Posted by on August 03, 2012 in Blog

Bestselling author and investigative journalist Ronald Kessler is set to release a new edition of his book “Secrets of the FBI,” which promises new revelations about the rift between the FBI and the NYPD on the subject of counterterrorism. Anonymous sources from the FBI told Kessler that the FBI is vehemently opposed to the NYPD’s expansive spying program on Arab American and American Muslims in New York City and elsewhere. His sources from the FBI criticize the NYPD for both ineffectiveness and civil liberties violations.

This is not the first time federal law enforcement has been frustrated with the NYPD’s ineptitude in counterterrorism operations. In the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghani immigrant who was plotting to set off a bomb in the New York subway system, the NYPD intelligence division actually significantly interfered with the FBI task force investigation. Without consulting the task force, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division enlisted a Queens imam to help develop information about Zazi, who proceeded to tip off Zazi that he was a suspect, damaging the federal government’s case.

Not all of the FBI’s criticism has been anonymous. Michael B. Ward, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark office, stated publicly that the New York surveillance tactics were not an effective form of intelligence gathering and were in fact harming the fight against terrorism by fomenting distrust of law enforcement among the affected communities. “When people pull back cooperation, it creates additional risk, it creates blind spots, it hinders our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on around the state,” Ward said at a news briefing.

Kessler’s conversations with FBI officials reveal a widely held belief in the Bureau that the NYPD’s spying operation was a waste of money and produced no intelligence of value. Another anonymous FBI official is quoted as saying “We are not engaging in that kind of aimless intelligence gathering on mosques or political meetings without a predication that terrorist activities might be involved… it’s not targeted investigation, and it risks trust and cooperation being broken. We will not be a party to it.”

Kessler’s epilogue containing these revelations fails to make a crucial point, however. While the FBI is right to criticize the ineptitude and illegality of the NYPD’s counterterrorism record, the anonymous officials he quotes level these criticisms as though the FBI’s counterterrorism record is rosy by comparison. In reality, the Arab American and American Muslim’s communities’ trust in the FBI was diminished significantly with the leak of offensive training materials on Islam and Arab culture, followed by the FBI’s inadequate response to the issue. Kessler’s FBI sources criticize the NYPD for investigating indiscriminately based on race rather than following leads or pursuing “intelligence-led” counterterrorism tactics, while the FBI operates under guidelines that authorize the same indiscriminate approach. The FBI’s guidelines also institutionalize the practice of racial profiling and mountains of evidence show that they engage in racial and ethnic mapping on a regular basis.

There is perhaps the possibility that these statements from FBI officials reflect a growing support for more constitutionality and intelligence-led approaches among the ranks of the FBI, and such developments rightly deserve public admiration. However, the FBI leadership has yet to express similar concern for civil liberties and repudiate the NYPD’s spying program; FBI Director Robert Mueller has even publicly praised the NYPD’s counterterrorism efforts. But if powerful voices inside the Bureau are recognizing the dangers and limitations of racial profiling, it’s certainly at least a step in the right direction.

comments powered by Disqus