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Len Levitt

Len Levitt

Posted: November 16, 2009 10:21 AM

Mayor Mike and the Imam

What's Your Reaction?

Perhaps we should be relieved the feds are handling the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and his four alleged accomplices.

If left to the locals, we might have a lapse like City Hall's invitation to a Brooklyn imam linked to the first World Trade Center attack.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj was the among eight Islamic leaders invited to City Hall last week to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly following the deadly Fort Hood shootings.

Nobody seemed to have realized that Imam Wahhaj had been named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

When reporters raised questions about his controversial past, our $100 million mayor flapped like a fish on a griddle.

Bloomberg's first explanation for hosting Wahhaj, an African-American convert to Islam, was, "We have to talk to everybody. ... That's how you prevent tragedies."

Then, when reporters asked why he would invite a suspected terrorist to City Hall, Mayor Mike said he didn't know whether Wahhaj had actually attended.

Next, Bloomberg's spokesman said that it was the mayor's aides, not the mayor himself, who had invited Wahhaj.

Finally, there was this from the mayor: "I think if I had recognized the background, I wouldn't have invited him."

O.K., now some questions.

Where were the Police Department's vaunted Intelligence Division and Counter Terrorism Bureau?

With all the surveillance they have supposedly done to protect the city, with all the hoopla from Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen about the threat of "homegrown" terrorists, were Intel and Counter-Terrorism unaware of Wahhaj's past, which also includes testifying for the blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted in a New York trial of conspiring to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel, the United Nations and other city targets?

Why did no one perform at least a cursory file review of the attendees so as not to embarrass the P.C. or the mayor?

Why didn't City Hall run the list by Intel or Counter-Terrorism? Why didn't someone from Intel or Counter-Terrorism proactively seek the list from City Hall? Wouldn't that be the intelligent, professional thing to do?

Or does the crowd at One Police Plaza regard its own Counter-Terrorism cops on the Joint [NYPD-FBI] Terrorism Task Force -- which surely knew of the Imam's past -- as so co-opted by the feds that they weren't consulted?

Or did Bloomberg and the NYPD know and simply not care?

And what of Kelly himself? He was police commissioner in 1993 when the World Trade Center was bombed. Maybe he has been commissioner so long he has lost his memory.

THE PIGOTT TRAGEDY [CON'T]. Commissioner Kelly has proven himself a man of tremendous discipline, except when the unexpected occurs -- especially in racially charged shootings.

Then, he seems to forget that officers involved in deadly confrontations have constitutional rights and are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Former Civil Liberties head Norman Siegel noted this after Kelly's treatment of Lieutenant Michael Pigott, who committed suicide after the NYPD criticized his order to Taser an emotionally disturbed Hispanic man, Iman Morales, who, struck by the Taser, plunged to his death.

With Morales' fall captured on amateur video and played repeatedly on television and with Morales' family and community activists demanding disciplinary action, Kelly immediately announced that Pigott's order appeared to have violated department guidelines. He then stripped the lieutenant of his gun and badge and transferred him from his support system at ESU to a low-level job at the Motor Pool in Queens. Eight days later, Pigott returned to his unit, broke into a fellow officer's locker, grabbed a gun from inside and fired a bullet into his head.

"If the NYPD leadership is not disciplined and, seeking to be popular, deviates from the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty" Siegel said, "there could be consequences, as there apparently were in this case."

Siegel had made the same point five years before when Kelly rushed to judge a white officer, Richard Neri, for accidentally shooting an unarmed black teenager atop his Brooklyn housing project.

Just 12 hours later, before the police had completed their investigation, Kelly announced, "There appears to be no justification for the shooting," implying Neri was guilty of a crime.

While the city's media praised Kelly's so-called candor, noting that he spared the city from a possible riot, Siegel stated that he felt Kelly had violated Neri's rights.

"Even if it looks bad," he said, "you are innocent until proven guilty." A grand jury subsequently cleared Neri, ruling concluding the shooting was accidental.

Pigott's widow Susan is now suing the NYPD and Kelly, claiming that he, his spokesman Paul Browne and other unnamed top commanders caused her husband's suicide by scape-goating him for Morales' death.

Last week, much of the city's media tromped out to Bohemia, on Long Island, to interview Susan Pigott, who told of awakening at 4:30 A.M. eight day after Morales' death, to find her husband gone and to learn that he was dead.

Both the Post and the Daily News ran full-page interviews. The News' story concluded with a line from a recent editorial lamenting Pigott's death, headlined, "Thrown to the Wolves."

It read: "Pigott lived in a different kind of place, a place that allows no margin of error for cops and stands ready to flay even good ones."

Here now is an email by Pigott's cousin Brian, printed with his permission, that hits closer to the truth.

"He was a Hardworking Dedicated Honest E-Man that loved his job with such passion & pride. While Sue, Rob,Mike and Elizabeth were his family and # 1 in his life I can tell you the other E-Men especially the ones from Truck 9 were his 2nd family #1A. Unfortunately I only met them at Mike's Wake. A large Bone of contention among the Emergency Service Men was the treatment by Ray Kelly, Paul Browne and the upper brass. There [sic] words ripped Mike's heart out."

THE GREATEST. Last week, the police department's unofficial official historian Tom Reppetto said of Kelly: "If he quit tomorrow, he would go down as the greatest commissioner in the department's history."

With that claim Reppetto joins some distinguished hyperbolics [our word], including Rudy Giuliani and the well-known attorney Ed Hayes.

Giuliani, as mayor, had called his second police commissioner Howard Safir, "The greatest police commissioner in the history of the city."

Hayes, who served as attorney and agent for Safir's predecessor, William Bratton, had called his client "the greatest law enforcement figure of the decade, if not the century."

DO LIKE ED. With Bernie Kerik out on bail, one of his closest friends offered this advice: "Do your time. Keep your mouth shut and you can end up like Norris."

That's former NYPD deputy commissioner Ed Norris, who later headed the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland State Police before the feds nabbed him for spending some $20,000 of Baltimore money on wine, women, etc.

Norris was convicted and did six months in federal prison, a deal that Kerik a year or so reportedly turned down.

Norris is now a radio show host in Baltimore and regularly appeared on the police television drama set in Baltimore, "The Wire."

Lessen: Even top cops can have a life after federal prison.