Wall Street Journal on September 5, 2013, published a review by Gabriel Schoenfeld of a new book by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. Twelve years after 9/11, the U.S. remains a prime target of al Qaeda, with New York City as the bull’s-eye. Yet in the interval, New York hasn’t been successfully struck again. Enemies Within suggests an explanation for the city’s good fortune. Written by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, reporters with the Associated Press, the book tells two intertwined stories. One is an account of the 2009 attempt by Najibullah Zazi, an al Qaeda recruit, to bomb New York City’s subways. The other is a chronicle of the city’s counterterrorism efforts in the years since the Twin Towers fell. Together, contend the authors, the two tales tell us a great deal—not all of it flattering—about the ways in which law enforcement has kept the city safe. Excerpts below:

Counterterrorism in New York is carried out by a patchwork of agencies, the two biggest players being the New York City Police Department and the FBI.

The Intelligence Division—or NYPD Intel, as it is called—was long a backwater. After 9/11, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly breathed life into it, installing the rough-riding David Cohen as its director. Mr. Cohen was a former CIA official with a reputation for aggressive management.

In the frantic search for hidden al Qaeda cells, Mr. Cohen’s division recruited an army of informants to infiltrate Islamic institutions across the city and indeed across the region.

In contrast to such…conduct, the FBI emerges in “Enemies Within” as a model of rectitude. It too sent informants into mosques to gain information about suspects, but only upon evidence of criminal activity. Without meeting stringent legal requirements, the scrupulously law-abiding federal agents, Messrs. Apuzzo and Goldman report, couldn’t even “sit outside a mosque as part of an investigation and collect license plate numbers of people in attendance.”

“Enemies Within” makes much of the fact that it was the FBI—despite being encumbered by the supposed handicap of observing the Constitution—and not NYPD Intel that busted Najibullah Zazi and his two al Qaeda confederates. Zazi, an Afghan-American, had traveled with his fellow plotters to Pakistan to train in the arts of violent jihad. Upon their return, they intended to blow themselves up in three coordinated blasts on the New York City subways. Spooked by surveillance, Zazi fled to relatives in Colorado, where the FBI swooped in. (Zazi pleaded guilty in 2010 to conspiracy to commit murder, among other charges.)

Mr. Kelly would have been grossly negligent if, in the wake of 9/11, he had not shifted resources to gathering intelligence on potential malefactors and the communities in which they blend in and hide. It is in the nature of terrorism that its operations, aimed at mass death, are secretive and conspiratorial. Normal cop-on-the-beat practices won’t do the job.

Mr. Kelly’s decisions paid off in averting the attempted bombing of the Herald Square subway in 2004, as well as other plots.

…in the age of mass terrorism, even one successful attack is far too many. In any event, police work is measurable, in part, by the absence of the wrongdoing it aims to prevent, and by that measure the NYPD is clearly doing something right. In seeking out terrorists, NYPD Intel deters them. We can’t know what might have happened in New York without its efforts.

The merit of the authors’ assiduous reporting is often undercut by their intemperate and politically tendentious rhetoric. They tell us that NYPD Intel “fancied itself a miniature CIA,” that it cast itself along the lines of Dick Cheney’s “dark side,” and that it has engaged in tactics that are likely to be remembered next to “waterboarding, secret prisons, and warrantless wiretapping.” One doubts whether New Yorkers, grateful not to have suffered a second terrorist attack, would agree. Such claims are, in any case, an injustice to New York’s Finest.

Gabriel Schoenfeld is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute.

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  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

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