Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are claiming that the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division acted without the FBI’s knowledge and may have caused a failure in the surveillance of a terrorism suspect and compromised a bomb plot investigation.
According to a criminal complaint, at a sensitive stage of the investigation, by questioning an imam about the suspect, the NYPD acted without informing their FBI counterparts.
At least one of the police detectives being singled out in the FBI’s complaint is assigned to the NYPD Intelligence Division and not the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The Intel Division is responsible for organized crime, terrorism and other special projects and is not connected to the FBI-run JTTF.
The FBI complaint suggests the local cops may have tipped off Najibullah Zazi , a 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver, by towing, and then searching, a rental car he was using while in New York City. The police search succeeded in uncovering a laptop computer containing bomb making instructions on its hard drive.
The FBI contends this tipped off the suspect because during a telephone phone conversation with Ahmad Wais Afzali, Zazi stated the car’s removal caused him to believe he was being kept under surveillance.
Members of the JTTF and officials at One Police Plaza in Manhattan said they could not comment on the alleged friction between FBI agents and NYPD detectives and the department’s spokesman, Paul Browne, told reporters simply that “the NYPD and the FBI worked closely and successfully in this case and in scores of others.” He declined further comment as did Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“While I don’t know the specific details of these allegations by the FBI against the NYPD cops, I do know from experience that the feds have a habit of blaming others when they fail while taking credit when others succeed in an investigation,” claims former NYPD Det. Mike Schwartz.
“I get worried when I hear stories like this one. It tells me that there are problems with the investigation and [FBI and NYPD] investigators are pointing fingers at one another,” Schwartz added.
Zazi, his father and Afzali were arrested over the weekend on charges they lied to the FBI but weren’t immediately charged with terrorism. According to affidavits filed in support of three criminal complaints, the FBI is investigating several individuals in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere, relating to a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices within the United States.
Records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveal that, on August 28, 2008, Najibullah Zazi flew to Peshawar, Pakistan from Newark International Airport in New Jersey via Geneva, Switzerland and Doha, Qatar. CBP records further reflect that Najibullah Zazi traveled from Peshawar to John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City, on or about January 15, 2009.
According to the affidavits, on or about September 9, 2009, FBI agents observed Najibullah Zazi depart his residence in Colorado in a rented car. He drove to New York City, arriving the following day, and spent the night at a residence in Flushing, Queens (Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Queens Residence.Ã¢â‚¬Â)
On September 10, 2009, New York City Police Department detectives met with defendant Afzali, whom the NYPD had utilized as a source in the past. According to the affidavits, the detectives questioned Afzali about Najibullah Zazi and others and showed him photographs of Najibullah Zazi and others. Afzali allegedly told the detectives he recognized Najibullah Zazi and several of the men in the photographs.
According to affidavits, on September 11, 2009, defendant Mohammed Zazi placed a call to Afzali which lasted approximately 20 minutes. That same day, the FBI intercepted a phone conversation between Mohammed Zazi and his son, Najibullah Zazi. An affidavit alleges that, during the conversation, Mohammed Zazi told his son that he had spoken to Afzali who had informed him about being visited by law enforcement and shown photographs. Mohammed Zazi told his son that Afzali would call him and he advised his son to speak with Afzali “before anything else,Ã¢â‚¬Â according to the affidavits.
In the midst of this phone call, Najibullah Zazi allegedly received a call from Afzali, who discussed his meeting with law enforcement the day before. According to a draft summary of the transcription, Afzali allegedly stated: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was exposed to something yesterday from law enforcement. And they came to ask me about your characters.Ã¢â‚¬Â Afzali also allegedly asked Najibullah Zazi about his last trip to Pakistan and added, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Listen, our phone call is being monitored.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to the affidavits, in another intercepted phone conversation on Sept. 11, 2009, Najibullah Zazi told Afzali that his car had been stolen and that he feared he was being Ã¢â‚¬Å“watched.Ã¢â‚¬Â Afzali allegedly asked if there was any Ã¢â‚¬Å“evidence in his car,Ã¢â‚¬Â and Najibullah Zazi said no.
That same day, FBI agents conducted a legally authorized search of Najibullah ZaziÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rental car, which was parked near the Queens residence. During the search, agents found a laptop computer containing images of nine-pages of handwritten notes. According to the affidavits, the notes contain formulations and instructions regarding the manufacture and handling of initiating explosives, main explosives charges, explosives detonators and components of a fusing system. On September 12, 2009, Najibullah Zazi flew from La Guardia Airport in New York to Denver.
On September 16, 2009, FBI agents interviewed Najibullah Zazi in Denver. According to an affidavit, when he was asked about and shown handwritten notes regarding explosives found on his laptop computer, Najibullah Zazi falsely asserted that he had never seen the document before and stated he had not written the notes.
On September 17 and 18, Najibullah Zazi was further interviewed by the FBI in Denver. According to affidavits, Najibullah Zazi admitted in the interviews that during his 2008 trip to Pakistan, he attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an al-Qaeda training facility in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, of Pakistan.
The affidavits allege that, on September 17, Afzali was interviewed by authorities in New York where he falsely asserted in a written statement that he did not tell Najibullah Zazi or Mohammed Zazi that authorities had approached him seeking information about Najibullah Zazi. According to the affidavits, Afzali also falsely asserted that he never told Najibullah Zazi that they were being monitored on the phone and that he never asked Najibullah Zazi about evidence in his car.
The affidavits further allege that, on September 16, Mohammed Zazi was interviewed by FBI agents in Denver where he was asked whether anyone had called him and told him about his sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s activities and any trouble regarding his son.
According to the affidavits, Mohammed Zazi falsely stated that he had never called anyone in New York other than his son and he had never received a call from anyone in New York. He allegedly revised his statement to say he had received one call from an individual who informed him that his son had missed his flight. According to the affidavits, Mohammed Zazi was later asked if he knew anyone by the name of Afzali and he said he did not.
The prosecutions are being handled by the U.S. AttorneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Offices for the Eastern District of New York and the District of Colorado, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice DepartmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National Security Division.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the former editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc.
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