Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zazi: Looking more like a Snafu...

September 24, 2009

New York Police Official in Terror Unit Is Removed

The New York Police Department has removed a senior official from one of its two sometimes competing antiterrorism units, after it played a role in disrupting a sensitive federal terrorism investigation, current and former police officials said on Wednesday. He was replaced by a top official from the other unit.

The investigation was disrupted two weeks ago when detectives from one of the units, the Intelligence Division, sought assistance from a Queens imam who then alerted the central suspect in the case to the inquiry.

The transfers, which removed one official from the Intelligence Division and replaced him with another from the Counterterrorism Bureau, came in recent days amid intense activity in the case. Federal agents and police detectives have been hunting through New York City and other places for operatives in a suspected Qaeda bomb plot...

The effort to enlist the imam and its impact have come after a long history of tensions and rivalry between the police and the F.B.I. And while relations between the two agencies have improved, the creation of the Counterterrorism Bureau and the expansion of the Intelligence Division after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, brought new tensions, with a rivalry between the two antiterrorism units.

While the investigation’s disruption upset some officials in Washington, as the inquiry progressed they said they had come to view the issue as an unfortunate, if unintentional, misstep.

The official transferred out of the Intelligence Division, Deputy Inspector Paul Ciorra, was the intelligence collection coordinator. He has been moved to the Trial Division, which oversees administrative hearings for police officers accused of misconduct. His union leader, Roy T. Richter, noted that the shift would not have been made if he had been transferred for disciplinary reasons.

One former government official with knowledge of the matter said there was no indication that the deputy inspector had done anything wrong and that the decision to approach the imam had been made at the highest levels of the Intelligence Division. The unit is led by David Cohen, a former top C.I.A. official. The former official said the deputy inspector was moved to absorb the blame.

Inspector Ciorra, who declined to comment about the transfer, was praised by police colleagues, and by officers in the New York Army National Guard, in which he serves as a major....(more)

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