Good Security and Bad Manners: Communication Between the FBI and NYPD

The FBI maintains the NYPD was not kept out of the loop on the underwear bomber

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The chief of the FBI could use a course in manners.

    Even as a feud brews between federal officials and the NYPD over whether police were kept up to date about the Yemeni underwear bomb plot, FBI Director Robert Mueller repeatedly assured senators in Washington that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was kept in the loop.

    But Kelly on Thursday said it took a week for him to receive specific information.

    “As I told Ray," Mueller told the lawmakers a day earlier, "he’s always welcome to call.”

    Mueller said this again and again. And he referred again and again to the commissioner as “Ray.”
     
    It would seem that the FBI boss has schoolyard manners. How could he fail to communicate with Kelly, the highest priority?
     
    Since New York City is the no. 1 target on the international terrorist list, Mueller is obligated to keep the commissioner informed on any terrorist threat anywhere.
     
    But the longstanding feud between the FBI and the NYPD seems to have a higher priority for Mueller. The very existence of the underwear bomber should have been shared with the NYPD.
     
    Are the FBI and the NYPD in competition? Perhaps. But that is hardly as it should be.
     
    During his appearance in Washington, Mueller found himself under stern questioning from Sen. Charles Schumer about why the NYPD had been left in the dark about details of the plot.
           
    Schumer asked Mueller about his statement that “whenever you have strong-willed agencies, and parts of agencies, you are going to have, as I say, the bumps in the road. I don’t think there’s any extraordinary action that needs to be taken by myself or Ray Kelly or others to address a current issue.”
     
    Schumer: “…And have you talked directly to Commissioner Kelly about it?”
     
    Mueller: “I have not on this issue.”
     
    Rep. Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told me: “There’s always a certain tension between the FBI and the NYPD. At first it seemed that the failure to keep Kelly informed was an honest mistake. But, on examining it more closely, it’s clear that Kelly should have been kept in the loop.”
     
    King says that jealousy exists between the two agencies. He believes that the NYPD has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to aggressively pursue wrongdoers and solve crimes.
     
    “More people in the New York area have respect for the NYPD than for the FBI,” he says. “and that respect is well deserved.”
     
    “I think Kelly should have been treated better,” he added.
     
    Mueller may regard Kelly in this case as just a bump in the road. But this bump, a former Marine colonel, doesn’t take kindly to being bumped around.
     
    His mission is to protect New York from terrorist attacks and the Marines have a tradition, when they’re hit, of hitting back. Hard.