Tag Archives: NYPD

Clarion Project: NYPD Designates Certain Mosques as Terrorist Enterprises

The New York Police Department has labeled certain mosques as terrorist organizations, allowing police to keep an eye on worshipers and imams who might be involved in terrorist activity.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” (TEIs) as part of an initiative to help police infiltrate and investigate secret terrorist cells.

Information about the TEIs were revealed by Associated Press after the news organization recently saw a number of documents on the subject. The TEIs are also part of a new book, “Enemies within: inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America,” by AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, as well as interviews with current and former NYPD, FBI and CIA officials.

Before the NYPD could target mosques for surveillance, the procedure had to be approved by a federal judge who established guidelines on how police can conduct surveillance on citizens.

David Cohen, a former CIA executive who became the NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence in 2002, told the judge deciding the case that mosques could be used “to shield the work of terrorists from law enforcement scrutiny by taking advantage of restrictions of the investigation of First Amendment activity.”

The recent revelations of the NYPD’s investigation have outraged some, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who says that mosque programs are unconstitutional.

Yet, as the Clarion Project reported, the ACLU has a history of fiercely fighting against essential U.S. counter-terrorism programs and actions, possible due to the background of one top ACLU official, Jameel Jaffer .  (Interestingly, the ACLU chose not to protect the right of freedom of expression when the White House tried to pressure YouTube to take down the film Innocence of Muslims, a provocative presentation of Mohammed’s life, which provoked worldwide riots.)

NYPD police commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have denied that TEI is unconstitutional and insist they are following leads.

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BREAKING: Terrorist Sought to Blow Up The Fed

NBC 4 New York has learned that federal authorities have arrested a man they say was plotting to attack the Federal Reserve building in Lower Manhattan, just blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The man is in custody in New York. Sources tell NBC 4 New York that the suspect, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, lives in Jamaica, Queens.

Nafis, 21, was arrested Wednesday morning after he drove a van that he believed to be loaded with explosives from Long Island to Lower Manhattan. The man left the van near the Federal Reserve building and was then arrested by the FBI and NYPD.

Law enforcement officials stress that the plot was a sting operation monitored by the FBI and NYPD and the public was never at risk.  The explosives had been rendered inoperable, officials said.

“Two of the defendant’s ‘accomplices’ were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent,” said FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan.

Sources say the suspect was acting alone in the plot against the Fed, which is located at 33 Liberty St., three and 1/2 blocks from ground zero.

He is expected in court later Wednesday.

“Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure, “Galligan said. “The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences.”

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New York’s Finest Are Getting Smeared: The police department’s counterterrorism work protects lives and civil liberties.

By RICHARD CLARKE, JUDITH MILLER AND R.P. EDDY

Should a police department identify and engage those citizens most likely to be involved with terrorism? Should police understand the historic and current ties of certain communities to militant groups that export violent extremism? The current debate over the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism surveillance reflects fundamental disagreements over such issues.

Start with a given: The threat of terrorism is no excuse to run roughshod over civil liberties. The leeway given New York’s police in combating terrorism is spelled out in the “Handschu Guidelines,” federal court-sanctioned rules in force since 1985 and amended in 2002.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly says he has followed these guidelines to the letter, but since last summer a series of Associated Press articles has accused the NYPD of “wholesale surveillance of places where Muslims eat, shop, work and pray”—spying that ostensibly violates their civil rights. Now U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the Justice Department to review the NYPD program.

Yet NYPD efforts to engage with and selectively surveil at-risk populations are not only legal but essential. In 2002, Mr. Kelly decided that a “broad base of knowledge” about who lives in the New York area was crucial to preventing terrorism. “It was precisely our failure to understand the context in 1993″—after the first World Trade Center bombing—”that left us vulnerable in 2001,” he said.  So police tried to determine “how individuals seeking to do harm might communicate or conceal themselves. Where might they go to find resources or evade the law?” Such “geographically-based knowledge” saved “precious time in stopping fast-moving plots,” he said last weekend.

Identifying such “hot spots” was legal, appropriate—and no secret: NYPD officials testified publicly before Congress about their work. The Handschu guidelines authorize the police to “visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public” and “conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms . . . as members of the public.”

Criminals often share ethnic backgrounds. For police to look for certain criminals among certain ethnic groups is only logical, and it doesn’t suggest a belief that all, or even a significant minority, of that group are criminals. Cops look for Cosa Nostra members in Italian communities, for Yakuza criminals among Japanese, for Triad criminals among Chinese. To look for al Qaeda members in Muslim communities is not to disparage such communities. Indeed many Muslims help law enforcement identify such potential threats.

What about the NYPD’s six-month surveillance of college campuses in the New York area and the Northeast Corridor, in particular of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which has come under fire?

In 2006, police had ample cause to fear that chapters of the MSA, founded in the U.S. by the militant Muslim Brotherhood, might unwittingly host terrorists or serve as recruiting grounds. “Some of the most dangerous Western al Qaeda linked or inspired terrorists since 9/11 were radicalized or recruited at universities in Muslim Student Associations,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

Anwar al-Awlaki, the former head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year, was president of the MSA at Colorado State University. Umar Abdulmutallab, the al Qaeda “underwear” bomber who tried blowing up a jet over Detroit in 2009, headed the MSA at the University College of London.

The NYPD asserts, contrary to Associated Press claims, that it surveilled MSA members only after finding signs of terrorist-related activity in the course of other investigations, not from open sources. Leads from those investigations, Mr. Kelly says, triggered preliminary inquiries and, if needed, full-blown investigations using undercover police.

Another misplaced criticism is that the NYPD received assistance from the CIA, thus blurring the line “between foreign and domestic spying,” as the AP put it. The architect of the NYPD’s intelligence program was CIA vet David Cohen, and the CIA seconded Larry Sanchez to work with Mr. Cohen after 9/11. But this interaction not only has been widely reported for years—it is precisely the kind of expertise-sharing that the 9/11 Commission so strongly urged.

The CIA is rightly precluded from spying on Americans on U.S. soil, but the 1947 National Security Act (as amended) authorizes it to assist local law enforcement “when lives are endangered.” That’s not a loophole—it’s necessary cooperation as terrorism threatens cities.

NYPD Communications Division van #4018 at Hera...

NYPD Communications Division van #4018 at Herald Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though it’s far from perfect, the NYPD should be praised for helping foil 14 terrorist plots targeting New York City, all while protecting our civil liberties.

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This should give us all pause for concern…

America faces a growing threat from “hundreds” of agents of Hezbollah in the U.S as tensions grow over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, current and former law enforcement officials warned the House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.

Opening hearings in Washington on the domestic security threat posed by the Iranian-supported terror group, committee chairman Peter King, Republican of New York, called Hezbollah “one of international terrorism’s most violent murder gangs” and said that the government had a duty to “prepare for the worst.”

The director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department and former officials of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Treasury Department who had worked intimately on Federal cases involving Hezbollah agreed that the militant Shiite group now posed a greater threat to Americans at home than Al Qaeda, Sunni Muslim militants, and that more needed to be done to identify operatives and limit their operations here.

They also agreed that a foiled Hezbollah plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by bombing a restaurant in Washington last October was a “game-changer” suggesting that the group would not hesitate to strike on American soil if necessary by transforming what has previously been operations focused mainly on fund-raising into terror plots.

The committee was told that the more than 20 federal cases involving the Lebanese-based Hezbollah since 9/11 was probably just the tip of the iceberg of the group’s presence in the U.S., since the Federal government had chosen to quietly deport many other alleged operatives and settle other cases with publicly identifying suspected agents involved. Mr. King added that Iran has often used its diplomats to spy on American targets and support fund-raising and terror-related actions of its agents. “There also are 55 Iranian diplomats at the United Nations mission in New York and another 29 Iranian officials here at its interests section, many of whom, Mr. King said, are “presumed to be intelligence officers.”

But Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, questioned whether the testimony being presented was based on “outdated” information and intelligence. “No current federal officials” had been asked to testify Wednesday, he complained.

But Mitchell D. Silber, of the NYPD, disclosed the existence of three more recent cases in which Federal authorities appeared to have taken no action against alleged spies. Iranian diplomats had been “released without incident” in May, 2005, September, 2008, and September, 2010 after the NYPD had caught ostensible diplomats or employees of the Iran Broadcasting Company taking photos and video-tapes of such potential targets as cruise liners, railroad tracks inside Grand Central Station, and most recently, the Wall Street heliport.

Silber added that over the past six months, the NYPD’s investigation into terrorist plots with a “plausible nexus to Iran” that were conducted or foiled in Azerbaijan, India, Georgia, Thailand, and in Washington had “heightened our concerns” about a possible attack by Iran in New York.
Christopher Swecker, a former FBI assistant director in charge of the Criminal Investigative Division, called Hezbollah the “A Team” of terrorist organizations, given its history, its organizational reach, para-military training, and the state sponsorship of Iran. He described a landmark money-laundering case that the Bureau launched in 1998 showing how Hezbollah had leveraged the “full range of criminal activities” to raise money for the group. In March, 2001, he said, an indictment named 25 defendants in a 77 count federal bill of indictment that included such crimes as cigarette smuggling, interstate transport of stolen property, immigration, bank, mail and credit card fraud, and conspiracy to provide material support for a terrorist organization.

Michael A Braun, a former assistant administrator and chief of operations of the DEA, warned of Iran’s “growing presence in the Western Hemisphere and beyond” and the growing nexus between networks used by Mexican drug cartels and terrorist groups, especially Hezbollah. “If anyone thinks for one moment that these terrorist organizations do not understand that the Mexican drug trafficking cartels now dominate drug trafficking in our country, reportedly in more than 250 cities, then they are ignorant or very naïve,” Dr. Braun said.

He also warned that another terrorist group heavily involved in drug trading, the Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had financed the construction of mini-submarine-like boats, one of which had carried 8 tons of cocaine from the shores of Colombia to northern Mexico. More had to be done, he said, to break down barriers that still separate counternarcotics and counterterrorism activities.

Matthew Levitt, a former senior Treasury Department official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that while Hezbollah once saw America mainly as a “cash cow” to finance its sprawling activities in Lebanon where it operates openly as a powerful political faction and throughout the world, it was “no longer clear” that Iran saw carrying out an attack in the U.S. “as crossing some sort of red line.” He said that

Hezbollah specialized in recruiting agents whom it used as sleeper agents, often for years without activating them. Its agents, he added, often “don’t fit the profile,” which made the organization a more potent terrorist threat.
Levitt and other witnesses cited testimony last January by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, that Iran’s leaders are “more willing to conduct an attack inside the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

All the witnesses agreed there was no certainty that Iran would strike in the U.S. if tensions over the nuclear program escalated or if Israel or the U.S. launched a military attack against its nuclear facilities. Nor could they link any specific surveillance incident in New York to an actual plot. But, Mr. Silber added, “Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community — whether wittingly or not — as facilitators.”

Intelligence officials blame Hezbollah for more American deaths than any group except Al Qaeda. Its attacks on the U.S. Marine’s peace-keeping compound in Beirut in 1983 and on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 had claimed some 150 deaths alone. It had staged far-flung successful attacks – two in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 against Jewish and Israeli targets.

“If Iran had it way,” said Mr. King, “Washington D.C. would have witnessed terrible carnage amid the smoking ruins of a popular local restaurant only a few months ago,” referring to the thwarted attack on Adel Al –Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador.

Mr. King used Mr. Silber’s presence at the hearings to praise the NYPD as the nation’s most effective counter-terrorism force, and to attack press and other critics of the department’s Muslim surveillance program as “irresponsible,” “misguided” and “cheap.”

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NYPD Stops Yet Another Terrorist Plot

I’ve said it a number of times on this site: The NYPD is the best police force in the world.  From Commissioner Kelly on down, the department is intelligently organized to fight terrorism while also combating basically ever other type of crime known to man in a city that is a true melting-pot of religions, languages, cultures, and ideas. Somehow, against the odds, the city has overcome the fact that every terrorism expert in the world believed that New York City would be struck again by terrorist after 9/11. Ten years later, they’ve prevented that from happening. Simply amazing.  AA

 

City Bomb Plot Suspect Is Called Fan of Qaeda Cleric

By and

A Manhattan man who became fascinated by the American-born Muslim militant Anwar al-Awlaki was arrested on charges of plotting to build and detonate bombs in New York, city officials announced on Sunday night.

At a hastily called City Hall news conference, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who appeared alongside Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said the man, Jose Pimentel, 27, had begun in August to plot a bomb attack. But it was the death of Mr. Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September, that refocused his efforts, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Pimentel, a convert to Islam who was also known as Muhammad Yusuf, had been under police surveillance for more than two years and was arrested on Saturday after he had come close to completing at least three bombs.

Holes had been drilled into pipes, sulfur had been scraped off matches, nails were ready to be used as shrapnel, and wires were used to fashion an ignition device, according to a law enforcement official.

Mr. Pimentel planned to test his abilities by detonating mailboxes before embarking on a bombing campaign around New York City, Mr. Kelly said.

“Pimentel talked about killing U.S. military personnel returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly Marines and Army personnel,” Mr. Kelly said. “He talked about bombing post offices in and around Washington Heights and police cars in New York City, as well as a police station in Bayonne, N.J.

“Once his bombing campaign began, Mr. Pimentel said the public would know that there were mujahideen in the city to fight jihad here.”

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly said, however, that Mr. Pimentel was not part of a conspiracy, had no known contacts abroad and, in the mayor’s words, “appears to be a total lone wolf.”

A native of the Dominican Republic and a naturalized American citizen, Mr. Pimentel had spent much of his life in Manhattan, except for five years in Schenectady, N.Y., the authorities said. While upstate, his extremist remarks “made even some like-minded friends nervous,” Mr. Kelly said, noting that Mr. Pimentel considered changing his name to Osama Hussein “to celebrate his heroes.”

Mr. Pimentel spoke about traveling to “Yemen for training before returning to New York to become a martyr in the name of jihad,” Mr. Kelly said. While Mr. Kelly noted that Mr. Pimentel never ended up going to Yemen, at one point Mr. Pimentel had e-mailed Mr. Awlaki in an attempt to open a line of communication. The cleric did not respond, the authorities said.

The intelligence division of the New York Police Department routinely asks smaller departments outside the city for help in identifying would-be terrorists, and it was through this network that the New York police learned of Mr. Pimentel around May 2009, Mr. Kelly said. The Police Department then began doing surveillance on him, the authorities said.

In January 2010, Mr. Pimentel followed his former wife back to New York, officials said, and at some point began maintaining a Web site — www.trueislam1.com — that contained bomb-making discussions taken from Inspire, the English-language magazine published online by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch of the terrorist network in Yemen.

Along the way, Mr. Pimentel began making incriminating statements to an informant who was working with the police, investigators said, and those conversations were recorded.

The bomb-making began in earnest in October, with trips to a Home Depot in the Bronx and a 99-cent store in Manhattan during which Mr. Pimentel was under surveillance, according to a criminal complaint. There he purchased a clock, elbow piping and Christmas lights — all bomb-making parts, the complaint states. Mr. Pimentel kept the confidential informant up to date on his progress, and at times the bomb-making sessions took place at the apartment of the confidential informant, the complaint says.

On Saturday, the police videotaped him in the informant’s apartment as he was drilling holes in three pipes, according to the criminal complaint. At that moment, the police, including members of the bomb squad, moved in, arresting him in the apartment on West 147th Street, the authorities said.

“We weren’t going to wait around to figure out what he wanted do with his bombs,” a law enforcement official said. “He was in Harlem about an hour from actually having assembled the bombs,” but had all the “unassembled components ready to go.”

Mr. Pimentel lived with an uncle on West 137th Street, in Hamilton Heights. The uncle said in Spanish that the only recent change he noticed in his nephew was his conversion.

A next-door neighbor, Clara Blood, called the arrest “totally shocking and alarming, and it hits very close to home.”

Mr. Pimentel faces charges of criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism as well as other charges, including conspiracy as a crime of terrorism.

At his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Sunday night, Mr. Pimentel, who wore a black T-shirt and baggy pants, was ordered held without bail. An assistant district attorney, Brian Fields, said Mr. Pimentel had been about an hour from completing the construction of his explosive devices when he was arrested.

The case is unusual in that it marks the second time this year that the Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office have brought terrorism-related charges in state court, which in the past have been almost exclusively prosecuted in federal courts.

Mr. Kelly has, since the Sept. 11th attacks, frequently criticized the federal government’s counterterrorism capabilities, and he has built up his department’s counterterrorism program.

On Sunday, Mr. Kelly said that the Justice Department had been aware of the case against Mr. Pimentel. But he suggested that the Police Department had brought the case without the Justice Department because of how quickly the case came together at the end.

“We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together, drilling a hole, and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with the bomb,” Mr. Kelly said.

A person who was briefed on the discussions between the Police Department and Justice Department, however, said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had declined to become involved with the case against Mr. Pimentel because of issues the F.B.I. had with it. The person, who insisted on anonymity, declined to elaborate on what those issues were.

Adam Kaufmann, who heads the investigation division for the district attorney’s office, said, however, that “it was a better state case than federal” because while state law allows for Mr. Pimentel to be charged with a “a conspiracy of one person, the feds cannot charge a unilateral conspiracy.”

Matt Flegenheimer, Colin Moynihan and Scott Shane contributed reporting.

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Two Men Arrested, Charged in NYC Grenade Attack Plot

Wall Street Journal; Sean Gardiner, Pervaiz Shallwani, Devlin Barrett

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a news conference on Thursday about the two men who were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in the city. Authorities say that one of the suspects, 26-year-old Ahmed Ferhani, was arrested after buying hand grenades, three weapons, and ammunition for $700 from an undercover detective in Manhattan. Mohammed Mehdi Mamdouh, who is believed to be Ferhani’s accomplice, was arrested just moments later as he was standing near Ferhani’s car. Authorities believe that the two were plotting to attack the Empire State Building and a synagogue in Manhattan. Kelly noted at Thursday’s news conference that Ferhani said that he wanted to launch the attacks because he was tired of Muslims around the world being treated like dogs. Ferhani also told an undercover detective that he wanted to kill Jews, Kelly said. Kelly added that neither man is believed to have ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups. However, Bloomberg noted that there is concern that lone wolves could launch attacks in New York City following the death of Osama bin Laden. Both Ferhani and Mamdouh have denied being involved in the alleged terrorist plot.

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Judith Miller – The NYPD’s post-Osama challenge

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly got a heads-up: FBI Director Robert Mueller phoned Sunday night with early warning of President Obama’s pending announcement that Navy SEAL Team 6 had killed Osama bin Laden.

Kelly swallowed hard, a top aide recounted: For New York, it was “good news with complications.”

Those “complications” included the emergency security that the cash-strapped police department would mobilize to protect New York’s 8.5 million people against a possible revenge or retaliatory attack by militant Islamists.

It was a great day for America, Kelly told his top aides — especially for New Yorkers, who for a decade have been constantly reminded of that terrible September day by the vast pit where the Twin Towers once stood.

Yet bin Laden’s death has significantly increased the risk of more terrorism directed at New York, militant Islam’s No. 1 target.

Kelly immediately called Mayor Bloomberg, who was himself being briefed about the impending announcement by Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

By the time the president was telling the nation of the stunning raid, the NYPD had a major expansion of security underway. A “FINEST” message instructing cops to be prepared in light of the impending announcement had already gone out to all commands. The city’s 76 precincts were ordered to increase security around station houses and take other precautions, such as paying even closer attention to suspicious packages and people.

Kelly also directed that a midnight tour of cops working transit hubs be held over, almost doubling the number of police deployed in subways and around the city’s train and ferry stations. As many as 100 “Critical Response Vehicles” holding 200 cops were ordered to rally at a designated center — a practice conducted at least twice a day somewhere in the city.

The next morning, New Yorkers emerging from rush-hour commutes in subway and train stations encountered extra police and explosive-sniffing dogs and bag-check posts throughout the city. The NYPD ordered a similar increase for the evening rush hour.

That increased presence is still in force, subject to day-to-day evaluation. While Napolitano and city officials have stressed that they have gotten no specific threat warnings that would boost the new alert system to a higher level, the NYPD is taking no chances.

The added presence of law enforcement in city streets and at iconic structures like the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station is likely to continue at least through tomorrow, when Obama is to visit the city for a ceremony at the World Trade Center site.

New Yorkers seem accustomed by now to the extra police presence and added security measures. Many aren’t even aware of the changes that the 9/11 strikes have brought to the city. Did you know that each of the city’s precincts now dedicates at least one patrol car to routine checks on houses of worship and other sensitive sites?

Kelly now allocates some $330 million a year of his $4.6 billion budget to counterterrorism, along with over a 1,000 of his 50,000-person force — no mean feat in a department whose uniformed ranks are now below 37,000, down about 10 percent from the pre-9/11 level.

The NYPD is also still fighting for federal funds to finance 70 percent of Kelly’s ambitious scheme to install sophisticated surveillance cameras and license-plate readers in Manhattan — a $500 million system that he calls vital to the city’s security.

Osama is rotting beneath the sea, but the threat to New York is likely to grow in the coming months as jihadis try to avenge their hero’s murder. The NYPD doesn’t get to uncork the champagne.

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Comment from NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly

“The death of Osama Bin Laden is a welcome milestone  for the friends and families of those killed on 9/11, and for all who remain tenaciously engaged in protecting New York from another attack.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly

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Shahzad Used Inferior Bomb to Avoid Detection

Wall Street Journal (07/21/10) Devlin Barrett,

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared before a gathering at the Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss his department’s concerns about the evolution of terrorist threats.

The focus of Kelly’s remarks was largely on Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American man who allegedly tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in early May.

The bomb failed to detonate because it was poorly made. One reason why the bomb was a dud, Kelly said, is because Shahzad deliberately built a weaker explosive device in order to avoid being detected by authorities. Kelly noted that the fertilizer that was used in Shahzad’s bomb was not explosive, and that the M-88 fireworks that were used were much weaker than other types of fireworks.

Although the failure of the bombing plot is seen as a sign of success for the nation’s counterterrorism authorities, Kelly noted that the case is still troublesome because Shahzad attracted no attention, even though he was engaged in radical activities.

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Imam Entangled in Bomb Plot Leaves Country

By RAY RIVERA, New York Times

They were among the last words he will perhaps ever utter in this country. Expressed, said his lawyer, without irony or bitterness. “God bless America.” With those few syllables, Ahmad Wais Afzali, dressed in a flowing white robe with black and beige trim, entered the security line at Kennedy International Airport with his wife, Fatima, on Monday morning. In their hands: one-way tickets out of the country where they had grown up and made a life. Tailed by two casually dressed agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mr. Afzali and his wife boarded a 2 p.m. flight for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

For Mr. Afzali, they were his final footsteps in the United States, if the authorities have their way.

Mr. Afzali, an imam and Afghan immigrant who grew up in Queens, was ordered to leave the country after he warned Najibullah Zazi, the admitted mastermind in a plot to set off bombs in the New York subway, that he was under government surveillance. Mr. Afzali pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about the conversation. Authorities described the plot as the most significant threat to national security since 9/11. But Mr. Afzali was never among the plotters. He became entangled in the plot when investigators with the New York City Police Department, which Mr. Afzali had helped occasionally as an informant since 9/11, contacted him seeking information about the three suspects. Without explaining their interest in the men, the investigators asked him to find out more about what they were doing in New York. Not realizing the gravity of the case, he would later tell a judge, he told Mr. Zazi that the authorities were interested in him, while also urging him to stay out of trouble. He later told a judge he was afraid when Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interrogated him two days later, so he lied about the conversation with Mr. Zazi.

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