NYPD’s Counterterrorism Strengths: Bigfooting, Entrapping, and Overselling

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.

  • Faisal Shahzad
  • Najibullah Zazi
  • Liquids Plot

Those marginally credible plots involving government informants.

  • Newburgh Four
  • Herald Square
  • JFK Airport

Those plots deemed not credible by (usually anonymous) experts or never developed.

  • Jose Pimental
  • Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh
  • Iyman Faris
  • PATH Train
  • Subway Cyanide
  • NYSE/Citi
  • Uzair Paracha
  • Bryant Neal Vinas/LIRR

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.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

3 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    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 counter-terrorism scam.

    What did Queen Dumbass of the Northwoods used to say? You betcha!!

  2. Arbusto says:

    If you’re looking for a lifetime job today, join the NYPD Counter-terrorism unit. Protection for life. Count on it.

  3. joberly says:

    @ EW–off-topic to NYPD Counter-terrorism, but very much NYPD-related: tonight’s *NYT* has a front-page article predicting that “stop-and-frisk” may be reined in by NY State judges. I recall that you had a piece on this back in May: http://www.emptywheel.net/?s=frisk&submit=Search
    I followed the link to the NYCLU page, downloaded the Excel file with 600k cases and then spent way too much time trying to figure out what the police found after stopping and or frisking people on the basis of “furtive movements” and another biggie, “change direction at sight of officer.”

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