One Police Plaza

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Not a Terrorist [Nor a Reporter] Was Stirring

December 26, 2011

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through Police Plaza very important people were scampering to Commissioner Kelly’s secret bunker that Kelly had secretly constructed in a sub-sub-basement of police headquarters.

Kelly had summoned these very important people for a secret meeting on terrorism.

“We must make sure to keep the media in the dark so that they report only our version of terrorist arrests,” he had written in a secret memo.

Kelly’s secret bunker had been constructed with bullet and bomb-resistant walls, an independent and secure air and water supply, and the ability to withstand 200 m.p.h. winds.

To avoid detection, the bunker had been financed by the department’s secret non-profit organization, the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation.

The foundation’s treasurer was Kelly’s Chief of Staff, Joe Wuensch. Its president was the department’s former head of Legal Affairs, Stephen Hammerman. The foundation was so secret that Wuensch said nobody ever told him he was the treasurer.

The bunker consisted of only two rooms. The first was a secret gym. The gym was so secret that whenever Kelly worked out, everyone had to leave so that no one saw how many push-ups he did or whether he could still touch his toes.

Kelly cautioned Wuensch that he could not allow such information to fall into the wrong hands.

The bunker’s second room had four gigantic television screens, playing CNN, Fox News, the BBC and Al Jazeera — in Arabic — 24 hours a day. Although Kelly did not understand Arabic, he was said to especially enjoy Al Jazeera because it showed daily bombings in Baghdad and Damascus.

“It pumps him up for his fight against terrorism,” wrote Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who had so pumped up the Iraq war that the Times ultimately fired her.

Since then, the irrepressible Miller had developed sources at the highest levels of the NYPD. She was said to be especially close to Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence, David Cohen and to Cohen’s former right hand, CIA man, Larry Sanchez.

Indeed, Ms. Miller was so close to her sources that she had been summoned to the bunker, along with Cohen and such other brilliant minds as Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Peter King; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; and perhaps the brightest mind of all, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Chairman, Peter Vallone.

A cynic might describe all these people as Kelly stooges.

As Vallone put it: "Commissioner Kelly has prevented no fewer than 13 planned attacks on New York. The fact that no one has set off a dirty bomb is what I call proof of Kelly’s success. One can't argue with results.”

Significantly, not one NYPD chief had been summoned to the secret bunker. Ever since former mayor Rudy Giuliani fired Kelly in 1994 and no chief resigned in protest, Kelly trusted none of them.

“I’ve called you all here tonight, because the situation is grave,” Kelly began. There was a hush in the bunker. The only sound was the whoosh of the independent and secure air supply.

Everyone in the bunker knew the importance of the word of “grave.” When Kelly used it, it was even more grave.

“The FBI has been whispering to reporters,” Kelly continued. “They have questioned our last two ‘lone wolf’ arrests. Reporters are asking too many questions. They are even questioning my 13 plots.”

This was indeed grave. Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Cohen felt a chill, apparently from the independent and secure air supply. Ditto Congressman King. Without those plots, there was no reason for their jobs.

Vallone was also concerned. Without a dirty bomb plot, he sounded like an idiot.

“Take the recent arrest of Jose Pimentel,” Kelly said. “The FBI whispered to reporters that Pimentel was broke and had mental problems and that its agents didn’t trust our informant. Well, just because our informant was smoking marijuana with Pimentel and helped him construct his bomb doesn’t mean Pimentel isn’t a terrorist.”

Kelly then turned to his closest aide, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne. Browne pulled at his formerly red beard, which had turned grey from fears about terrorism.

“Editors can be manipulated,” Browne mused. “Most reporters are lazy.” He sounded like the Delphic Oracle.

Turning to Ms. Miller, Browne added, “Of course, I didn’t mean you, Judy.”

“But we still have assets on the ground,” Browne continued. “Did you see the Daily News editorial last week?”

He was referring to the paper’s editorial of Dec. 21, lambasting the FBI, which, the editorial said, continued to whisper negative words about the NYPD’s arrest of Pimentel. The editorial offered no evidence or facts to support the supposed whispering. It also quoted no one.

Instead, the editorial said only, “Authorities have picked up evidence that G-men are again planting whispers.”

In what might be construed as a non sequitur, it concluded: “Those who might be spreading this poison should get their facts straight.”

“The Daily News wrote that?” Congressman King said to Browne.

Browne looked like the cat that had swallowed the canary. “Go figure,” he said.

Kelly then discussed the recent Associated Press articles about the NYPD’s possibly unlawful spying on the city’s Muslims, in particular Moroccans.

“Thank you, thank you,” Kelly said to Mukasey. Mukasey had defended the NYPD against the AP in an op-ed piece in — where else? — The Daily News.

“The AP articles,” wrote Mukasey, had “apparently no interest in or even awareness of the disproportionate involvement of Moroccans in terrorist activity within that country and outside it, notably in connection with the Madrid train bombing in 2004.”

Mukasey’s article also cited “census data” that the Intelligence Division had used “to map New York’s ethnic neighborhoods to figure out where someone from a location known to have generated highly disproportionate numbers of terrorists,” such as Tetouan in Morocco, might go if he came to New York.

Kelly then called upon Mitchell Silber, director of the NYPD’s Analytic Unit. The unit uses academics and recent Ivy League graduates to find patterns of terrorism that ordinary detectives can’t detect. [They have too much common sense.]

Silber’s predecessor, Samuel Rascoff, had once told the New York Times that the analytical unit brings “the culturally exotic world of the ivory tower to bear on the gritty problems of counter-terrorism as experienced by beat cops and seasoned detectives.”

Silber was believed to have discovered a secret terror link between the Madrid train bombing; the city of Zarqa, Jordan; and the Afghanistan-born, Colorado-based, would-be subway bomber Najibullah Zazi.

A mathematician from MIT, with whom Silber had consulted, had calculated the odds of finding such a link as 850,000 to 1.

In a secret briefing at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in 2009, the mathematician described Silber’s discovery as “brilliant” and “imaginative.” He cautioned that Silber’s only drawback was “his inability to separate fact from fiction.”

In the same Times article, Silber had described the Zazi case as the largest terrorist surveillance investigation the Police Department had ever mounted. He added that the Analytic Unit had worked at a secret location around the clock, debriefing detectives as they came in off the street, then analyzed and shared their information about Zazi with the next shift before it went out into the field.

Of course, there was only one problem. Zazi almost escaped because Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence Cohen decided to make an end run around the FBI.

He ordered a detective to show Zazi’s picture to an NYPD informant. The informant then tipped off Zazi’s father. Zazi aborted his subway plan, forcing the FBI to arrest him prematurely before he could get away.

“We blow the most important terrorist case since 9/11, and President Obama calls to congratulate us,” said Kelly, shaking his head. “Go figure.”

Kelly then asked for ideas about keeping the media further in the dark.

Cohen, Silber and Browne huddled. Mukasey, King and Vallone watched. Kelly supervised. Miller took notes.

“I’ve got it,” shouted Silber. “First, we hire another mathematician. I’ve spoken to a physicist at Cal Tech about a terror link I recently discovered between Zazi; Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. air raid in Iraq in 2006; and Abdeladim el-Kebir, a Moroccan national arrested in Germany and indicted in Brooklyn federal court for agreeing to provide material support to al Qaeda.

“My Cal Tech guy,” said Silber, “puts the odds on my having discovered that link at 975,000 to 1.”

“I’ll go to the Daily News with that,” said Browne. “How’s this sound for another editorial? ‘Authorities have picked up evidence that G-men are taking credit for a terrorism link that was recently discovered by the NYPD. Those who might be spreading this poison should get their facts straight.’”


Copyright © 2011 Leonard Levitt