NYPD's "mini-CIA" head slams FBI counterterror work

Reports have blamed the NYPD surveillance apparatus for missing a 2009 terror plot; David Cohen blames the feds

Natasha Lennard
September 12, 2013 9:00PM (UTC)

In their newly released book detailing the history of a covert "mini-CIA" within the NYPD, Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Goldman show how the vast police surveillance apparatus in New York failed to catch the plan of Afghan-American al-Qaida operative Najibullah Zazi to bomb the New York subway system, who was eventually thwarted by federal authorities.

"He was right under the NYPD’s nose and they missed him,” Goldman told me for an interview about his book, "Enemies Within" (published here earlier this week.)


But now, the head of the NYPD's covert intelligence division (largely made public by Apuzzo and Goldman's work) is pushing back. "They [the FBI] fucking let explosives into New York City," Cohen told the Daily Beast, decrying the federal efforts to track and stop Zazi.

But, as HuffPo's Matt Sledge highlights, and "Enemies Within" reports, it was the New York Port Authority police, not the FBI, that let Zazi's car enter the city.

To repeat what Apuzzo told me, the NYPD Intel unit that specifically engaged in preemptive policing with scant regard for First and Fourth Amendment protections, failed to do the very thing it proposed to do: Fish out threats like Zazi:


At every turn, these [NYPD] programs were built specifically to catch someone like Zazi, an al-Qaida trained bomber who was coming up out of New York City to bomb the subways. At every turn, these programs failed. At every single turn, they had infiltrated his mosque, they had turned his imam into an informant, they had infiltrated his student co-conspirator group. They were in the travel agency, they had done surveillance of the travel agency where they’d bought the tickets to go to Pakistan. They were in the YMCA around the corner from his house. There was no shortage of surveillance

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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