THE BLOG
09/16/2013 12:04 pm ET | Updated Nov 16, 2013

To Ray Kelly: Three Unanswered Questions About Terrorism

Ray Kelly is sniping from the sidelines that no mayoral candidate came to him for a briefing on terrorism.

Well, we'll stand in for the candidates. And we'll repeat three questions we've asked in the past, which the police commissioner has yet to answer. We hope the next mayor will ask the same questions.

Question One: What does Kelly mean when he says "We only follow leads?"

What lead prompted the NYPD's Intelligence Division to send half a dozen officers to Buffalo to spy on that city's small immigrant Somali community in 2008 and 2009, in what was called the NYPD's "Somalia Project." [See NYPD Confidential, Mar. 5, 2012].

According to an Intelligence Division "briefing report," dated Jan. 2, 2009, Intel began its Buffalo spying operation, even though the department's Buffalo liaison said he "was not aware of any crime trends or crime patterns attributed to the ethnic Somali community."

That liaison was a law enforcement heavyweight: Erie County Undersheriff Richard Donovan, who retired as Police Commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department in 1994, and who the briefing report described as "our key person in Western New York."

According to the report, Donovan met with a captain, lieutenant and sergeant from the Intelligence Division's Strategic Intelligence Unit on Dec.30, 2008. The unit then "conducted vehicle surveillance" of five Somali locations that appear to be mosques. "New license plate information [NJ Registration] was obtained of a new vehicle observed at a subject location and photos taken," the briefing report noted.

The briefing report suggested that this spying began well before December, 2008. Marked "law enforcement sensitive," it suggested that the NYPD also researched Somali communities in Boston and Maine, although it is unclear whether these groups were placed under surveillance as in Buffalo.

Nor is it clear how long the Somali surveillance continued or if it continues today or why it was dropped. But apparently it resulted in no terrorism-related arrests.

Question Two. Who were the secret donors to the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation, which raised nearly $300,000 to pay a former CIA official "to help educate members of the NYPD with regard to fighting terrorism," as the foundation's mission statement reads? [See NYPD Confidential, Nov. 7, 2001]

Kelly never announced the formation of the department's secretly created non-profit, tax exempt foundation, whose president was then Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Stephen Hammerman and whose secretary was Kelly's chief of staff Joe Wuensch.

In registering with the state's Attorney General's office in 2008, as non-profits are required to do, the foundation omitted both Hammerman's and Wuencsh's NYPD affiliation. Instead, they listed their home addresses.

The former CIA official was Marc Sageman, who in 2008 became the NYPD's first and only "scholar in residence." Sageman had worked for the Agency in Pakistan between 1987 and 1989. His biography states he has a medical degree and a doctorate in sociology and is the author of two books about terrorism.

In his year as scholar-in-residence, Sageman was paid a salary of $180,000. A wire service story in July, 2008, reported only that he was paid by a "private foundation."

Foundation documents reveal that the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation received its first contribution, of $41,000, from an unnamed contributor in 2006, two years earlier and two years before the foundation registered with the Attorney General's office.

Documents show that the foundation received a second contribution of $212,000 in 2007, and raised a total of $290,500.

This may be the first time in New York municipal history that the NYPD, under the cover of two civilian employees, formed its own private foundation to fund what was apparently a police commissioner's pet project.

But what the documents don't reveal is this: who were its secret donors?

Question three. Will Kelly please explain why David Cohen, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence, made the fateful decision to contact an NYPD informant about would-be terrorist subway bomber Najibullah Zazi without informing the FBI, with which the NYPD was supposedly cooperating?

Cohen's move jeopardized the investigation into what was considered the most serious terrorism threat to New York since 9/11.

When questioned last week about his actions -- as described in "Enemies Within," the book by the AP's Pulitzer prize-winning reporters, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, that is the culmination of their two years of reporting on the NYPD, Cohen lost his cool.

Referring to the FBI, which was tracking Zazi as he drove from Colorado to New York to plant his homemade bombs, Cohen blurted out to the Daily Beast, "They fucking let explosives into New York City."

Actually, it was the Port Authority Police Department, not the FBI, that allowed Zazi to enter the city with his bombing-making chemicals. Cohen compounded the confusion by then showing a photo of Zazi to an NYPD informant. He, in turn, tipped off Zazi's father to the NYPD's surveillance of his son.

Cohen never informed the FBI of what he had done, either before or afterwards.
Instead, the FBI learned Cohen had compromised the investigation through an intercepted wiretap of Zazi's father.

Did Cohen own up and take responsibility? He transferred the deputy inspector who had suggested the idea and that Cohen approved, blaming the deputy inspector for his own error in judgment.

REMEMBERING JOE. For all the harsh words written about him in this column over the years, let's remember the best of Joe Hynes. And there is a lot to remember.

Early on, he served the public well as Fire Commissioner, Nursing Home Commissioner, State Commissioner of Investigation, Special State Prosecutor and of course in his role as the special Queens prosecutor in Howard Beach.

In his early years as Brooklyn District Attorney, he was an innovator of programs involving drug offenders and sexual abuse, which became national models.

Where did he go wrong? Same sad story as that of Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg: they thought they were indispensible and stayed in office too long.

Hynes' mistakes caught up with him. He allied himself with bad elements. Dealing with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community can be treacherous. Ask anyone in the police department how quickly they can turn on you.

He also proved too loyal to members of his own staff who served him badly. It's tough to run for a seventh term when one of your top assistants sends an innocent man to jail for 16 years, a federal judge accuses that assistant of misconduct, and you continue to say he's the greatest.
In the end, Hynes showed what a classy guy he can be. Republicans are pressing him to stay in the race on their line to help Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. So far, Hynes has refused and has offered to help his successor, Kenneth Thompson, with the transition.

On election night, he tried to call Thompson early on to congratulate him. When aides protested, saying it was premature, Hynes, seeing the results coming in, answered, "It's the right thing to do."

UNSSEEN AT GROUND ZERO AT THE 12TH ANNIVERSEARY CEREMONIES FOR 9/11]: Bernard Bailey Kerik, the NYPD's 40th police commissioner, confined to his home in Franklin Lakes ,N. J., and wearing an ankle bracelet.