JUDITH MILLER: How the NYPD Foiled the Post-9/11 Terror Plots – WSJ.com
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
How the NYPD Foiled the Post-9/11 Terror Plots
New York’s police commissioner has 1,200 staff members devoted to counterterrorism, at home and abroad.
OPINION SEPTEMBER 10, 2011
By JUDITH MILLER
A specter has haunted the New York Police Department during this week’s torrent of 10th anniversary commemorations of 9/11—the 13 terrorist plots against the city in the past decade that have failed or been thwarted thanks partly to NYPD counterterrorism efforts.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and his 50,000-strong department know that the 9/11 gatherings are an occasion not only to reflect on that terrible day. They’re also a prime target for al Qaeda and other Islamist extremists who long to convince the world, and perhaps themselves, that they’re still capable of killing in the name of their perverse interpretation of Islam.
Commissioner Kelly allocates some $330 million of his $4.6 billion annual budget and 1,200 of his staff to counterterrorism. He and his staff, not surprisingly, spent the week bolstering security at the remembrance gatherings throughout the city. On Wednesday, he came to the Manhattan Institute to tout the NYPD’s counterterrorism record and defend his department against press allegations that his intelligence division has been spying illegally on Muslims and infringing on their privacy and civil rights.
The police have to factor terrorism into “everything we do,” Mr. Kelly said. If that means following leads that take NYPD undercover detectives into mosques, Islamic bookstores, Muslim student associations, cafes and nightclubs, so be it. Mr. Kelly vowed to continue stationing liaisons in 11 cities abroad to “ask the New York question”—much to the occasional chagrin of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA.
It was an undercover officer in an Islamic bookstore who helped stop Shahawar Matin Siraj, a homegrown Muslim extremist and self-professed al Qaeda admirer, from bombing the Herald Square subway station during the 2004 Republican convention, Mr. Kelly said. Another undercover officer prevented homegrown terrorists Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, from bombing a Manhattan synagogue and trying to “take out the entire building.”
Would he continue sending NYPD officers across the Hudson into deepest, darkest New Jersey? Yes, he declared, if that was what was needed to keep tabs on the likes of Carlos Almonte and Mohammed Alessa—al Qaeda sympathizers arrested en route to Somalia at JFK Airport in 2010 “who were determined to receive terrorist training abroad only to return home to kill us here.”
Michael Sheehan, a former NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, says that the NYPD has succeeded thanks to its collection and sharing of domestic and foreign intelligence through “humint” (human sources) and “sigint” (signals intelligence) such as electronic intercepts and the monitoring of Internet, cellphone and other communications. Tip-offs from concerned family or community members have also been vital.