The new mayor, whoever he or she may be, isn’t even the mayor yet, but that hasn’t stopped NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly from accusing that person of being soft on terrorism. In a speech before the Association For a Better New York‘s Council on Foreign Relations, he complained that none of the candidates have asked for a terrorism briefing from him, and claimed that the “threat of terrorism” in New York “is as great, if not greater, today than it was before the World Trade Center was destroyed.”
Kelly was, of course, contemplating a run for mayor himself, with lots of institutional support: Mayor Mike Bloomberg even financed a secret poll to convince him that he could win, according to a recent New Yorker story. He chose not to, though, and instead has endured an embarrassing few months, with pet projects like stop-and-frisk being ruled unconstitutional, an independent monitor stepping in to make sure his department is more considerate of New Yorkers’ civil rights, and the Democratic mayoral candidates each offering criticisms of the program (however vague and tepid those criticism may be).
What’s a police commissioner to do? Complain that the mayoral candidates have no understanding of terror threats, and haven’t bothered to ask, apparently.
“Over the past twelve years, the New York City Police Department has built a comprehensive counterterrorism program” to protect the city from another attack, he told the ABNY. “It’s critically important that our efforts be sustained in the next administration. But where do the candidates stand on these issues? Surprisingly, we haven’t heard much.”
Kelly claimed, too, that images of the World Trade Center attack are still used on “jihadist websites and al Qaeda publications,” adding, “Its propagandists call on followers in the United States to take up the battle at home and use bombs, guns and poison to indiscriminately kill.”
“In the mind of al Qaeda and its acolytes, New York is the symbol of all they hate about America and the West,” Kelly added. He said terrorist groups have an “enduring obsession” with the city, and outlined several recent terror plots recently thwarted by the NYPD and the feds, including a 23-year-old Bangladeshi man who plotted, not very successfully, to blow up the Federal Reserve, and the Qazi brothers, arrested in Florida after conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in New York. According to the NYT, they “pedaled around New York City on a bicycle over Thanksgiving weekend trying to pick a site but never selected one.”
Kelly called these men and other enemies “smart, patient, and committed,” and praised Mayor Bloomberg for helping the NYPD to prevent further attacks, “When the Police Department comes under criticism, Mayor Bloomberg never flinches,” Kelly said. “He has backed the department and its police officers at every turn. The result? Crime is down by 32% since 2001 and there have been 7,363 fewer murders in his first 11 years in office, compared to the 11 years before him.”
Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio’s campaign was quick to dispute Kelly’s remarks, saying the Public Advocate’s office had requested a counter-terrorism briefing on August 29. But a Bloomberg spokesperson quickly added that de Blasio had apparently only asked about “steps the Police Department was taking after the President’s Syria announcement,” implying that they weren’t asking for a broader terrorism briefing. But the Public Advocate’s office is now “working with the NYPD” to arrange one, the spokersperson told Metro New York.
In the meantime, Kelly told the ABNY, they should “demand detailed answers from the candidates about their plans to protect New York.” And no matter who they are come January, Kelly has clearly set the stage for his relationship with the next mayoral administration.