One Police Plaza

If At First …. 

October 23, 2017

Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters, two counterterrorism lieutenants and a sergeant finally made it to war-torn Afghanistan earlier this month on what the NYPD said was a training mission for Afghani military and law enforcement.

But the bureau’s Capt. Daniel Magee and Deputy Chief Scott Shanley were left behind. The two had been tossed off an Aug. 10 military charter to Afghanistan for drunkenness, leading Waters to abort the mission. An NYPD internal investigation followed. [See NYPD Confidential Aug 28, 2017.]

The NYPD has acknowledged that before boarding the military charter on Aug. 10th, Waters, Magee and Shanley had gone for “a few beers” at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in the middle of the night after they learned their flight had been delayed for three hours.

But contrary to reports that Magee and Shanley had started an argument with the crew inside the plane, department officials maintain the two fell asleep in their seats and did nothing to warrant their removal. At the time, a top NYPD official said they were ordered off the plane because the crew maintained what the official called “strict military protocol.”

“Nobody ever made allegations to the NYPD or to Waters that anybody engaged in misconduct or in an encounter with any human being,” the department official said then.

That interpretation led to an internal investigation that was conducted not by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, as you might expect, but by Waters’ boss, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller. That meant the investigation was kept “in house,” as it were.

It also ensured that Waters would not face serious discipline, if any, for failing to limit his subordinates’ drinking at the airport.

But what of Magee and Shanley? By not allowing them to go on this month’s trip to Afghanistan, some at NYPD have suggested the two may be scapegoated to protect Waters, whom Miller has approvingly called a “guided missile” – someone who effectively does whatever he is ordered to do.

“There was no sense sending the two people who were the subjects of the investigation on the [Aug. 10th] trip while the investigation was still pending,” a department official said last week,  explaining why Magee and Shanley didn’t go on this month’s trip.

But as Roy Richter, head of the Captains Endowment Association, which also represents deputy chiefs, said last week, “I’m surprised. If they did nothing wrong, as the department maintains, why were they left out?”

So far as anyone can tell, there is no resemblance between John Miller and his predecessor, the 35-year CIA veteran David Cohen. But when it comes to scapegoating, Cohen could probably teach Miller a thing or two.

In 2009, Cohen, botched what was arguably the most serious plot against the city since 9/11 — a plot to place bombs in the subway by Colorado-based Najibullah Zazi. While the FBI tracked Zazi as he drove to New York with his bomb-making  equipment, Cohen ordered NYPD detectives to contact one of their own informants without informing the FBI. The informant then alerted Zazi’s father, short-circuiting the FBI’s investigation.

To obscure Cohen’s actions, then-Commissioner Ray Kelly scapegoated Paul Ciorra, then an Intelligence Division deputy inspector, transferring him to a captain’s slot in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Trials, where his assignment was to prepare the schedules of the department’s five police trial judges.

 Only after NYPD Confidential and the NY Times reported what Kelly had done did Kelly rescind the transfer. Ciorra was subsequently promoted, returning to the Intelligence Division in 2015 as a deputy chief.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt