November 3, 2003
One of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's more controversial moves was hiring a former top CIA official, David Cohen, as deputy commissioner of the Intelligence Division.
A second was stationing detectives from the division, known as Intel, overseas in Canada, Israel, England and France, creating an international spy service to compete with the CIA and FBI in providing information about terrorism.
Because foreign intelligence-gathering is not within the Police Department's charter, the detectives' overseas expenses are paid by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit group of wealthy New Yorkers.
Last month, Intel detectives were involved in two incidents in less exotic spots outside the department's jurisdiction: New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Both raise questions about whether the department under Kelly is superseding its authority.
The New Jersey investigation involved a telephone sting. A law enforcement official who asked for anonymity explained that Intel detectives telephoned scuba shops along the Jersey shore, acting suspiciously by asking to pay for scuba lessons in cash and not fill out the required paperwork. The test's objective was to determine whether the dive shops would contact the proper law enforcement authorities.
But the Police Department neglected to inform the local authorities of their test. When New Jersey's state security office - the Office of Counter-Terrorism - learned of the calls on Oct. 15 after the dive shops reported them, officials there were furious.
"They spend days trying to figure out where these calls are originating, whether they are from Osama's guys," said the law enforcement official, "only to discover they are from detectives in Intel."
In an advisory described as "law enforcement sensitive" - a copy of which was obtained by Newsday - New Jersey's Counter-Terrorism Director Sidney J. Caspersen wrote: "On Wed., Oct. 15, 2003, it was brought to the attention of the Office of Counter-Terrorism that calls...regarding suspicious inquiries at four dive shops were part of a test the NYPD's Intelligence Division was conducting. OCT was not aware that the tests were being conducted and has since informed the NYPD Intelligence Division to cease and desist all such activity in the state of New Jersey."
The Pennsylvania incident was around the same time an unknown quantity of explosives was reported stolen from a business in Carlisle, Pa., during the weekend of Oct. 11 and 12.
According to the law enforcement official, two New York detectives appeared at the crime scene during the investigation, which was conducted by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Pennsylvania's North Middleton township police department.
"They identified themselves as from the NYPD's Bureau of Counter-Terrorism but working for the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen, and began conducting interviews," the official said. "The folks being interviewed called local law enforcement officials and said 'New Yorkers are here.'" Cohen didn't return a call, and NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Michael O'Looney declined comment.
Jeff Rudolph, the North Middleton Township police chief, said in an interview that he was surprised to see them. But, he added, "The situation was resolved and they went back to New York."
Asked how it was resolved, he said: "By a united effort by myself and Rick Etzler, the senior FBI agent in Harrisburg. We mainly instructed them that the investigation was being handled by us and the FBI and that if we need their help, we will give them a call.
"After what happened on Sept. 11, we all have great sympathy for New Yorkers. If I had any idea that anything was headed their way, I'd be the first to call them through the proper channels."
Etzler declined to comment.
Linda Vizi, an FBI spokeswoman in Philadelphia, which has jurisdiction over Harrisburg, said New York is not part of the investigation. She did not return subsequent calls from Newsday.
This is Safety? Someone named Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, came to New York Wednesday to talk to the Citizens Crime Commission, a civic group, about how much safer we are since 9/11.
He was asked about inspecting cargo from container ships when they arrive in New York. He suggested that the costs might be too much for taxpayers.
Asked about news reports that immediately after 9/11 the White House arranged flights for Saudis in the United States, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, to leave the country before they could be interviewed by the FBI, he declined comment.
He also declined comment about New York City not receiving its fair share of post 9/11-aid that President George W. Bush has promised. Two weeks ago, Kelly went to Washington to testify before a Congressional Select Committee on the matter, but walked out after he was kept waiting for three hours.
Lesson of Hutchinson's appearance: If you feel safer after listening to this bird, you really have a problem.
© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.