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Reporters and Sycophants

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The Post's Murray Weiss, the city's pre-eminent police reporter, is packing it in.

Weiss spent 24 years at the Post and the previous 12 years at the News -- virtually all of them covering the NYPD. That's 36 years in all -- four times as long as Ray Kelly has been police commissioner and nearly as long as Kelly has been in the department.

Yes, Murray is not averse to puffing himself. (Then again, who isn't?) Describing his career last week, he said, "I went from the front page of the News to the front page of the Post on the first day. I've been on page one pretty well since."

With his departure, New Yorkers are losing his deep institutional memory of the NYPD and his rare first-strike capability. He was one of the few reporters whom Kelly had to worry about. He could do damage that Kelly couldn't shrug off.

Ever the pro (and, no doubt, with some satisfaction), Kelly attended Murray's farewell party and spent considerable time chatting with him. Kelly's top assistant, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, even made a speech.

Left unspoken was that for the last four years Kelly and Browne had cut Weiss off from the department, as they have every reporter who writes critically of Kelly.

This was reflected in who did not attend Weiss' party.

Other than an inspector from the Public Information office and the head of the Detectives Union, who is immune from Kelly's retaliation, not one police officer currently on the job -- and certainly no detective -- showed up.

The reason for this can be summed up in a word: fear.

Back in 2006, during the murder investigation of Imette St. Guillen, a graduate student found bound off the Belt Parkway after leaving a Soho bar, Kelly "dumped" the phones of detectives to figure out who had been talking to reporters.

At least two dozen detectives -- as well as Detective Borough Brooklyn's entire top command, including a deputy chief, an inspector and two captains -- were questioned under oath by investigators from Internal Affairs.

Kelly's message to detectives was clear: you talk to reporters at your peril.

This hardball tactic particularly miffed Weiss because the Post's reporting had provided a break in the case -- a witness linking the victim to the suspect, a bouncer at the bar where she was last seen. The Post put the witness in touch with the police.

Kelly's reaction, Weiss said at the time, "would have to be viewed as a witch hunt. There hasn't been anything as chilling in the police department since Giuliani wiped out the entire Public Information office under Bill Bratton."

But there was a difference. Back then, every newspaper in New York reported on the Giuliani-Bratton rivalry that led to the former mayor's strike at the Public Information office.

However, not one newspaper wrote about Kelly's strike at his own detectives, and by inference at the media.

For a time -- a very short time -- the Post fought back. Weiss unearthed a secret 2006 Internal Affairs document, reporting that 114 cops had been arrested for various acts of corruption.

In 2008, he reported that Kelly had refused a Freedom of Information request to provide his public schedule, noting that Mayor Bloomberg, President Bush and even the FBI Director regularly released theirs.

Weiss suggested that Kelly had been trying to hide his meetings with political supporters of his short-lived mayoral campaign, which he aborted when Bloomberg announced he would seek a third term.

With Weiss gone and the Post having no one of substance to replace him, Kelly can expand the role of the reporter as sycophant.

Leading in that category is, of all people, Judith Miller, the discredited former New York Times reporter, who proved her bona fides by ingratiating herself with the George W. Bush White House and then writing whatever Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby and the rest of their crew told her about the Iraq war.

After the Times pushed her out, she turned up at Police Plaza as the amanuensis of both Kelly and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen. As she proved in Washington, she writes what authorities tell her, asking no hard questions. Or if she does ask, she doesn't print the answers.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal in May, 2007, she described having been given access to 600 pages of secret NYPD intelligence files that Kelly had refused to turn over to the Civil Liberties Union, which was suing the department for spying on groups planning to protest at the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. (A federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the department could keep the files secret.)

This month, Miller was back at Police Plaza, writing another article.

"What rankles Raymond W. Kelly?" she began. "Two things, he tells me as we sip lukewarm coffee in his conference room on the 14th floor of One Police Plaza.... The first, New York's police commissioner tells me, is 'incompetence'. ... A second is the media's tendency to downplay New York's hard-won victories against terrorism - the failure or foiling of some 11 serious plots against the city since 2001. ..."

Her article appeared June 19 in the Wall Street Journal. Hey, isn't the Journal's owner the same guy who owns the Post?

WHAT AN AGENT DOES FOR LOVE (CON'T) The FBI has announced a successor to love-struck Joe Demarest, who was forced to depart New York for Washington following allegations of special treatment for his agent-girlfriend.

Succeeding him as head of the New York office is Janice Fedarcyk, who heads the Philadelphia office.

A press release from FBI Director Robert Mueller says that Fedarcyk "brings both a strong national security and criminal investigative background from her current assignment ... and from her work at FBI Headquarters, where she managed terrorist financing investigations, served at the National Counterterrorism Center, and oversaw investigations of online exploitation of children. She is well prepared to lead our largest office."

An email to Your Humble Servant from a person with intimate FBI knowledge offers a different view.

It reads: "The office is in shock. The odds-on favorite and logical choice was Andrew Arena, SAC in Detroit. Andy had been in charge of the terrorism program at FBIHQ earlier in his career (post 9/11) and had led the Criminal Division in the NY FBI office before going to Detroit. So logically, a guy with terrorism experience in dealing with Ray Kelly, wise in the ways of NYC and the NY FBI office is passed over by Mueller for a person with zero experience in a NY-like atmosphere. Why? Well, speculation is that Mueller, whose term ends in Sept., 2011, sees the appointment of the first woman to head the flagship office of the FBI as a stellar achievement before he departs the scene. Word, too, is that Mueller didn't always appreciate the direct and honest answers he used to get from Arena during Andy's terrorism days as HG."