This morning, we reported on an Associated Press investigation into the New York Police Department intelligence gathering operations in the decade since 9/11. According to the AP, the NYPD has been aided by the CIA in setting up and executing an unprecedented domestic spying operation that targets Muslim communities and operates outside both agencies' borders.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne responded to the AP's story, calling the article "marked by outright fiction" in an email to WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly. Read the entirety of his statement below.
The piece is marked by outright fiction, like Cohen not knowing warrants are needed in police searches or invented terms like "mosque crawler's," and disturbing hyperbole, like calling an apartment a "command post." It quotes an undercover as being in a neighborhood as a "walking camera," but fails to point out that a plot to blow up Herald Square station brought the undercover to the neighborhood in the first place. The NYPD undercover in the bookstore was there specifically in connection with the Herald Square plot, but the piece neglects to point that out even though I did. Having said that, even a piece driven by NYPD critics shows that we've doing all we reasonably can to stop terrorists from killing even more New Yorkers.
We commit over a thousand officers to the fight every day to stop terrorists who've demonstrated an undiminished appetite to come back and kill more New Yorkers. We don't apologize for it and we're not deterred by petit jealousies that success sometimes breeds. We're going to do all we reasonably can to keep New York safe. We do so in partnership with the FBI and other Federal agencies. Just as in narcotics or gun trafficking investigations, we follow leads to determine whether there is a basis for an investigation or an arrest.
Some of the cases where the Intelligence Division as a key player were:
∙ The Herald Square case in which Shahawar Matin Siraj of Queens and James Elshafay of Staten Island were arrested in 2004 after plotting to plant explosive devices at the Herald Square subway station. The subjects had conducted surveillance of the station numerous times, with Elshafay stating that he would dress like a Jew in order not to raise suspicions. Siraj was convicted and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment; Elshafay pled guilty and received a 5-year sentence. The investigation involved the use of an NYPD confidential informant and NYPD undercover officer who had gained the trust of both men.
∙ The Troy (NY) Soldiers case: After a months' long investigation by the NYPD Intelligence division, Albany PD, the Troy PD, and Albany JTTF, three subjects with white supremacist sympathies from the Troy/Albany area of New York were arrested in December 2008 and convicted for plotting to blow up the United States Army's Watervliet Arsenal in Watervliet, New York. The subjects, Aaron Scorsone, Jonathan Plunkett and Scott Monroe, conducted surveillance of the location and manufactured and sold homemade explosives which they planned to use in the attack.
∙ The Alessa and Almonte case: After successful infiltration by an NYPD undercover officer, New Jersey residents Carlos Almonte and Mohammed Alessa were arrested in June 2010 at JFK airport as they attempted to board a flight to Egypt with the ultimate goal of traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabaab, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization or be trained by al-shabaab and return to the United States as terrorists. Both subjects pled guilty to conspiring to murder persons outside the United States on behalf of the Somali terrorist organization. They are expected to be sentenced in the fall.
∙ The Ferhani case: Queens residents Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh were indicted on multiple terrorism charges in June 2011 after being arrested the previous month for conspiring to bomb synagogues in Manhattan. The subjects were arrested upon purchasing two semi-automatic pistols, a revolver, ammunition, and one (inert) grenade. Their apprehension followed an 8-month undercover operation involving the use of NYPD undercover officers.
∙ The Elias Narvaez case---Narvaez, a Peruvian convert to Islam, selected a synagogue in Brooklyn for a robbery and attack in 2010. He was arrested in September of that year during a controlled buy of guns in a Brooklyn parking lot. His case is currently progressing through the court system.
∙ The Shehadeh case: Abdel Hameed Shehadeh of Staten Island was arrested in Hawaii in October 2010 and charged with three counts of making false statements to federal agents. He maintained a number of pro-jihad websites identified and monitored by investigators from the NYPD Intelligence Division's Cyber Unit.
∙ The Shane Price case: Price was a Bronx resident who plotted to bomb the Citicorp building in Long Island City near his place of work. Price had conducted reconnaissance and drew diagrams of the building. He was arrested and convicted for conspiracy to commit murder. The case was developed as a result of information supplied by NYPD Intelligence Division confidential informants.
There have been at least 13 terror plots against New York since 9/11. They include:
1. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's plot to take down the Brooklyn Bridge a year after the destruction of the World Trade Center was abandoned only after Al Qaeda operative Iyman Farris found that security at the bridge made it too difficult to attack.
2. December 2002 plot to disperse cyanide gas in the subway system. It was called off at the last minute by Iyman Zawahiri for what he said was "something bigger."
3. Al Qaeda's Al Hindi plotted against the New York Stock Exchange, Citigroup Headquarters in midtown Manhattan and the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
4. The Parachas, father and son, abetted al Qaeda in what was ultimately believed to be a plan to use shipping containers to smuggle explosives-possibly even a nuclear device-into Manhattan's Garment District.
5. 2004 plot to bomb the Herald Square subway station by lone-wolf admirers of Al Qaeda.
6. Other Al Qaeda sympathizes plotted to bomb fuel storage tanks at JFK International Airport and blow up the Buckeye pipeline that transports jet fuel from New Jersey to JFK and LaGuardia via Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens.
7. The plot to flood Manhattan's financial district by simultaneously bombing bomb the PATH subway and the retaining wall at the World Trade Center site.
8. A British-based plot to destroy seven commercial aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean or fly one or more of them into East Coast targets, including New York City.
9. A plot to bomb a Manhattan-bound LIRR commuter train was discussed at the highest levels of al Qaeda operational leadership.
10. Disrupted in May 2009; the Riverdale plot targeted two Jewish centers-a synagogue and a Jewish community center-in the Bronx, and Stewart Air Base in Newburgh
11. In September 2009; Najibullah Zazi and others planned a series of coordinated suicide bombings of busy NYC subway transit hubs at rush hour.
12. Faisal Shahzad attempted in 2010 to detonate a bomb inside an SUV parked in Times Square on a busy Saturday night.
13. May 2011: A plot by 26-year-old Ahmed Ferhani and 20-year-old Mohamed Mamdouh to bomb a synagogue in Manhattan was disrupted by the NYPD.
NYPD Intelligence Divisions staffs and vets the "See Something , Say Something" hotline:
* We've received almost 20,000 calls to 888-NYC-SAFE since its inception in late 2002.
* Most of them - 16,500 - are by NYPD Intelligence ; the balance were referred to the JTTF.
* The FBI may take those calls that may be related to an investigation already underway.
There are about 2,000 cameras currently and we expect it to grow by about another 1,000 over the next six months. We've built the infrastructure to handle thousands more, but right now we're aiming at 3,000 - combined with radiation detection devices and license plate readers - all feeding into a coordination center downtown.
* The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative covers the city south of Canal Street, river to river; the Midtown Manhattan Security Initiative covers from 30th to 60th Streets, river to river.
* NYPD Intelligence detectives work alongside their counterparts in 11 cities overseas, including Montreal, Toronto, Santo Domingo, London, Paris, Lyon, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Amman, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore.
* They are there to ask the "New York question," in order to provide any information about terrorist activity overseas that may have a nexus to New York. They've also provided real time information on attacks overseas that enables us to put safeguards here into effect immediately, such as:
* Added protection to the subways after mass transit attacks in London, Madrid, Moscow
* Added coverage to hotels in Manhattan after their counterparts were bombed in Amman and Jakarta.* We also dispatched detectives to Mumbai, Jakarta, Norway.
Bias crimes against Muslims/ NYPD Outreach
* The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is the largest in the nation and does more than any other law enforcement agency, anywhere, to investigate bias crimes against New Yorkers.
* Under the Chief of the Special Victims Unit Michael Osgood and Hate Crimes Task Force Commanding Officer Captain Paul Saraceno, the Task Force is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round and provides an immediate response to all incidents, regardless of scale, that are initially reported as possible bias crimes.
* The task force is comprised of 24 detectives and supervisors; three of its detectives happen to be Muslim .
* In addition to our annual Ramadan and High Holy Days conferences that are attended by hundreds of Muslim and Jewish community members, the Task Force conducts outreach to directly educate citizens on what constitutes a bias crime and who they contact if they feel they have been a victim of a bias crime, including the Hate Crime Task Force directly or their local precinct.
* By way of example, detectives traveled out of state last year to interview an individual from Florida who purchased a Koran and subsequently discarded it in a public restroom toilet. Security at the location of the restroom contacted 911, the Hate Crimes Task Force responded and traced the Koran to the store where it was purchased, and recovered video which showed the individual buying it. (Although in the end, no crime was committed because the individual had purchased the Koran himself and was protected under Freedom of Speech rights, the case is an example of how seriously we take bias incidents.)
* Last year there were 379 hate crimes citywide, of which 20 were anti-Muslim. The largest single grouping was anti-Semitic, at 134.
* While the World Trade Center has been attacked twice successfully, terrorists have plotted mainly against other Manhattan targets, but also in the outer boroughs, including plot to target a synagogue and Jewish community center in Riverdale.
* We also routinely provide counterterrorism coverage at the US Open in Forest Hills, and other large sporting events, particularly if the Yankees or Mets are in their leagues' playoffs.
* We've engaged in exercises to protect the City's water supply, that takes us out of Manhattan, as well as routine patrolling of the Buckeye Pipeline, which carries jet fuel from New Jersey through Queens and Brooklyn to La Guardia and JFK, and which was the subject of a terrorist plot.
-WTC NYPD unit
* More than 200 officers will be assigned beginning Sept. 1 to the WTC and environs. The group of handpicked officers are undergoing specialized counterterrorism training which they will complete August 30.* Many of them speak at least one foreign language, which we anticipate will be helpful to the large number of tourists visiting the rebuilt WTC site.
* Twenty-three were killed on 9/11 and over 50 more since then have died as a result of cancers and respiratory diseases they incurred after prolonged exposure.* We will be honoring all of them in a special ceremony on September 8 with a special medallion being cast in the memory. The medallions will be presented to family members at Avery Fisher Hall on September 8.
Monthly meeting with corporations about security?
* We meet regularly with hundreds of private security directors from the financial services industry, other corporations, educational institutions, etcetera. We brief them on the latest information concerning various threats around the world and offer training in some instances.* This is a particularly effective group since most of the senior personnel are former ranking members of the NYPD, the FBI, the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies.
Paul J. Browne
New York City Police Department