Recently-retired Chief of Police Raymond Kelly began the program after 9/11. Also recently-retired David Cohen, formerly of the CIA, acted as his deputy commissioner of intelligence. Kelly and Cohen, believing they couldn't rely on federal agencies for information, established an arm of the department that sends personnel to at least 11 international locations, including Canada, Israel, and India, with the hope that they can trace terrorist threats before they reach New York.
The problem is, the NYPD has no jurisdiction in these places. As The American Conservative has previously addressed, “None of the NYPD liaison officers has any legal standing for dealing with the local authorities. The detectives travel on tourist passports, stay in hotels, and do not report to the U.S. ambassador, nor to the CIA Chief of Station.”
DNAinfo, which covers New York City affairs, spoke to unnamed federal officials. DNAinfo suggests that the expensive ($120,000 salaries) and less-than-official presence of the city police have caused more harm than good:
NYPD detectives are ineffective, often angering and confusing the foreign law enforcement officials they are trying to work with, and are usually relegated to the sidelines because they lack national security clearance.
For example, when bombs exploded at resorts in Bali in 2005, killing 20 and injuring hundreds, the Indonesian National Police “were astonished and irritated that the NYPD showed up,” a federal source explained.
In the end, a source said, there was “absolutely no nexus” between the bombing and New York. The attack was the work of the Indonesia-based organization Jemaah Islamiyah. And any information obtained by the feds in Bali was transmitted to the Los Angeles and New York FBI offices and to the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has roughly 120 NYPD detectives along with top police brass.
Another source said that NYPD detectives showed up at the funerals of victims of the Madrid rail bombings in 2004, angering local officials and victims' families.
“Ray Kelly and David Cohen created a monster,” the source said. “The NYPD Intelligence Division has absolutely no place in overseas counter-terrorism — lack of security clearances and diplomatic immunity, confusion for host country law enforcement and security services, conflicts with U.S. agencies such as the CIA, FBI, DEA, U.S. Embassy RSO, etc.”
CBS New York lauds the fact that Kelly's “12-year tenure ends Wednesday without a major successful terror attack on his watch.” The new NYPD commissioner, William Bratton, considers the department to have the “foremost counterterrorism capability in the world.”
Tim Cushing of Techdirt takes a more skeptical view of the police force. He jabs that the NYPD's International Liaison “casually stomp[s] on civil liberties and civilian sensibilities in order to chalk up another zero in the 'plots prevented' column.”