Pulitzer Prize–winning AP journalists Apuzzo and Goldman reveal the details of the NYPD’s post-9/11 counterterrorism intelligence unit amid the almost-undetected 2009 plot to bomb the subway system.
To account for the systemic failure of government agencies to stop the Sept. 11 attacks and to ensure that all future terrorist plots would be snuffed out, the NYPD began an unprecedented intelligence-gathering campaign to bolster anti-terrorism security. The newly formed Intelligence Division was unlike any municipal law enforcement department in the nation. Headed by former CIA analyst David Cohen, with the support of Commissioner Ray Kelly, the I.D. began operating like an international spy unit rather than a division of the police department. Among the many controversial practices put into place by Cohen was the deliberate and methodical surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods throughout the city. The cops charged with collecting this information, known as “rakers,” would draft reports of their surveillance on Muslim businesses, mosques and social clubs, however trivial, misleading or erroneous the information. The goal of the project was to identify areas of radicalization and pinpoint possible terrorists before they could act. However, despite the department’s best efforts to map Muslim activities, three young New Yorkers began plotting the most significant attack on the city since 9/11. Najibullah Zazi, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay were all naturalized American citizens, yet they, too, were seduced by jihad and even traveled to an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan. While Apuzzo and Goldman show their veteran reportorial skills in exposing the details of the NYPD’s surveillance program, they also expertly craft the drama of the unfolding terrorist plot and the race by government agencies to foil it. For all its fastidiousness, the efficacy of the I.D.’s methods has been hotly debated, and evidence presented by the authors suggests that there is no direct link between the data collected by the department and a reduction in terrorism.
A fast-paced, informative investigation into the ever-messy arena of privacy versus security.