Najibullah Zazi’s guilty plea in a plot to bomb New York subways is a triumph for teamwork among government counter-terrorism agencies.
The NYPD, the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence departments worked cooperatively with local officials to thwart what could have been, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., one of the most serious threats to America since the 9/11 attacks.
It could have been “deadly... devastating,” Holder said as he praised the teamwork among various agencies that helped the government stop Zazi and his confederates in their tracks.
Zazi drove to New York from Colorado in the fall of 2009, carrying homemade explosives which he intended to use in Manhattan subway lines as soon as they were ready. After he was stopped on the George Washington Bridge, police say, Zazi suspected he was under surveillance and, police say, he flushed the explosives down the toilet in a friend’s apartment and flew back to Colorado. He was arrested there nine days later.
Law enforcement sources tell us that, on a Saturday morning in late September last year, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly met with top aides, including David Cohen, deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism, and congratulated them for their diligence in working closely with the FBI to track down Zazi. John Brennan, the President’s assistant on counter-terrorism was there.
President Obama, we’re told, telephoned in to that meeting to congratulate the NYPD for its “outstanding work.” He called the teamwork of the agencies involved “exceptional,” saying the NYPD had earned “the respect and gratitude of all new Yorkers and all Americans.”
In the law enforcement and intelligence world there have been turf wars in the past, when various government agencies vied for dominance in an investigation. Here, it seems, such back-biting was at a minimum.
Police Commissioner Kelly is wise to the ways of New York and Washington after nearly five decades of serving in both cities. We suspect Kelly deserves some credit for helping to foster a spirit of cooperation in this case -- a spirit that New Yorkers can hope will serve us well in years to come.