Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Spies like Us: The N.Y.P.D.'S Intelligence Network

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Spies like Us: The N.Y.P.D.'S Intelligence Network

Article excerpt

"Enemies Within" attempts to portray the New York police's deputy commissioner for intelligence as a sinister force, a man who oversees a network of surveillance operations that tramples on civil liberties.

Enemies Within. Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America. By Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman. 321 pages. A Touchstone Book/Simon & Schuster. $27.99.

Mosques are like "bug lights for aspiring jihadists," a New York City Police Department analyst says. For that reason, houses of worship get special attention from officers in the intelligence unit.

The "mosque crawlers," as the unit's paid informers and undercover agents are known, make "secret recordings of sermons," Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman tell us in "Enemies Within." David Cohen, the deputy commissioner for intelligence, compares such work to raking coals in a fire pit: "You might find a smoldering ember -- a hot spot waiting to catch fire."

However, unlike other accounts of New York's counterterrorism efforts, such as Christopher Dickey's "Securing the City" and Michael Sheehan's "Crush the Cell," "Enemies Within" does not glorify the work of the cops. Instead, it attempts to portray Mr. Cohen as a sinister force, a man who oversees a network of surveillance operations that tramples on civil liberties.

Mr. Cohen's unit, which has a $60 million budget, is "a separate squad that operated in near secrecy and fancied itself a miniature C.I.A.," Mr. Apuzzo and Mr. Goldman write. During one eight-month period, the unit "opened at least 15 secret terrorism enterprise investigations." A former C.I.A. station chief in New York City, Mr. Cohen operates with little oversight. He "makes the rules."

The two authors, both Associated Press reporters, build their narrative around the investigation of Najibullah Zazi, who planned to blow up the New York subways in 2009. Their account of the case, tracing Mr. Zazi's trip from Colorado to New York, is interwoven with potted histories of Islam, Al Qaeda and F.B.I. investigations.

Mr. Zazi is tipped off about the investigation by someone who works for Mr. …

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