During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller confessed to struggling to prevent federal officials from criticizing the NYPD's arrest of accused pipe-bomber, Jose Pimentel.
Mueller testified that he had given specific orders reprimanding his subordinates for anonymously speaking to the press mocking the arrest after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called him to ask that the FBI stop belittling the arrest, which they believed was overblown due to Pimentel's lack of resources and inability to seriously carry out any real threat.
Mueller went on to condemn anyone from criticizing the NYPD and praise the city's investigation of Pimentel:
FBI agents should not anonymously or publicly attack the New York Police Department...Ray Kelly has done a remarkable job in terms of protecting New York City from terrorist attacks, New York City being a principal target.
Pimentel was arrested late November on various terrorism related charges, including allegedly plotting to bomb police and post offices in the city.
Mayor Bloomberg said Pimentel was a serious "al-Qaida sympathizer" who resented the United States for their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pimentel's mother, Carmen Sosa, cited Pimentel's increasing frustration with his lack of unemployment as a possible motive behind his alleged terror plans.
Following the arrest however, two anonymous FBI officials revealed to the press that the NYPD had approached federal agents at least two times in order to get them involved as the investigation transpired. The FBI declined because they did not believe Pimentel had "the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the arrest and said the NYPD had been in communication with federal authorities "all along" but was ultimately forced to take matters into their own hand. Kelly commented:
No question in my mind that we had to take this case down. There was an imminent threat. This is a classic case of what we've been talking about – the lone wolf, an individual, self-radicalized. This is the needle in the haystack problem we face as a country and as a city.
Publicly, both the NYPD and FBI have continually insisted upon positive relationships between the two bureaus. But the Pimentel case raises questions surrounding the private, behind the scenes relation that is often characterized as tense and even as a post-September 11th rivalry.