Remember the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel who made his mark saving aristos from the guillotine? “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel.” Fortunately Baroness Orczy’s creation lived and worked in the eighteenth century. It’s not so difficult to find people these days given the capabilities afforded by high tech methods of intruding into people’s lives and monitoring their activities. Nowadays the Pimpernel would no doubt be detected and detained when using his cell phone or swiping his credit card at a 7-11.
For New Yorkers nostalgic for a reminder of life in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s city, experiencing something from home is not now nearly so elusive. In fact, New York is pretty much anywhere you turn. A little bit of New York has turned up in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and even Williamsburg, Va. It’s in Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Spain, India, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, and Israel. No, it’s not in the form of a Broadway deli or a Famous Original Ray’s pizza. It’s the New York City Police Department, which proudly displays the motto “Fidelis ad Mortem,” faithful unto death. The NYPD is everywhere.
In the wake of 9/11, the New York City Police Department decided that it had to have its own CIA, so it hired David Cohen, who had recently retired from the Agency. Cohen was a career intelligence analyst who somehow had been appointed Director of Operations by Bill Clinton’s CIA Director, John Deutch, who had taken a shine to him. Cohen suddenly found himself managing the CIA’s spies even though he had only limited exposure to that type of work. Both he and Deutch, an engineer by training, were not surprisingly very unpopular among the rank and file at the Agency. Cohen was replaced after two years in 1997, following on Deutch who had left six months before under a cloud. Deutch admitted to having in his residence “enormously sensitive material” downloaded to his unsecured home-computer. Deutch’s computer was also used for accessing porn sites and for e-mail exchanges with a Russian scientist.
Apparently Cohen’s somewhat shaky credentials were good enough for NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Cohen was named Deputy Police Commissioner of Intelligence, a position that he continues to hold. The intelligence and counterterrorism budget was boosted substantially, reaching $178 million in 2010. Cohen, inexperienced in running either police or intelligence operations, decided to “Take a big net, throw it out, catch as many fish as you can and see what we get.” He attempted to recreate the CIA in miniature, bringing in former Agency officers Larry Sanchez and Marc Sageman and even sending NYPD officer Steve Pinkall to attend courses at the CIA’s clandestine training center “The Farm” near Williamsburg, Va. He also ordered the creation of the force’s “Demographics Unit,” which targeted Muslim groups and communities all over the Eastern United States. Its first job was to map New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut’s ethnic communities in search of “hot spots.” And for ethnic, read Muslim, not Middle Eastern. Coptic Egyptians and Jews of Sephardic origin were automatically excluded from the program.
Muslims who Americanized their names were particularly targeted, placed on special “suspicion” lists. Police informants were introduced into places of worship, into social groups, and even into restaurants. Islamic student groups at 16 colleges were monitored and in some cases infiltrated. It was all done without any liaison with local police forces but the program was exposed in June 2009 when a building superintendent discovered an NYPD safe house and surveillance point in an apartment close to the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick New Jersey. In a subsequent press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD’s right to go anywhere in the United States in search of terrorists without informing the local police.
But in spite of the effort and expense, the spy program was a complete failure. In June 2012, the NYPD’s Assistant Police Chief and commander of the Intelligence Division Thomas Galati admitted that the Demographics Unit had never produced a single usable lead in an actual terrorism case. But that is not to say that that the Counter-Terrorism Division never made any arrests, even if it was necessary to invent a crime and find a potential criminal. In November 2002, Pakistan born teenager Shahawar Matin Siraj was working in a book store when he was approached by an NYPD undercover officer. A second officer later offered Siraj a bomb that he could use to blow up a subway station. Siraj finally said “No, I don’t want to do it” but was arrested five days later and eventually sentenced to 30 years in prison on conspiracy charges. The next day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Siraj’s mother, sister and father.
The NYPD’s drive to destroy terrorism has led it to control its own airspace, adopt a version of the Pentagon’s civilian surveillance program, and develop an independent foreign policy. Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that the Department has the capability to shoot down airplanes that threaten the city while Jessica Tisch, the 30 year old Director of Planning and Policy in the Counter-Terrorism Division, a Harvard graduate with no background in police work or intelligence, recently unveiled a surveillance program called the Domain Awareness System. It enables thousands of police surveillance cameras to continuously monitor in real time anyone in south Manhattan based on facial characteristics or even what they are wearing. Meanwhile, the busy bees at the NYPD Counter-Terrorism analysis section have issued a report blaming Iran for nine recent terrorist acts directed against Israeli targets, none of which has actually been demonstrated to have any Iranian involvement. They have also completed a secret assessment of the worldwide activity of Hezbollah, a report which may or may not have any connection to reality,
The Demographics Unit operates inside the United States, but the International Liaison Program (ILP) works overseas, in at least eleven cities. Apart from Israel where the program appears to have some quasi-official status, none of the NYPD liaison officers has any legal standing for dealing with the local authorities. The detectives travel on tourist passports, stay in hotels, and do not report to the US Ambassador, nor to the CIA Chief of Station. The FBI would like to see all the offices shut down as they confuse foreign police forces regarding whom they should be speaking to. The Bureau also notes that the NYPD already has 100 officers linked by secure communications to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington. They are fully cleared and able to review all information coming into US intelligence and law enforcement, making the ILP completely redundant. Kelly and Cohen have responded to the criticism of their individual enterprise by complaining that the FBI in particular is unable to protect New York City. One retired FBI agent has reported that Cohen once delivered in his presence a profanity filled diatribe damning the Bureau.
There have been some memorable gaffes as when NYPD officers show up at the scene of a terrorist attack, start waving their badges in the air and demand access. They are generally shown the way out. In one notable case after the 2005 London bombings, Kelly and Bloomberg held a press conference after several NYPD detectives had been asked to leave the sites of the attacks. They boasted of New York’s ability to protect its citizens, unlike London, producing a furious reaction from the British who subsequently asked that the New Yorkers leave the UK.
The ILP has perhaps not surprisingly been most active in Israel. Orthodox Jewish detective Mordecai Dzikansky was sent to work with the Israeli police in Jerusalem in March 2003. Dzikansky, a former Israeli Defense Forces volunteer, was fluent in Hebrew and described his role as working with Israel to face “…the same enemy: It’s radical Islam. I think the whole western world is facing this evil demon…” Since that time, the NYPD has upgraded its presence, recently opening an official liaison office in Kfar Saba, a town close to Tel Aviv. The office is manned by Charlie Ben-Naim, an Israeli citizen by birth and a dual national. He is also an NYPD detective.
The ILP is partially funded by the private New York Police Foundation, which is largely endowed by the city’s financial services industry. It has not been completely open about what if pays for and why. It apparently supported ILP through a targeted $1.5 million fundraiser in 2010, but it is to be assumed that infrastructure expenses for the program come out of the general NYPD budget or from the intelligence division funding. The Foundation has been criticized for picking up the tab for Commissioner Ray Kelly’s $12,000 bill at the New York Harvard Club and also paid $400,000 for a public relations firm to improve Kelly’s image.
The NYPD’s intelligence division is all a big waste of money, an egregious violation of the civil rights of many Americans, and an affront to friendly foreign police forces that want to cooperate with Washington. But the NYPD cops themselves go with the flow, most of them probably recognizing nonsense and bureaucratic posturing when they see it. And there is otherwise plenty of “business as usual” to keep everyone busy. If you are walking down the street and look suspicious you can be questioned and searched in New York City. A record 685,724 New Yorkers were on the receiving end of “stop and frisk” by the NYPD in 2011.
To make sure that everyone understands who the enemy is, an anti-Muslim training film, The Third Jihad, including gruesome footage of terrorist attacks, was used recently by the NYPD to train new officers with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly actually appearing in the film to underline its message. But, propaganda aside, when you want to insure the loyalty of the praetorian guards, you pay them handsomely. A NYPD officer earns more than $90,000 a year after five years, exclusive of overtime. If he is promoted to sergeant or detective he earns considerably more. His pension after 35 years is roughly two thirds of his final salary plus full health care benefits for the rest of his life. There are more than 40,000 policemen in New York City. You can do the math.