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Fake News: Ray Kelly's Muslim Spying

January 2, 2017

If NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill didn’t have enough on his mind with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State Police power grab, former commissioner Ray Kelly is now trying to reprise parts of his controversial Muslim-spying policy.

He recently told radio host John Catsimatidis: “Hopefully, we’ll see in the next year or so a turnaround as far as proactive policing is concerned.”

Long Island Congressman Peter King is urging President-elect Donald Trump to adopt Kelly’s spying policy [King calls it surveillance] as a model for tougher screening.

“I would set up a surveillance program similar to what Ray Kelly did to get to know people in [Muslim] communities so you can reach out to get a better read,” he told NYPD Confidential.

The New York Post chimed in with an editorial, labeling as “fake news” a series of articles by The Associated Press that debunked many of Kelly’s claims about the program’s effectiveness. The AP won a Pulitzer Prize for its series.

“The main charge is that the NYPD engaged in illegal surveillance of Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey, operating in other jurisdictions without the knowledge of the relevant local police,” the Post wrote of the AP.

What many seem to forget about Kelly, the Post’s editorial board included, is that he ignored and/or antagonized virtually all his terrorism-fighting law enforcement partners, the FBI in particular. That’s hardly the way to fight terrorism.

Let’s begin in 2003. After Kelly revamped the NYPD Intelligence Division under the former CIA operative David Cohen, the department sent undercover detectives to the New Jersey shore to surveil scuba shops by phone to determine whether they were vulnerable to terrorism. When Jersey authorities learned of the calls, its counter-terrorism director, Sidney J. Caspersen, ordered the Intelligence Division “to cease and desist all such activity in the state of New Jersey.”

A similar situation occurred that October in Carlisle, Pa., after explosives were reported stolen from a local business, and two NYPD detectives began questioning witnesses. Jeff Rudolph, the North Middleton Township police chief, was conducting the investigation with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He said he informed the NYPD detectives that “the investigation was being handled by us and the FBI and that if we need their help, we will give them a call.” [See NYPD Confidential, Nov 3, 2003.]

In February 2004, NYPD detectives drove to Boston to monitor a church meeting of political demonstrators who the department feared might disrupt the Republican National Convention later that year at Madison Square Garden. Again, detectives did not inform local authorities. When the detectives arrived in a car with NY license plates, the Massachusetts State Police — which was already monitoring the group because of fears it might disrupt the Democratic convention that July in Boston — became suspicious. After the meeting, they followed the NYPD detectives’ car, stopping it for speeding on the Massachusetts Turnpike. After a 10- to 15-minute “dialogue,” as a law enforcement official described it, the NYPD cops identified themselves. [See NYPD Confidential, March 19, 2004.]

In 2006, Kelly created the urban equivalent of a Mexican standoff with the Port Authority Police in a turf war over patrolling Ground Zero. For months, NYPD patrol cars sat outside Ground Zero’s locked gates. Port Authority cops sat in their patrol inside. [See NYPD Confidential, Jan 27, 2014.]

Meanwhile, Kelly stated that in light of the 9/11 attacks, the FBI couldn’t be trusted to defend the city. In the words of the police historian Thomas Reppetto, many New Yorkers actually viewed Kelly as the lone man standing between New York and another attack.

Kelly’s grandest concoction concerned the Brooklyn Bridge. In 2003, he claimed that an Ohio trucker named Iyman Faris had been dissuaded from cutting its suspension cables because the NYPD was guarding the bridge. As proof, Kelly cited a coded message sent to Faris’s al-Qaida handlers, “The weather is too hot.” 

Kelly has never publicly acknowledged that the NYPD was guarding the bridge because of a tip from the FBI. Nor has Kelly ever acknowledged that the phrase “The weather is too hot” came from messages stored on Faris’s computer, which were discovered by the FBI.

The terrorism-related Chelsea bombing in September mercifully resulted in no deaths, limited damages and unprecedented cooperation among law enforcement agencies leading to a quick arrest. Most notably, there was a seamless cooperation between the NYPD and the FBI. The head of the FBI’s New York office, William Sweeney, took the lead at a news conference at Police Plaza days after the bombing, and that would not have occurred under Kelly.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD Confidential“We are very comfortable with what we are doing in fighting terrorism because we have a great relationship with our federal partners,” NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said last week.

Now back to that Post editorial, which concluded with the following: “Ray Kelly’s NYPD foiled more than a dozen terror plots, and the groundwork laid by the Intelligence Division was crucial in several cases.” That, readers, is fake news.

MICHAEL SKAKEL BACK TO JAIL? Finally, after three years of judicial folderol, Connecticut’s Supreme Court appears to have come to its senses, albeit barely. In a 4-3 decision, the state’s highest court reversed a ruling by a lower court judge who declared in 2013 that “Kennedy cousin” Michael Skakel had not received a fair trial. Jurors had convicted him of murdering Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley in 1975.

It now looks like Skakel — whose father Rushton was the brother of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy — and who was sentenced to 20 years to life for Martha’s murder and has been free on bail since 2013, could be returning to prison.

Here now are some lessons we can draw from the case.

l. The Conn. Supreme Court decision indicates that the obtuseness of a single judge, one Thomas Bishop, is aberrational and not the norm, although it should also be pointed out that three dissenting Supreme Court judges sided with him.

2. The Supreme Court’s decision also suggests that no judge, no matter how intelligent, as Bishop apparently is, can appear at the end of a 40-year-old case and fully understand all its nuances. Bishop appeared to have conducted his own investigation and concluded that Michael’s older brother Tommy, the last known person to see Martha alive and the case’s initial prime suspect, had murdered Martha. Bishop tailored his decision to reflect that. While Michael’s lawyer, Mickey Sherman, had accused Kenneth Littleton, a tutor for Michael and Tommy, of what is known as “third party culpability,” Bishop ruled that Sherman should have instead accused Tommy.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittBishop ignored the fact that, like Tommy, Littleton had plenty going against him. Sherman had been hired by Emanuel Margolis, who was not only Tommy’s attorney but the attorney for the Skakel family. While refusing to allow law enforcement authorities to question Skakel family members, Margolis for years pushed the theory that Littleton had murdered Martha, even suggesting he was a serial killer.

Bishop also failed to note that the state’s longtime chief investigator Jack Solomon was so convinced of Littleton’s guilt that, after retiring, he testified as such as a defense witness for Michael. How many times in his judicial career has Bishop seen a state investigator of a murder become a defense witness for the accused? Probably only this once.

3. Finally, there is Robert Kennedy Jr. who, in 2003, the year after Michael’s conviction, wrote a 15,000-word article in the Atlantic magazine, naming Littleton as Michael’s likely killer.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialLast year Kennedy wrote a book, “Framed: Why Michael Skakel spent over a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.” In it, he revised his theory and named Burton Tinsley and Adolph Hasbrouck, two men from the Bronx, as Martha’s killers. “Using evidence I have cited in this book, prosecutors have sufficient cause to indict Burton Tinsley and Adolph Hasbrouck for Martha Moxley’s murder,” he wrote.

Kennedy produced no credible evidence to support his claims. Instead, he relied solely on the word of a convicted felon with his own motives, which Kennedy apparently never questioned. Other than his name, why anybody would consider him a credible source is perhaps the  Moxley case’s greatest mystery.

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