Critical Mass

NYPD’s Ray Kelly: “Don’t Even Think of Attacking New York City”

By Jane Ciabattari

Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey, author of “Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force—The NYPD,” sat down with New York Police Commission Ray Kelly last night at the Overseas Press Club to ask a few leading questions. Kelly is a major character in his book, just published by Simon & Schuster. (Read early reviews here and here.)

Dickey has covered Europe and the Middle East for Newsweek and the Washington Post, with an eye to counterterrorism and espionage. Fitting that there was a cameraman from Teheran-based Press TV i n the room to record the evening’s discussion (first he underwent a thorough checkout by the NYPD advance contingent). Here’s a couple of excerpts from their conversation:

Dickey: “What would you not do to protect New York City?” 

Kelly: “I would not violate the Constitution in any way. “

Dickey:“Why does the NYPD have officers ‘embedded’ throughout the world, in spots like London, Paris, Jerusalem?” 

Kelly: “To ask the New York question.” The NYPD gets “real time” reports within hours from locations of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Jerusalem, and other targets. The embedded NYPD officers work directly with their counterparts:“It’s a cop to cop relationship,” Kelly said. “We pay a lot of attention to what happens in the tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There virtually is no border there. The Predator strikes n the last six months have had a significant impact on Al Queda leadership.”

Dickey: “The FBI and CIA had a hard time putting together a group of Arabic speakers after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. But within months, the NYPD was able to identify quite a few Arabic speakers. Why is that?”

“We had 50 to 60 Arabic speakers. We took all of them to Berlitz, Now we have a cadre of master linguists. They know the slang from the back streets of Karachi because they grew up on the back streets of Karachi. There’s nothing like the real deal.”

Dickey: “Nobody who grew up in Karachi could get a security clearance with the FBI.”

Kelly: “We had procedures for vetting them, we use a polygraph. We do a substantial amount of vetting.  We have a diverse department. The most recent graduating class had cadets from 58 countries.  NYPD has a Muslim police officers’ association of 200 plus,  and a Southeast Asian police officers’ association.”

“Is New York still a target?”asked someone from the audience.

Kelly: “This is the target that gives terrorists everything they want. It’s the communications center, the financial center. That’s why we have been attacked twice, and why we’ve had six major plots against us since September 11, 2001. That’s why the NYPD can’t take their eyes off the ball. Remember the signs that read, ‘Don’t even think about parking here.’ Well, the NYPD attitude is, “Don’t even think about attacking New York City.”