What was the first count that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the UndieBomber — was found guilty of?
What was the first count that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the UndieBomber — was found guilty of?
In a fit of fearmongering reminiscent of the Mobile Bioweapons Labs used to get us into the Iraq War, FDNY did a report last month warning about the use of food trucks by terrorists. (Via Government Security News, h/t G.W.Schulz) The chief worry seems to be that food trucks carry 20 pound propane cylinders, get close to important landmarks, and would serve as an easy surveillance platform.
But some of the other things the report warns about are the fact that “roach coaches” are increasingly being replaced by gourmet carts and ESPN’s food cart has a large screen TV.
Apparently, in addition to Ford being a suspected terrorist, ESPN is now a suspected front for a terrorist surveillance operation, complete with large screen TV showing sports?
As Schulz pointed out, the guy who thwarted Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to blow up Times Square was street vendor Duane Jackson, not the NYPD, which was instead busy profiling Muslim-owned businesses rather than the 7-11 that might have led to Shahzad’s hawala. And while Jackson’s handbag cart probably doesn’t have propane tanks, if we start treating street vendors generally as subjects of suspicion, we’re less likely to see the cooperation that Jackson gave.
Food trucks may make great surveillance platforms, but that’s true of citizen observers like Jackson as much as terrorists.
It’s bad enough that the NYPD continues its Muslim spying program in spite of their Intelligence Division Chief’s admission that they have not derived a single lead from it. But look more closely at the astoundingly stupid rationalizations that Thomas Galati gave in his deposition for the program.
Galati imagines that if NYPD were ever faced with an imminent terrorist threat, the demographic mapping they had already done would allow them to figure out right away where the terrorist might go.
When we are faced with a threat or we have information about a threat that is present and we need to go out and we need to try and mitigate that threat, we have to be able to, at our fingertips, find what is the most likely location that that terrorist is going to go to and hide out amongst other people from the same country.
Let’s consider how this worked in practice the single time it might have applied.
When the FBI alerted the NYPD that Najibullah Zazi was heading back to NYC with the intent to blow up some subways, the NYPD knew exactly who to go to. They called Zazi’s Imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, who not only knew him but had taught him and some of his accomplices. So that part worked.
What didn’t work is that Afzali promptly tipped off Zazi and his father, making it more difficult to develop a case against Zazi’s accomplices.
Media reports quoting anonymous FBI officials have suggested the NYPD botched the case when it showed a picture of Najibullah Zazi, the Denver shuttle-bus driver at the heart of the investigation, to Ahmed Afzali, a Queens Imam and sometime police informant. Afzali, the reports say, first called Zazi’s father Mohammed, then Najibullah himself, alerting them to the probe. The FBI, which had been monitoring the calls, was then forced to move immediately to arrest the Zazis — much sooner than it had planned.
When Zazi traveled to New York ahead of the anniversary of 9/11, the FBI as a precaution alerted the NYPD. That’s when officers from the NYPD’s intelligence unit consulted Afzali. “It looks like they did this on their own initiative — they really trusted this Imam,” says the law-enforcement official. “But if they’d consulted with the bureau first, they’d have been told not to talk to anybody.”
So far Galati’s logic works if you want to make sure terrorists are tipped off by their close associates.
But it gets worse.
Central to the Galati’s explanation for the NYPD’s retention of the content of conversations about events–such as a Quran-burning, in the passage below (or, presumably, opposition to a drone strike)–is that it provides insight into whether a terrorist would be “comfortable in” a particularly environment.
Q I think you’ve told me that the fact that at this particular location where there are Pakistanis speaking Urdu, the Zone Assessment Unit heard two men complaining about the [redacted-Quran burning] That fact alone, their complaint expressed to each other doesn’t make it more likely that this is a place where a terrorist would go?
A It doesn’t make it more likely or less likely. It’s a tool for us to look for that person that we’re looking for that has that same characteristic that’s going to hide or recruit within a place that he or she is comfortable in.
Justin Elliott takes the debunking I did here one step further: a claim by claim debunking of the NYPD’s claims to have thwarted 14 attacks against the city. He helpfully groups his debunkery into three groups:
Real attacks the NYPD had no role in or even undermined but for which they claim credit.
Those marginally credible plots involving government informants.
Those plots deemed not credible by (usually anonymous) experts or never developed.
That’s it. The “threats” the NYPD is using to justify profiling the city’s (and suburbs’) Muslims were either missed by the NYPD, created in large by them, or never really developed.
I’d add just two things. First, as I have noted, for two of three actual attacks here, the NYPD actually got close but missed (or even hindered) the developing plots. These near misses suggest the NYPD may well have picked a few worthwhile investigation targets, but its actions are failing to reveal any real, rather than manufactured, threat.
There’s one more thing Elliot’s piece made me realize. Several of these–including Uzair Paracha, Iyman Faris, and the NYSE/Citi plot–can be traced back to KSM. As Elliott notes–and I’ve noted before–some of his evidence against Paracha, at least, was collected during his worst period of torture. Not only does that suggest I should add “exploiting torture-induced testimony” to my title.
But it makes me wonder whether one of the problems with trying KSM in NY, for Ray Kelly, was the possibility that KSM would expose the fraud at the heart of Kelly’s counterterrorism scam.
John Brennan, the guy whose role in torture and illegal wiretapping the Obama Administration continues to protect by looking relentlessly forward, also once admitted to having intimate knowledge of the NYPD’s spy program.
President Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser, John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director the CIA when the NYPD intelligence programs began, said he was intimately familiar with the CIA-NYPD partnership. He said that agency knew what the rules were and did not cross any lines.
Curiously, Brennan picked the day after Najibullah Zazi testified to praise the NYPD for its role in identifying terrorists (and proclaim, again, that he and the CIA and the NYPD hadn’t done anything illegal).
John Brennan said Friday at an NYPD event that the federal government can’t identify terrorists and stop attacks without help from local agencies.
He said the NYPD’s work has been responsible for keeping the city safe and that the department has done nothing illegal.
It doesn’t inspire great confidence that Brennan seems so unaware that the NYPD pointedly did not find Zazi and his accomplices, in spite of the fact that the NYPD believed Zazi’s imam was cooperating fully with the NYPD.
Is it possible that Obama’s top Homeland Security Advisor doesn’t even know that the NYPD’s spy program failed to find the most serious Islamic threats to NYC in recent years?
Schumer, rarely a courageous man, made full use of the passive when he tried to claim everyone knew the spying program makes NY safer.
There is nothing wrong with the NYPD collecting and assessing publicly available information from New York, New Jersey, the other 48 states or around the world in the effort to prevent another terror attack like 9/11. In fact, it is widely understood that the NYPD’s actions have kept us safer. Looking at public information and following leads is perfectly acceptable as long as any one group, in its entirety, is not targeted based only on its religious or ethnic affiliation. [my emphasis]
Nevermind that the NYPD uses techniques–like informants and permanent cameras–that aren’t exactly available to the public. Nevermind that Schumer’s backing himself into a corner with his new caveat that profiling is okay so long as not the entire ethnic group is profiled (though arguably, they are).
Schumer proves unable to say, in the affirmative, that he knows this makes NY safer. And he ought to consider that question seriously.
More offensive is the NYPost’s insinuation that the AP is just in this for a Pulitzer.
Columbia is also where they keep the Pulitzers in the off-season; American journalism’s most treasured self-affirmation program is more or less run from the university’s J-school. Since the awards are soon to be presented, and since the AP’s lust for one is almost comically transparent, its show-the-flag campus visit is wholly unsurprising.
Strip away the emotive rhetoric and what’s left is a series of stories over several weeks that show pretty clearly that the NYPD works very hard to keep the city safe — operating an aggressive and imaginative program, but staying well within both the law and the bounds of post-9/11 propriety from beginning to end.
At least twice in the decade before the NYPD program began, Islamist sleeper agents attacked New York City. The first time, six people died; the second, thousands.
Since then, the department has disrupted a number of Islamist-initiated plots; there is no way of telling how many more were never undertaken because the city is so aggressively anti-terrorist. And there have been no terror-related fatalities since 9/11.
That could change tomorrow — presumably the AP’s Pulitzer prospects would tail off sharply if it did — but that would prove only that there are no guarantees in counterterrorism.
Here, the NYPost is just flat out wrong–or should be.
If there were a terrorist attack tomorrow, the inevitable commission would finally give the NYPD spying program the scrutiny it needs, scrutiny which the AP has tried to offer. And that commission will discover that the NYPD has spent its time spying on girls’ and grade schools, hunting out Muslims at Jewish businesses, scamming whitewater rafting trips off of taxpayers.
Sure, such efforts have led to hyped busts of folks it took 31 months for the NYPD to coach how to drill holes into a pipe. Such busts only discredit Mayor Bloomberg, Ray Kelly, and ultimately everyone defending this program.
What those efforts didn’t find were the real terrorist attacks. They didn’t find Najibullah Zazi and they didn’t find Faisal Shahzad–even though both were right under their nose. Continue reading
The NYDN and NYPost continue their uncritical defense of the NYPD’s spying on residents of other cities. In response to continued outrage that NYPD’s officers profiled Newark’s and Paterson’s Muslim community, the New York fearmonger papers’ response is basically a taunt that New Jersey should be grateful the NYPD has invaded their state because New Jersey can’t prevent terrorism on its own.
What is the matter with New Jersey politicians that they are raising a stink because the NYPD keeps an eye out for terrorists on their turf?
Have Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Corey Booker forgotten that 746 residents of the Garden State were killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11?
Have they forgotten that ringleader Mohammed Atta met with co-conspirators in Newark?
Have they forgotten that the van used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was rented in Jersey City?
(The NYDN, which claims to have read the profile reports on things like girls’ schools, seems to have missed that none of the profiling reports we’ve seen from the NYPD have targeted any of the kinds of NJ establishments the terrorists have used in the past.)
But as a MI resident, what I’m really amused by is the NYPD boosters’ claim that Newark is “overmatched” and “incapable.”
So why wouldn’tthe NYPD bring its unmatched skills to bear in Newark, whose overmatched police department is simply incapable of monitoring threats as they develop far out of sight?
I can remember only one police department in recent years which has been “overmatched.” And that’s the NYPD, when faced with the prospect of hosting a terrorist trial in Manhattan.
When DOJ first announced plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters in New York, Ray Kelly started making the same kind of complaints about not being consulted as New Jersey’s politicians are making now.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the Justice Department did not consult the city officials before deciding to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others to New York City for trial.
“There was no consultation, no consultation with the police department. That decision was made. We were informed,” Kelly said Tuesday.
When asked if the NYPD should have been asked about security and other considerations in advance of sending the accused terrorist to the scene of the attack, Kelly said,” The fact is we weren’t asked. And we will make the best of a situation. We weren’t.”
At first Kelly said the NYPD would be up to the task. But then he started rolling out a plan to effectively militarize lower Manhattan and demanded first $90 million then $200 million to pay for his war zone. Ultimately, the DOJ gave up the plan for a civilian trial.
Because Ray Kelly wasn’t up to the task of hosting a terrorist trial, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has had at least two years added to his life.
On April 10, 2010, Mohammad Younis, of Centereach, NY, met with Faisal Shahzad at the Ronkonkoma train station and gave him $7,000 in cash. That money went to buy fertilizer, propane, and gasoline that Shahzad used to build a bomb he tried to set off in Times Square three weeks later–the last real Islamic terrorist attack launched on New York City.
I was particularly interested to see the NYPD’s intelligence profile of Suffolk County released by the AP this morning. As I noted last year, the NYPD’s extensive intelligence programs failed to identify the two most significant attacks on NY in recent history: those attempted by Najibullah Zazi and Shahzad.
With Zazi, that failure was epic; the NYPD used his imam as an informant, and actually tipped Zazi off to the investigation.
But Shahzad’s attack would have been harder to find. He plotted the attack from Connecticut–outside the city, though well within the range of the NYPD’s intelligence efforts. The one lead squarely within the NYPD’s profiling activities, though, would have been the hawala Shahzad used–Younis’ hawala–to get money from Pakistan.
It turns out the NYPD’s profiling efforts got within 3 miles of Younis’ house. They profiled his house of worship, the Islamic Association of Long Island. They profiled about 10 businesses in his community–though they focused on the halal restaurants, not the 7-11 where Younis used to work or the Lowes where he worked at the time he met with Shahzad. They also profiled a mosque and an auto repair shop in Ronkonkoma, the town where Shahzad met with Younis.
They never found Younis or his hawala activities, which he did not operate for profit.
Mind you, even if they had profiled the 7-11 or the Lowes, they still wouldn’t have found anything. Younis himself had no knowledge of Shahzad’s plot (Younis plead guilty to one count of unlicensed money remitting and was sentenced to three years of probation in December).
Which all goes to show that even profiling the precise neighborhoods through which terrorist money flows will not–did not–serve to discover or prevent attacks.
Ten invented or scare quotes. That’s what the NY Post employs in an effort to discredit the AP’s latest report on the CIA-on-the-Hudson, this time describing surveillance of Muslim college students extending across the Northeast:
The concepts of civil rights, racism, oppressed minorities, and suspect pools are bracketed, presumably marking them as facetious or illegitimate concepts.
The Pentagon, currently seeking the death penalty for Nidal Hasan’s attack on Fort Hood, is accused of treating the attack as “workplace violence.”
The 9/11 hijackers, who did in fact enroll in flight schools to learn how to turn passenger jets into missiles, are accused of just posing as “students,” presumably in an effort to suggest that young adult Muslims studying at colleges ranging from Yale to Laguardia Community College who were surveilled by the NYPD must also be posing too.
And it’s not just by using quotation marks that the Post invents its own reality.
It suggests the NYPD has stopped “countless” terrorist attacks, when the number of total attacks in the last decade was fewer than 20, and the two most important–Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi–the NYPD missed.
Closely watching wannabe jihadis not only at home but across the country and around the world, the NYPD has foiled countless terror operations,
It supports the claim that the targets of surveillance here are wannabe jihadis by suggesting that Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly are simply not telling the public the evidence justifying their profiling of innocent Muslims.
The AP story also breathlessly notes that “the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students,” even though “Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.”
Was the AP born yesterday?
There’s always a gap between what public officials say to the “gotcha” media and what they actually must do — especially when it comes to terrorism. If officials could candidly talk about the daily reports they get about possible lethal jihadist activity, the country would be in a state of permanent panic.
Never mind that the AP has published at least two documents showing reports sent directly to Kelly reviewing surveillance that admits no underlying leads. The Post is willing to assert, presumably having seen less raw data than the AP, that there must be more terrorism there, terrorism worthy of permanent panic if only we knew.
In 1974, the NYT made history with a story that reported,
An extensive investigation by the NYT has established that intelligence files on at least 10000 U.S. citizens were maintained by a special unit of the CIA
In 2005, the NYT again made history by exposing illegal domestic wiretapping.
Yet today’s NYT managed to publish a 2,500-word story depicting Ray Kelly as some sort of J. Edgar Hoover figure with little mention–much less criticism–of the domestic spying Kelly’s NYPD conducts on New Yorkers.
Much of the article vents complaints that Kelly has gotten remote, that he no longer cooks spaghetti for his officers. It buries an on the record quote from the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association saying, “Among the rank-and-file, and even among the brass when I have talked to them, they are dying for a change” in the second-to-last paragraph.
But the five paragraphs addressing the rising number of scandals associated with the NYPD are striking for the way they deal with revelations of the domestic spying operation Kelly now oversees.
After years of undeniable success, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is going through turbulent times, confronted with a steady drip of troublesome episodes. They include officers fixing traffic tickets, running guns and disparaging civilians on Facebook, and accusations that the Police Department encourages officers to question minorities on the streets indiscriminately. His younger son has been accused of rape, though he has not been charged and maintains his innocence. On Thursday, in an episode that Mr. Kelly said concerned him, an officer killed an 18-year-old drug suspect who was unarmed.
He has built a counterterrorism machine with tentacles in 11 foreign cities, irritating federal agencies. There has been no successful terrorist attack on his city while he has been commissioner. He has instead been engulfed in the past year largely by familiar police corruption story lines, of human beings succumbing to greed or audacity.
Over the past year, two officers charged with raping a woman were fired after being acquitted of rape but found guilty of official misconduct. A broad ticket-fixing scandal flared in the Bronx; when the accused officers were arraigned, hundreds of officers massed in protest, some denouncing Mr. Kelly. Eight current and former officers were charged with smuggling illegal guns. Narcotics detectives were accused of planting drugs on innocent civilians. An inspector needlessly pepper-sprayed four Occupy Wall Street protesters, invoking memories of the scrutiny and mass arrests of protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention, and giving the nascent movement its first real prime-time moment.
Civil rights advocates have assailed the department’s expanded stops of minorities on the streets. Several officers denigrated West Indians on Facebook. Muslims have denounced the monitoring of their lives, as Mr. Kelly has dispatched undercover officers and informants to find radicalized youth.
This year began with the revelation that a film offensive to Muslims, which included an interview with Mr. Kelly, had been shown to many officers.
The foreign intelligence “irritates federal agencies.” “Muslims have denounced” domestic spying. An inaccurate and counterproductive film is “offensive to Muslims.” The NYT seems anxious to dissociate itself from any criticism of the domestic spying, as if it’s something only the targets should worry about, as if incorporating Islamophobia into police training has no negative effects.
Worse, the juxtaposition of the irritated federal agencies with the proclamation that there has been no successful attack seems to be an attempt to justify the domestic spying. Never mind that the two most serious attempted attacks–by Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi–were not discovered by Kelly’s domestic spying. Never mind that the investigation into Zazi’s plot was significantly harmed when the NYPD tipped Zazi off to it through his imam, whom the NYPD believed to be a reliable informant.
With the transition, “[h]e has instead been engulfed … by familiar police corruption story lines, of human beings succumbing to greed or audacity,” the article logically distinguishes the domestic spying from the other things, the real scandals, according to the NYT.