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NYPD vs FBI: The Hatfield and McCoys of Counterterrorism

Under the category of “can’t we all get along”, comes the ungoing saga of the FBI and the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit. The bottom line is: both need to work together. Ex-NYPD official Michael Sheehan offers his view of it all.

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By MICHAEL A. SHEEHAN
NYPD Former Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism
New York Times Op-Ed

THE recent arrest of Najibullah Zazi, the suspected terrorist in Denver, highlights several important aspects of our domestic counterterrorism programs. First, even as the memory of 9/11 fades, there are terrorists in this country intent on attacking us again. Second, the F.B.I. and New York Police Department remain engaged in a counterproductive bureaucratic struggle.

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Eight years ago, shortly after the attack on the twin towers, the police commissioner, Ray Kelly, with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, assigned more than 100 detectives to the F.B.I.’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The bureau warmly welcomed this commitment.

However, Commissioner Kelly also built a unilateral N.Y.P.D. counterterrorism unit and hired David Cohen, the former head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, to run it. The F.B.I. was in fierce opposition to New York’s having unilateral capacity, and some people there still are.

I know all about the tension between the F.B.I. and the Police Department. During my tenure at the department, I had bruising battles with the bureau. In one case, the F.B.I. and the department had different informants covering the same suspect. Each agency fought for control of the case and questioned the validity of the other’s information. At times, I worried that this internecine feuding might jeopardize the case, but we worked it out.

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