Schumer’s One-Way Street
May 20, 2012
Chuck Schumer put his Senatorial arm on FBI Director Robert Mueller last week — pressuring him to call NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and brief him on the recently foiled Yemeni bomb plot.
But while Schumer calls for inter-agency cooperation from Mueller, neither he nor any other politician calls for similar cooperation from Kelly.
“[F]or the continued good operation, give him a call on this,” Schumer told Mueller before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday.
When Muller responded, “As I told Ray, he is always welcome to call,” Schumer said, “Let’s not get into who calls whom. I am asking you to call.”
The issue of “who calls whom” is, of course, larger than one phone call.
It reflects a decade of tensions between the FBI and the NYPD that politicians and law enforcement officials have refused to publicly acknowledge — until now.
Since returning as police commissioner in 2002, Kelly has repeatedly complained that the FBI has not shared terrorism information with him.
Last week, he complained publicly that the Bureau had waited seven days before giving the NYPD details about how an Al Qaeda operative in Yemen planned to explode an underwear bomb on a U.S.-bound plane
Yet Kelly has repeatedly refused to share NYPD intelligence on its terrorism investigations with the Bureau.
Remember the NYPD’s 2003 undercover scuba-dive-shop sting along the New Jersey shore to determine whether dive shop operators were vulnerable to terrorists?
Or the NYPD investigation of stolen explosives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania that Deputy Commissioner of the Intelligence Division David Cohen thought might be terrorist-related? [See NYPD Confidential column Nov. 3, 2003 for both incidents.]
Or the NYPD’s secret monitor of the Black Tea Society in Boston before the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York? [See NYPD Confidential column of Apr. 9, 2004.]
The NYPD failed to alert the FBI about any of these operations.
And while Kelly has complained about the Bureau’s lack of cooperation, Mueller has appeared to turn the other cheek.
Moreover, he seems to have gone out of his way to placate Kelly.
In 2008, Mueller took the unprecedented step of bringing Joe Demarest out of retirement to head the FBI’s New York office because Demarest was one of the few people in the FBI [or anywhere else in law enforcement] who could get along with Kelly. [See NYPD Confidential, Nov. 17, 2008.]
Demarest’s predecessor, Mark Mershon, had actually told this reporter that his first priority was to get along with Kelly. After he attended a news conference with Kelly about a purported subway bombing plot in October 2005, Mueller telephoned Mershon, praising him for cooperating with the police commissioner.
“Mark, thank you, thank you, thank you, I am so glad we have you up there. Thank you for the manner in which you handled yourself.”
Then as he drove home, Mershon said Mueller called him again, saying, “Mark, I hope you don’t mind. I just called Ray Kelly to thank him for working together.” [See NYPD Confidential, Jan. 9, 2006.]
Earlier this year, the NYPD’s spying on New Jersey Muslims and on Buffalo’s Somali community came to light. According to accounts by the Associated Press and the Buffalo News, it appears that neither Kelly nor anyone else in the NYPD had informed the Bureau of either operation.
Schumer has remained silent on the NYPD’s spying — except to implicitly criticize Michael Ward, the head of the FBI’s Newark office, for publicly disparaging the NYPD’s Newark operation as “counter-productive.”
“I was sort of surprised that he [Ward] made it public,” Schumer told Mueller at the hearing. “Now what was that all about? That doesn’t help …”
The NYPD also didn’t divulge its tactics in the Najibullah Zazi subway plot, which law enforcement officials have called the most serious threat to the city since 9/11.
Without informing the FBI, which was leading the investigation, an NYPD detective was ordered to contact his informant, who tipped off Zazi, forcing the FBI to scramble and arrest Zazi prematurely. [See NYPD Confidential, Sep. 21, 2009 and May 7, 2012.]
Kelly now says that Zazi aborted his plot before the NYPD contacted its informant.
Even if that’s true, the NYPD did not know this when it contacted its informant.
The issue is why the NYPD didn’t inform the FBI, either before or after the NYPD detective reached out to that informant.
That is another question that neither Schumer nor any other politician has asked Kelly.
As for the Yemeni bombing plot, if it was so serious and time was a factor, why didn’t Kelly pick up the phone and call Mueller?
The bomb plot was reportedly foiled by a double-agent working for Saudi Intelligence. From the U.S. side, this appears to be a CIA, not an FBI-run, operation. Did Kelly contact the CIA? Did Cohen, who was a former top CIA official, contact his old buddies at the Agency?
Sources say Cohen did precisely that. Maybe Schumer should ask Kelly about the CIA’s response.
Oh, and in all this back and forth, where was the vaunted NYPD foreign service? Last we heard, Cohen's Intelligency Division had at least two bureaus in the Middle East. Wasn't there a detective somewhere who had relations with Saudi Intelligence?
“It’s like taking credit for an eclipse,” said the former police commissioner to Time magazine’s Eric Pooley. “It goes to the question of what kind of policing we want in America. You can probably shut down just about all crime, if you’re willing to burn down the village to save it. Eventually, I think there will be a backlash and crime will go back up. But by then Bill will be gone.”
Who was this former police commissioner? Ray Kelly.
First, there was its May 17 news story, written in the language and lecturing tone of an editorial. “For a guy whose job is all about intelligence, FBI chief Robert Mueller showed a stunning lack of it Wednesday when he blithely told a Senate panel that he still hasn’t bothered calling NYPD’s top cop about the latest terror threat.”
Then, there was the News’s actual editorial that began: “The pettiness was appalling as FBI Director Robert Mueller explained why the feds had left Police Commissioner Ray Kelly out of the loop on the underwear bombing plot.”
Finally, there is News’s sports columnist Mike Lupica, who lately writes up-front on one subject: Ray Kelly.
Lupica never offers news or insight. His style is Breslin on an off-day, like this April 25th column.
“Kelly wasn’t being a politician there, just himself, which means honest. Maybe that is why he has become the most interesting politician in town these days without being a politician, without having any political affiliation, without announcing he is running for anything, no matter how many people want him to.”
Or this from last Friday: “The NYCLU, and all the virtuous editorial writers who back its play on this, won’t be happy until Kelly and stop-and-frisk are gone, and somebody else is the mayor of New York.”
Or this, from last Sunday: “Bloomberg isn’t afraid of the gun lobby who make other big politicians, including the President, hide under their desks. Kelly? He isn’t afraid of anything or anybody, starting with all who have decided they know more about policing his city than he does. Maybe Kelly should put the NYCLU in charge of counterterrorism, too.”
Pete Hamill, who knows something about writing, once described a tired columnist as someone who no longer goes out and reports but sits at home and writes in his bathrobe and bedroom slippers.
Memo to Lupica from Your Humble Servant: You want to write about Kelly and stop-and-frisk? Get dressed.
“Just talked to Dan,” says Vance’s spokeswoman Erin Duggan. “Could not be further than the truth.”
She adds: “Drop those sources.”
Copyright © 2012 Leonard Levitt