New Report on Zazi Investigation Reinforces NYPD’s Miss

The Denver Post had a story detailing the superb work the FBI did to prevent Najibullah Zazi from launching his attack on the subways. As it describes, the FBI discovered an email he wrote discussing an upcoming “wedding,” and in two weeks managed to track him down.

They also had three e-mails that Zazi had reportedly sent, in which he asked about “mixtures.”

“The marriage is ready flour and oil,” one e-mail stated, in part.

It’s widely known in intelligence circles that terrorists use the word “marriage” to mean an attack or suicide bombing. To see the words “marriage” and “ready” in such close proximity, the agents knew, was cause for serious alarm.

While this story describes (as I have) how the NYPD tipped Zazi off to the investigation, it also makes clear, once again, what didn’t identify Zazi: the NYPD’s abusive spying program. The NYPD had recruited Zazi’s imam as an informant. And yet they missed the development of one of the biggest plots of recent years.

10 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    Hmmm. I hadn’t been aware of terrorists using “marriage” to mean an attack or suicide bombing. Is there any chance this use of the word has anything to do with the large number of wedding parties that have been hit with missiles from drones and in bombing runs? Or did they develop the use later as a dig at poor US intelligence that mistakenly hit so many wedding parties?

  2. Seedee Vee says:

    How is it that we read “authorities monitoring the e-mail of a key al-Qaeda operative” nowadays and see fit to complain about the NYPDs seeming lack of ability to do this — “they missed the development of one of the biggest plots of recent years”? Oh yeah, we are here to bash the NYPD, not the unaccountable Federal Government and its ability to read all of our messages.

    Instead of commenting on “authorities monitoring the e-mail” and the lack of accountability or identity of who these “authorities” are, we read complaints about the NYPD.

    Instead of commenting on the FBI threatening and manipulating Zazi’s family, we read comments about the NYPD.

    Instead of commenting on Zazi being charged with thought crimes, “plotting”, we get “NYPD Miss!”

    Instead of commenting on FBI and that its “theatrics were done with a purpose in mind”, we get to thumb the NYPD.

    I guess “theatrics” is really what this is all about, isn’t it?

    Take a bow, emptywheel!

  3. Bill Michtom says:

    As little use as I have for most of what the FBI does, there is nothing inherently wrong with their function: investigating threats to people and places; preventing said threats from coming to fruition, trying to find perpetrators of illegal actions.

    Your complaints are valid, Seedee Vee, in particular instances, but not necessarily in this one. Did they not use proper warrants? Did they abuse witnesses or suspects?

    If not, take a bow, Seedee Vee!

  4. rugger9 says:

    The reason the NYPD gets hammered, CDV, is that they are doing things that are formally barred to them, by statute [14-151 administrative code, look it up], by court order, and by mission. They fact that they wasted time and money that could have been spent on criminal investigation IN NYC shouldn’t be ignored. This was a witch hunt from the get-go, there was no noble underpinning that stands scrutiny. The fact that they blew up the FBI investigation by tipping off the imam comes very close to the “providing aid and comfort to the enemies” requirement for Constitutional treason.

    CDV, why do you defend the NYPD here?

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The principal complaint is that the NYPD, a heavily-federalized local law enforcement shop, is infiltrating and racially profiling an entire community without probable cause (while seemingly ignoring other, more credible threats). That it finds a few dimes in the sand does not justify blowing the whole vacation’s time and budget on buying an exorbitantly-priced metal detector, especially if that whiz bang machine has a hard time finding a tin cup held in your hand.

    Such institutionalized infiltration and round-the-clock monitoring is, in banking terms, a systemic threat to civil society. Once established as a new “norm”, the methodology and resources can be redirected at any target. If the president can order the extra-Constitutional killing of an American citizen abroad, based on secret evidence of unknown provenance and reliability, why would he or a successor hesitate to redirect that power elsewhere? Power is inherently corrupting. Without checks and balances, the corruption evolves faster.

  6. MadDog says:

    @Seedee Vee: Hmmm…did you really read the Denver Post article that EW linked to?

    Nah, I didn’t think so. Because if you had, you might have read the rest of the paragraph:

    “Jim Davis was in his backyard drinking a beer and grilling burgers for a Labor Day barbecue when his cellphone rang.

    On the line was Steve Olson, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Denver office national security branch.

    Olson told his boss that authorities monitoring the e-mail of a key al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan had intercepted a chilling message about a potential attack…

    (My Bold)

    Monitoring the email of someone in Pakistan!

    If you come here to diss EW and her commenters, you had best be well armed with an intellect and the actual facts.

    And your defense of the illegal NYPD/CIA domestic surveillance and intelligence operation is laughable.

    As to the NYPD fuckup in the Zazi case, it’s not just the Keystone Kops aspect of it, but their actions bordered on the criminal.

  7. newz4all says:

    NYPD spied on city’s Muslim partners

    The New York Police Department’s intelligence squad secretly assigned an undercover officer to monitor a prominent Muslim leader even as he decried terrorism, cooperated with the police, dined with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by The New York Times about Muslims in America.

  8. Seedee Vee says:

    @MadDog: @MadDog: If you did not invite the “diss” by acting like an adolescent groupie, “If you come here to diss EW and her commenters”, you do it by completely misunderstanding what I wrote.

    Your subservience to protecting your clique leads you astray.

    You write “Monitoring the email of someone in Pakistan!”

    Somehow you forgot the important fact — “Then came the really shocking news: The person who sent the e-mail, Olson said, was here in Aurora.”

    So you seem to be OK with our federal government reading our e-mails. Great. Good for you. I am not OK with this.

    If you can’t figure out what I am saying, maybe questioning my intellect is not the way to go. Start with the mirror test (Look in the mirror) and try again.

    It was pretty obvious that I was referring to emptywheel’s preoccupation with dinging the NYPD and a seeming concurrence with Federal activities in regards with domestic spying — reading our e-mails.

    As far as I know, the NYPD does not have the capabilities to intercept and store all of our e-mail communications. Some other organization does. I think that capability is much more dangerous than what the buffoons at the NYPD can do.

  9. Seedee Vee says:

    @Bill Michtom: Thanks Bill! I will take a bow anyway.

    I am not concerned, today, with “proper” anything. Apparently our nation can properly torture, assassinate or “legally” threaten anyone it chooses.

    My comment was an indirect complaint that emptywheel was piling on the NYPD when much more effort in piling on the Federal government is warranted.

    I don’t really want to get into the details of FBI targeting of family members as a tool of suspect/witness coercion because you seem to accept these actions as permittable, if not “proper”.

    I am more concerned with the morality of coercion, e-mail interception and other government activities.

    Once again, thank you for your response.

Comments are closed.