“It’s like trying to take credit for an eclipse,” Kelly told Time.
Bratton, who was also eventually pushed out of One Police Plaza by Giuliani, endorsed Mark Green. Kelly met with Bloomberg, who was then the underdog, and reviewed his policy papers on criminal justice, giving pointers. Bloomberg has since given Kelly more autonomy as head of the Police Department than any other commissioner in the city’s history. Kelly and Bloomberg get along so well Bloomberg gives Kelly lifts on his private jet. Bloomberg goes to Bermuda. Kelly and his wife get off in Florida, where they have a weekend retreat.
“It’s great,” Kelly says of flying Air Bloomberg. “Only way to travel.”
The traffic is choking up Second Avenue. The bunker is stuck.
“You ever have pasta con sarde in a can?” Kelly says.
We were talking recipes earlier.
“The yellow can,” he says. “Don’t ask me why, it’s from Italy but it has German writing on it. It has fennel. Just take it, heat it, put in on pasta. It’s actually very good.”
These days, Kelly can’t remember the last time he cooked for his detectives. His nights are booked. He’s now a permanent fixture on the red-carpet circuit, cavorting with cigar chompers like Ron Perelman, starlets like Jennifer Lopez. He recently recruited Bloomberg’s old crush Sharon Stone to appear at a benefit for the New York City Police Foundation, a nonprofit that funds many of Kelly’s projects.
The foundation has also helped Kelly revamp his and the NYPD’s image. In 2007, the foundation hired HL Group, a marketing company that promises to “increase brand equity” and “furthers client presence at an exponential rate within respective circles.” The foundation put HL Group on an $8,500-a-month retainer, according to a foundation source. While it has been blurry which brand HL is boosting—the police commissioner’s or that of the foundation that pays the bills—Kelly has proved to be an able rainmaker in the black-tie crowd.
The foundation also funds what some might consider Kelly’s own CIA. The city charter forbids cops on the NYPD payroll to work in other law-enforcement jurisdictions, so when he returned to headquarters, Kelly started the International Liaison Program, where NYPD detectives are sent to Tel Aviv, Amman, London, Lyon, Madrid, Paris, Montreal, Singapore, Santo Domingo, Abu Dhabi, and Toronto. The mission is for the NYPD to develop its own relationships with foreign intelligence officers and report back to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, which is run by David Cohen, a former CIA official who is so secretive he refused to give out his age when asked (“between 28 and 70”).
The arrangement has tweaked the NYPD’s counterparts in the FBI, who have their own agents deployed overseas. Mark Mershon, the former assistant director of the bureau’s New York field office, says that while some units within the two agencies work together, many NYPD officials do not share information. “Some strong personalities in the mix,” Mershon says.
Asked which ones, Mershon says, “David Cohen.”
If Cohen wants to make the NYPD a player in the global-intelligence game, he and the department need to prove themselves in developing real information about terrorist plots. The race to break cases is such that intelligence officers joke that NYPD guys and FBI guys bump into one another leaving the mosque. To date, Kelly says, the NYPD has deterred eleven terrorist plots. Some cases have been made public, some not, and deterring plots has not always gone smoothly.
Last fall, Cohen’s Intelligence Division received a tip about a possible Al Qaeda operative named Najibullah Zazi, who was driving to New York. The Intel cops showed Zazi’s photo to an informant, a Queens Imam, to gather information about Zazi before any bombs went off.
The Feds were also watching Zazi. Over a wiretap, they heard about his plans to come to New York and alerted the Port Authority police, who pulled over Zazi as he drove over the George Washington Bridge and searched his car, failing to detect two pounds of explosives. His suspicions raised by the search, Zazi thought his cover was blown and flew back to his home in Colorado. Meanwhile, the NYPD’s informant, the Queens Imam, called Zazi and told him the authorities were asking questions about him. Overhearing the conversation, the Feds scrambled to arrest Zazi in Colorado and were forced to end a long-term investigation. The Feds were furious that Kelly and his NYPD Intel Division used an informant who blew their investigation.
Kelly can’t see what the Feds are fussing about. No bombs went off.
“I see no problems there,” he says, and calls the NYPD-FBI rift “overblown.” He pushes the blame back on Washington. “There’s lots of people who like to keep the notion of a rift in play. I think perhaps a lot of retired people from the bureau like to fan this flame. Why? I’m not certain, because it can never go back to this subservient relationship. We have to be total participants in the game … We are in the business of protecting the city and preventing an attack.”