One Police Plaza

Anti-Terrorism or P.R.?

March 31, 2008

For the past two weeks, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been on an anti-terrorism kick.

Last week, he announced — [or re-announced] — that the NYPD should take over security for Ground Zero from the Port Authority Police.

The week before, he announced — [or had surrogates do it for him] — that the NYPD was getting its own top secret vault at One Police Plaza to view classified documents. Kelly and his minions stated that the NYPD needed this SCIF [Sensitive Compartment Information Facility] because the FBI wasn’t sharing information.

He didn’t let on that authorized NYPD detectives have always been able to view the material at FBI SCIFs at Federal Plaza, or at the Chelsea facility of the Joint Terrorism Task Force — the group of FBI agents and NYPD detectives fighting terrorism.

It’s unclear why Kelly has chosen this moment to go on his latest anti-terrorism push. Perhaps he’s trying to keep everyone away from focusing some genuine issues plaguing him and the department.

For example:

bulletSo far this year homicides have increased 25 per cent over last year.

bulletDue to the low beginning salary, both the recruitment rate and dropout rate at the Academy are abysmal.

bulletThere’s also the impending decision of federal magistrate James Francis IV on whether Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David [Confidential] Cohen must turn over documents to the Civil Liberties Union about NYPD spying on protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention.

bulletThen, of course, there are all those headlines about the Sean Bell shooting.

Whatever Kelly’s reason, seeking more power for himself and the NYPD has drawn the predictable hosannahs in the Post and the News.

But is there less here than meets the eye?

Let’s start with the Port Authority. Since returning as police commissioner in 2002. Kelly has tried to exert de facto control of the Port Authority Police. It began when he lobbied former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey to appoint retired NYPD Chief Charles DeRienzo to head it. Kelly actually got DeRienzo appointed. But after two years, Charlie got the boot.

Two years ago, Kelly posted officers to sit 24 hours a day in patrol cars outside the four fenced-off entrances to Ground Zero. The entrances were guarded on the inside by Port Authority cops. Kelly’s stated purpose was to check traffic going in and out to protect against truck bombs. That was also the purpose of the Port Authority cops. That’s right, readers. The two rival agencies were doing exactly the same thing.

For Kelly to take over responsibility from the Port Authority he needs the support of Gov. Patterson and, more important, McGreevey’s successor, John Corzine. Whether New Jersey’s governor would cede control to New York through Kelly and the NYPD is doubtful.

Kelly might also like more support from his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Asked last week by the Associated Press about security at Ground Zero, Mayor Mike uttered this bland statement: "This is just making sure there's seamless security down there ... as the development goes forward down in the World Trade Center area, not just in that site."

Now let’s turn to Kelly’s relations with the FBI. They’ve been worse than with the Port Authority. From 2002 until 2004, Kelly and Cohen publicly disparaged and ridiculed the FBI. [Cohen still does. Two years ago, a retired FBI agent who signed up with Cohen’s Intelligence Division quit after a day because of Cohen’s bad-mouthing.]

In 2004, FBI Director Robert Mueller sent Pat D’Amuro to head the New York office with instructions to rein in Kelly. That June, Kelly publicly singled out an NYPD detective in the JTTF for the arrest in London of a suspected Muslim terrorist, Abu Hamsa al Masri. While Kelly held a news conference without the FBI, the department e-mailed copies of Kelly’s remarks and a picture of the detective to reporters, providing his age, college background, and the fact that he lived on Long Island. After reporters camped outside their home, his wife became so concerned that terrorists could locate him from Kelly’s description that he was returned home from London prematurely for “security concerns.”

The FBI then released an internal D’Amuro e-mail saying “This is NOT the way we do business.”

But that was then. Somewhere in 2006 Mueller apparently had a change of heart. D’Amuro quit and went to work for Kelly’s nemesis, Rudy Giuliani. Meanwhile, Mueller and D’Amuro’s successor Mark Mershon started making nice to Kelly. Writing in the Washington Post last week, Assistant FBI Director John Miller said things between the Bureau and the NYPD are now hunky dory because Mueller and Kelly have come to an understanding.

Some understanding. Mueller praises Kelly’s anti-terrorism efforts. Kelly sticks his finger in Mueller’s eye — demanding and obtaining his own secret SCIF vault — and no one from the Bureau is allowed to complain.

Honor. Attorney Joe Tacopina says he gave up some cases he had in Manhattan federal court because of the potential for a conflict, should he become a government witness in the income tax trial of his former client, Bernie Kerik.

He cites a transcript in which the government says he acted “honorably.”

So why is Kerik down on such an "honorable" guy, who represented Kerik for so many years? Kerik has told friends that Tacopina “threw me under the bus.”

So Long, Tommy. Former fire commissioner Tommy Von Essen has left Giuliani Partners. Other than Kerik and his best bud John Picciano, Von Essen is the first known high-profile guy from the Giuliani mayoral administration to quit Rudy’s firm. Is his departure an aberration or a trend? Von Essen could not be reached for comment.