Paul Browne, who served nearly ten years as the NYPD's spokesman -- longer than anyone in its history, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- had another distinction. He was the department's most egregious - and effective -- liar.
These were not small and harmless lies that Browne told. They had a purpose.
His most brazen were related to terrorism -- to make Kelly a force on the international anti-terrorism stage.
And to a large degree, Browne -- known to readers of NYPD Confidential as Mr. Truth -- succeeded.
To understand his purpose, recall Kelly's remarks in January, 2002, when he returned as police commissioner and announced that the FBI had failed to protect the city from 9/ll -- and then declared, "We feel we have to protect ourselves."
Echoed Browne: After 9/ll, Kelly "took the position that the NYPD could no longer rely on the federal government alone and that the department had to build an intelligence capacity worthy of the name."
That begins to explain Browne's now-discredited 16 plots against the city that he originally said were prevented by the NYPD.
Many of them were heralded at City Hall news conferences with the national media present, and with Kelly declaring "an imminent threat," as he did in announcing the arrest of "lone-wolf" terrorist Jose Pimentel in Nov., 2011 for conspiring to build a bomb.
But in reality all these so-called plots were prevented by the FBI, with the NYPD playing a supporting role.
[In Pimentel's case, the FBI considered Kelly's "imminent threat" so far-fetched they disassociated themselves from the arrest.]
Now consider the plot that Kelly and Browne have cited most - the attack on the Brooklyn Bridge.
No one denies the plot was real or that the person behind might have been Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of 9/ll.
Back in 2002, Kelly and Browne announced that Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker, had called the plot off after spotting NYPD patrol cars guarding the bridge and sending back the coded message to his Al Qaeda superiors: "The weather is too hot."
Even now on the NYPD's web-site are the words: "NYPD's 24-hour coverage of the bridge, much of which was put in place following 9/ll and intentionally made highly visible, played a large role in Faris' decision to abandon the plot."
What Kelly and Browne have never acknowledged publicly is that the NYPD was guarding the bridge because of a tip from the FBI.
Nor have Kelly and Browne acknowledged that the phrase "The weather is too hot" came from a message stored on Faris' computer that the FBI discovered.
In fact, according to a Department of Justice press release at his sentencing on Oct. 28, 2003, Faris had attempted to obtain "gas cutters" - equipment necessary for severing the bridge's suspension cables. In several coded messages, he indicated he had been unsuccessful.
That -- not the NYPD presence at the bridge -- was the reason he called off the plot.
Nonetheless, Browne and Kelly have continued to trumpet their efforts in guarding the bridge as an example of the NYPD's effectiveness in fighting terrorism.
Even the New York Times bought into this, headlining an article on April 26, 2011: "A Bridge Under Scrutiny by Plotters and the Police." The article described the bridge as "one of the more carefully guarded potential targets in New York," with patrols cars stationed at the entry ramps and a police boat patrolling in the East River.
So sensitive a target was the bridge, Browne told the Times, that the department had hired an engineer to study ways it could be "taken down," as the Times put it.
In addition to the patrol cars and police boat, the Times reported that security cameras watched the bride's hidden corners and maintenance crews had been ordered to notify the NYPD's Intelligence Division before scaling the cables.
How real was all this? Well, on June 26, 2012, a graffiti artist was somehow able to climb to one of the bridge's stanchions 119 feet over the East River and tag his name, "Lewy BTM" in three spots.
And this past July 4th, "a crafty daredevil," as one news account described him, was somehow able to rappel down a water hose from the bridge and safety land atop a one-story NYPD car repair facility.
Still, with his trumped up terrorism rhetoric, Kelly gained public support for his clandestine spying on Muslim communities around the city, in New Jersey and in parts of the northeast.
Documents obtained by this column and the Associated Press, which disclosed the spying in the summer of 2011 and won the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting, revealed that the NYPD has spied on hundreds of Muslim mosques, schools, businesses, student groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals, targeting virtually every level of Muslim life in the city.
The AP's first story reported that the NYPD's "Demographics Unit," a part of the Intelligence Division, had assembled data bases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed across the city.
Preparing their story, reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo asked Browne about the unit. Browne's response, according to Goldman: There was no such thing as the Demographics Unit.
But there was indeed a Demographics Unit. Chief Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, acknowledged its existence in a deposition last year in a long-standing federal civil rights case. He also acknowledged it had not produced a single lead to a terrorist plot.
[Earlier this year, Kelly acknowledged the same about his vaunted NYPD Overseas Spy Service, in which detectives are stationed in 10 so-called terrorism hot spots.
Indeed, the sole terrorism conviction that the NYPD obtained without the FBI turned out to be that of Siraj Matin, who had an I.Q. considered borderline-retarded and whose co-defendant, James Elshafay, had just been released from a mental hospital. It also turned out the NYPD paid $100,000 to an informant who egged the two on.]
Perhaps, Browne's most egregious lie concerned Kelly's role in the NYPD training film "The Third Jihad," which claimed that much of America's Muslim leadership is part of a "strategy to infiltrate and dominate"
Initially, Browne termed the film a "wacky movie," saying it had been shown only "a couple of times" to police officers before the showings were discontinued.
Asked about Kelly's appearance in the film, Brown told reporter Tom Robbins that the footage was "scraped from another source." He told a similar story to the Times, saying the filmmakers had lifted the clip from an old interview.
Both were lies. It turned out the film was screened to nearly 1,500 officers on a "continuous loop" for up to a year.
Not only was Kelly interviewed for the film but Browne recommended he do so.
Still, many of Browne's lies have stuck.
The Post and the Daily News and New York's Congressional delegation continue to cite Kelly's terrorism-fighting credentials, pushing him for FBI Director two years ago, and currently for Director of Homeland Security.
In supporting him two years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer called Kelly as "the pre-eminent law enforcement person in the country."
In pushing Kelly for Homeland Security Director last week, Congresswoman Caroline [The Gullible] Maloney cited the 16 plots, then said, "He has an exemplary record in fighting terrorism."
NYPD-NOTRE DAME CONNECTIONS. Regis Philbin, a 1953 Notre Dame graduate was rumored to have flown Kelly to a Notre Dame football game at South Bend in his private plane a couple of years ago.
Congressman [and self-proclaimed presidential candidate] Peter King, a 1968 Notre Dame Law School graduate, is Kelly's biggest booster.
And now Paul Browne will serve as Notre Dame's vice president for public affairs and communications.
Pity he wasn't there when Notre Dame football sensation Mante Te'o claimed that his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, had died in a car accident while battling leukemia. Turned out there was no girlfriend. Turned out there was no Lennay Kekua.
As Kelly put it in a press release announcing Browne's departure for Notre Dame: "Go Irish."
AN EMAIL FROM NORMAN SIEGEL. "You wrote that I 'spent the past year haggling with the Corporation Counsel to establish guidelines to credential reporters.' As I mentioned to you when we spoke last week, the guidelines /rules were established as a result of a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of three journalist (Rafael Martinez was the lead plaintiff.) The meetings to revise the rules/guidelines and settle the lawsuit took about a year but not 'the past year'". I believe it was from early 2009-early 2010. The rules/guidelines have been in effect for almost three years. Also, I would not characterize the meetings/ negotiations to revise the rules as 'haggling.'"