NYPD and FBI Bickering Not Ideal for National Security

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The NYPD's constitutionally questionable spying on Muslims in the tri-state area is part of what the Associated Press calls the department's transformation "into one of the nation's most aggressive intelligence agencies." But this expansion of power has repeatedly put the NYPD into tough spots with the FBI, whose own counter-terrorism investigations rely in part on local intel and inter-agency cooperation. Today, the AP chronicles various road bumps in the relationship between the two government enforcers, which together are responsible for keeping New York City safe from terror attacks but just can't seem to get along lately, with the bad blood even on public display.

"In the New York media," the AP reports, "the fighting and personalities are frequently covered like a dysfunctional celebrity marriage, with perceived betrayal and reconciliation spilling into the news." Recently, an NYPD terror investigation was scoffed at anonymously by FBI sources, and just a few months later, the top FBI agent in New Jersey said that NYPD spying makes his job harder. Various other post-9/11 terror investigations, each described in detail by the AP, have also had the agencies bumping heads.

Battles over big cases and jurisdiction are common between law enforcement branches, but when the spats occur in clear view, things might just be worse:

New York is supposed to be different. The NYPD is perhaps the premier police force in the nation. No other department comes close to the NYPD's manpower. No other city can rival its team of counterterrorism analysts, language capabilities or stable of officers working overseas.

New York was the first city to form a Joint Terrorism Task Force, a collaboration of federal and local agencies that has been replicated in cities nationwide. The NYPD has hundreds of officers assigned to that task force, working side by side with the FBI.

When the NYPD Intelligence Division, the secretive squad that answers to Cohen, and the FBI work together, they have produced strong cases. … But the intelligence division often operates independently.

In the spirit of reconciliation, "NYPD officials promised to work more closely with the FBI, to share information earlier, federal and city officials said. FBI officials, too, promised to be more open about their cases." And if these sort of marriage counseling compromises don't work, we're all living in a broken home.