Len Levitt: Kelly on Muslim Spying: Who, Us?
On the day the city’s Muslims staged their first organized protest against the NYPD’s secret and pervasive spying on their communities, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denied the obvious. At an unrelated news conference, Kelly told reporters that he “categorically denied” the idea that the NYPD was spying.
His disingenuous, if not ridiculous, comment came on Friday when about 500 Muslims rallied at Foley Square, holding signs that read: “No to a Police State.” “Muslims Demand Equal Rights.” “NYPD Watches Us. Who Watches the NYPD?” “NYPD-CIA Stalking Our Children.”
Speakers tied their grievances to those of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, black Americans and sometimes stigmatized Jews — an indication that the Muslims had yet to find their unique voice.
As for Commissioner Kelly, perhaps he never read the police document entitled “NYPD Intelligence Division Strategic Posture 2006.” The document is marked “secret” and on its front page reads: “DISTRIBUTION: NYPD POLICE COMMISSIONER.”
Well, NYPD Confidential and the Associated Press have read it.
In a half-dozen articles, the AP detailed how the department infiltrated mosques, Muslim schools and Islamic student groups at the city universities; how plainclothes officers catalogued Middle Eastern restaurants and their clientele; and how NYPD analysts built databases on Arab cab drivers and monitored Muslims who changed their names.
Significantly, all those stories were written from Washington, D.C. Not one New York newspaper has pursued the AP’s findings.
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the need to establish an independent commission with subpoena power to investigate what some call the NYPD’s “culture of corruption.”
But none of the talk has concerned a more pernicious problem: the department’s secret spying and its alliance with the CIA.
Under Kelly, this alliance began in January 2002, four months after 9/11, with the hiring of David Cohen, a former high-ranking CIA official, to head the NYPD’s revamped Intelligence Division.
Next came the CIA’s Larry Sanchez, who became an Assistant NYPD Commissioner in the Intelligence Division and orchestrated the Muslim spying operation.
This spying apparently led to the conclusions contained in a 2007 NYPD report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” (See NYPD Confidential column of Aug. 20, 2007.)
The 90-page report, with 143 footnotes, concluded that homegrown terrorists posed a greater threat to New York City than Al Qaeda overseas.
“The city’s Muslim communities have been permeated by extremists who have and continue to sow the seeds of radicalization,” the report said. “Radicalization is indiscriminate and those attracted to it include New York City citizens from all walks of life.”
Sanchez, meanwhile, before the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security in 2007 said that “rather than just protecting New York City citizens from terrorists, the NYPD believes that part of its mission is to protect New York citizens from turning into terrorists.”
Then came psychiatrist Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer in Pakistan, who in 2008 became the NYPD’s touted “scholar in residence.”
To pay his salary for the year, the department told the AP that it used funds from a “a private foundation.”
In fact, the money came from a secret foundation the NYPD had created in 2006 called the “NYPD Counter-Terrorism Foundation.”
Its president was Stephen Hammerman, then the department’s Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs.
Its secretary was Kelly’s Chief of Staff Joe Wuench. [See NYPD Confidential column of November 7, 2011: "The NYPD's 'Privately' Funded War on Terrorism."]
The foundation raised $295,000 and paid Sageman $180,000. The public does not know who its donors are and the foundation has not specifically accounted for the remaining $115,000. Kelly has never acknowledged the foundation’s existence.
Sanchez left the NYPD last year. Another CIA agent replaced him. In deference to the CIA’s wishes, NYPD Confidential is withholding his name. The NYPD has never acknowledged his appointment.
A SWELL SECOND ACT. Regis Philbin had a farewell party last Thursday night at the Manhattan restaurant Valbella, which shares the same name as Regis’ favorite joint in Greenwich, Connecticut that is popular with the Sopranos crowd.
For two hours, Valbella closed down so that Regis and his 120 guests could party in privacy.
Those guests included Tony Bennett, Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford, Judge Judy and her husband, former judge Gerald Sheindlin, Bryant Gumbel and Barbara Walters and John McEnroe and on and on.
Of course, no party would be the same without the presence of Police Commissioner Kelly.
Regis and Kelly are such good friends that a couple of years back Regis was said to have flown Kelly on his private plane to a Notre Dame football game.
Unknown whether Kelly paid his own way at Valbella or freeloaded.
Police spokesman Paul Browne did not return an email asking about both.
A special party attraction was the singer who goes by the name Frankie Sands and does great Sinatra renditions.
The crowd loved him. Even Tony Bennett gave him a thumbs up.
As Regis put it, “The kid can sing.”
Some kid. He’s 52 years old. And while his singing skills may be obvious, his true identity is not.
Turns out he is Frank Livoti, the ex-cop who served six and a half years in federal prison for thedeath of Anthony Baez in the Bronx in 1994.
His head now shaved, he went unrecognized by someone who should have remembered him.
That’s former Bronx Judge Gerald Sheindlin, who acquitted Livoti of Baez’s death in Bronx State Supreme Court before the feds came after him.
Livoti said that “When Sheindlin walked by, I said to him, “Judge, you don’t remember me, do you? You don’t remember Oct. 7, 1996? That day changed our lives.” (Indeed, Sheindlin, also got in trouble by some ill-advised remarks about a “nest of perjury” in his decision freeing Livoti.)
“At the end of the night,” Livoti said, “I did a special song for Regis, ‘The Curtain Falls.’ which Bobby Darin used to sing. The room was hushed and Kelly stood at attention the whole time. “Afterwards Kelly was the first one to come up to me and say, ‘Great Job.’ He had no idea who I was.”
Livoti said he was especially impressed by Kelly, who after learning Livoti’s real identity described his singing as “terrific.”
THE LATEST TAKE-DOWN. We watch with interest the NYPD’s terrorism arrest over the weekend of Jose Pimentel. Pimentel was allegedly inspired by Al Qaeda and is accused of plotting to bomb a number of targets, including those involving returned servicemen. The NYPD’s Intelligence Division was involved in the arrest. Where was the Joint Terrorist Task Force? Where was the FBI? Why is the Manhattan District Attorney prosecuting the case and not the federal government? [To be continued.]