim community. We have back-and-forth, give-and-take. I go to many community meetings. We have very strong working relationships in the communities throughout the city. This is a complex environment, a complex city. And I would say our commanders, our community officers are — and I've been in the police department a long time — our relationships are better now, in my judgment, than they have ever been.”

On the contrary, through its pervasive spying, the NYPD has alienated crucial segments of the formerly law enforcement-friendly Muslim community.

A report last March by the CUNY School of Law, Muslim student associations and grass-roots Muslim organizations on the NYPD’s secret spying on Muslims for the past decade describes its chilling effect on Muslim New Yorkers, who have come to distrust their friends, classmates, religious leaders — and the NYPD.

“Conversations relating to foreign policy, civil rights and activism areas all deemed off-limits as interviewees fear such conversations would draw greater NYPD scrutiny,” the report said.

“Parents discourage their children from being active in Muslim student groups, protests or other activism, believing that these activities would threaten to expose them to greater government scrutiny.”

The report also cites a “deep distrust of the NYPD.”

“Individuals did not view it as a protective force or a resource for those in need of assistance — rather, the police are increasingly regarded as threatening and untrustworthy.”

If Kelly believes otherwise, he is living in a fantasy world — for which we, the public, may someday pay a heavy price.

Edited by Donald Forst

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Copyright © 2013 Leonard Levitt