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Paris Terror: Call On Ray Kelly

November 16, 2015

It wasn’t Bill Bratton who Mayor de Blasio lauded to ease the fears of New Yorkers in the wake of the ISIS attacks in Paris.

It was Ray Kelly. 

Kelly had “tremendous success” preventing other attacks after 9/11, the mayor said over the weekend. “Commissioner Kelly, to his credit, put a big, big focus on fighting terror. He built a very strong apparatus. We have continued to build on that foundation.”

No matter that many of Kelly’s terrorism-fighting claims have proved illusory; no matter that his suspicions of the FBI nearly blew the subway-bombing plot, the most serious plot against NYC since 9/11 — invoking Kelly as the mayor did indicates that, rightly or wrongly, Kelly casts a shadow over the city’s anti-terrorism policies.

At a forum in 2013, Kelly acknowledged that his vaunted NYPD overseas program that stationed detectives in 11 countries had not produced a single tip about a potential attack in NYC. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan. 14, 2013.]

And those 16 suspected terror plots he took credit for stopping until this column called him on it? He now credits the FBI and acknowledges the NYPD played only a supporting role.

One only has to turn to page 236 of his new book, “Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting Its Empire,” to see how those two great agencies operated. About a plot by four lowlifes to blow up two Bronx synagogues and use Stinger surface-to-air missiles to bring down a military plane in upstate Newburgh, Kelly wrote of a confidential informant: “The plot took a while to hatch. At times, the informant had to nudge, focus, cajole and even urge the suspects.”

That’s fighting terrorism?

Ditto the informant’s role in the plot of would-be bomb-making terrorist Jose Pimentel. “We stuck with him as he rambled on,” Kelly writes of Pimentel on page 251. “When he stopped trusting one confidential informant, two other confidential informants and an undercover detective stepped in.” That detective actually helped Pimentel build his bomb.

We can also turn to page 240 to understand why the NYPD nearly blew the subway-bombing plot in 2009, hatched by Colorado-based terrorist Najibullah Zazi. As Zazi drove to New York with bomb-making equipment, the FBI had Port Authority police stop and search his car at the George Washington Bridge. “They asked the Port Authority, I am convinced,” Kelly writes, “so that the NYPD would not be involved.”

Either in retaliation or to remain in the game, the NYPD then contacted its own informant without informing the FBI. Unknown to the NYPD, the informant tipped off Zazi’s father, who tipped off the son, who cut short his trip to New York and flew back to Colorado. Fortuitously, the FBI picked up that conversation on its own wiretap, and scrambled to arrest Zazi.

Now let's get real. “As well as New York City may be prepared for a terrorist attack,” said a former top NYPD official, “all the intelligence gathering in the world by local police is never enough. What we have to prepare for is reacting to an attack. It’s not the Navy Seals, the Army Rangers or the marines who are going to save the victims of an attack, it is some beat cop."

Invoking Kelly’s name after the Paris attacks might be a short-sighted political calculation from a mayor who ran on a platform that demonized Kelly by criticizing his Stop and Frisk policy. Should another attack occur in New York, it could come back to haunt the mayor. As an author and a commentator specializing in terrorism, with a TV series about his life in production, with Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media supporting him, Kelly could become a viable opponent.

Howard C. Edelman, the $2,500-a-day state arbitrator who stiffed the cops with a 1 percent raise, donated $1,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, according to the city’s campaign finance board.

Two contributions, each totaling $500, were made on Dec. 13, 2012, and Sept. 12, 2013.

“We were aware of that,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association spokesman Al O’Leary, “but he [Edelman] was the least objectionable to both parties.” Edelman was selected from a panel of state arbitrators.

O’Leary said Edelman’s “history of decisions seemed to follow the guidelines of the Taylor Law,” which O’Leary said developed a fair process to unions. Instead, said O’Leary, he “parroted the city line” in comparing the cops’ contract to other line organizations as de Blasio had done — not to the surrounding municipalities, virtually all of which pay cops more than the NYPD does.

Unlike the wife of Edward Rochester in the “Jane Eyre” novel, who was kept hidden in his attic, Deputy Commissioner of Strategic Services Zack Tumin has been located.

“Any time you want to find me, I’m in 1412, or in one of a dozen precincts, night and day,” Tumin emailed. “Anytime you want to talk, happy to. Sorry you felt lost and confused. Happy to help you get unlost. Oh — by the way. My mission is crystal clear. My projects are too.”

Tumin’s email followed last week’s NYPD Confidential column suggesting he had been kept hidden on the 14th floor of 1 Police Plaza with his support staff removed and phone service discontinued amid concerns nobody could explain what he had been doing for the past 18 months.

An email from Clare Cranston, who signed it as Tumin’s executive assistant, set up a meeting this week.

“Commissioner Tumin is available for a meeting on Tuesday, November 17 or Wednesday, November 18 at 10:00 on both days,” she wrote. ... Please be advised my office is under construction and I am without phone usage at this time.” 

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