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Those programs, meanwhile, have widened the chasm between the police and the city’s Muslims, a community the Obama administration says is a crucial partner in the effort to prevent another terrorist attack. Fed up with a decade of being under scrutiny, some Muslim groups now urge against going directly to police when someone hears radical, anti-American talk.

They reason that the person is probably a police informant.

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Each morning at the NYPD, Cohen meets his senior officers to discuss the latest intelligence before he briefs Kelly. There is no bigger target for terrorists than New York, the nation’s largest city and the heart of the financial and media world. Cohen repeatedly reminds his officers that, on any given day, they might be the only thing standing in the way of disaster. It’s a mentality that officials say underscores the seriousness of the threat and the NYPD’s commitment to the effort.

Several current and former officials point to that pressure to explain why programs rarely get scrapped, even when there are doubts about their effectiveness. Nobody wants to be the one to abandon a program, only to witness a successful attack that it might have prevented.

At the federal level, intelligence programs are reviewed by Congress, inspectors general and other watchdogs. The NYPD faces no such scrutiny from the City Council or city auditors. Federal officials, too, have been reluctant to question the effectiveness of the NYPD, despite spending more than $1.6 billion in federal money on the department since 9/11.

After House Democrats circulated a letter signed by 34 members of Congress recently asking for a federal review of the NYPD’s intelligence programs, King, the New York Republican, accused them of smearing the police department.

The Justice Department under Eric Holder repeatedly has sidestepped questions about what it thinks about the NYPD programs revealed by the AP. Some Democrats in Congress have asked prosecutors to investigate. Since August, the department has said only that it is reviewing those requests.

During the Bush administration, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and senior Justice Department officials received a briefing in New York about the NYPD’s capabilities, according to a former federal official who attended.

Gonzales left convinced, the official said, that the federal government could not replicate those programs. The NYPD had more manpower and operated under different rules than the federal government, the Justice Department concluded. And the mayor had accepted the political risk that came with the programs.

It was a policy briefing only, the former official said, meaning the federal government did not review the NYPD programs to determine whether they were lawful.

The NYPD’s terrorist cases include ones the federal government has declined to prosecute. Last year, a grand jury declined to indict Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh on the most serious charge initially brought against them, a high-level terror conspiracy count that carried the potential for life in prison without parole. They were indicted on lesser state terrorism and hate crime charges, including one punishable by up to 32 years behind bars.

Last month, NYPD detectives arrested Jose Pimentel on terrorism-related charges. A state grand jury has yet to indict him on those charges. Federal and city law enforcement officials who reviewed the case told the AP there were concerns that Pimentel lacked the mental capacity to act on his own. The NYPD informant’s drug use in the case also created serious issues, the officials said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has tried to mute criticisms of the NYPD. On a visit to the Newark, N.J., FBI office a few years ago, current and former officials recall, agents asked Mueller how the NYPD was allowed to operate undercover in the state, with no FBI coordination. Mueller replied that it was a reality the bureau would have to live with, the officials said.

There will always be some debate over the effectiveness of intelligence-gathering programs, particularly ones that butt up against civil liberties. Nearly a decade after the last terrorist suspect was waterboarded in a secret CIA prison in 2003, for instance, politicians and experts still debate whether the tactic gleaned valuable information and whether it could have been obtained without such harsh methods.

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