Monday, December 12, 2005

Exclusive: Document reveals clues about investigation of NY Muslim compound prior to 1993 WTC attack

A reader noted in the comments of an earlier post that a 1999 news story from the Village Voice mentioned that law enforcement officers in New York had been investigated for carrying out a “confidential, covert investigation” of a “Muslim community” in the Hancock/Deposit/Tompkins area, what we know as the headquarters compound of Shiekh Gilani’s followers in the U.S., and that a report had been published.

I have obtained a copy of the report. The 15-page document from the City of New York Department of Investigation (DOI) is entitled, “Final Report of an Investigation of Mismanagement and Misconduct by the Bureau of Water Supply Police” [March 1992].

Both the Village Voice mention and the report itself appear to hint that the motivation for the investigation was racially-motivated and unwarranted. Well, it was unwarranted in that the officers carrying out the “covert” investigation did not have a warrant to do so, but it appears their concerns were not, shall we say, unmerited. The racial implication was given because the officers had also reportedly investigated the Jewish Defense League (JDL). They also reportedly investigated a group known as the Weathermen. Both the Weathermen and the JDL have been labeled terrorist organizations.

Could it be that these officers were merely concerned about domestic terrorists operating in the area near a water supply reservoir and dam? It seems that is what sparked their investigation. Maybe they were uneasy about the possibilities that existed. A federal agent had inquired to the neighbors about the place and it seems these officers took it upon themselves to find out what they could.

The “covert investigation” started in the summer of 1988 and continued through most of 1991. It appears that neither the officers who conducted the “covert investigation” nor those who subsequently investigated them had any organizational knowledge of this Muslim community in New York and its connections elsewhere.

But, by 1988, Sheikh Gilani’s Fuqra organization had carried out several assassinations and bombings in the U.S. In August of 1989, detectives searched a storage locker used by Fuqra members in Colorado. The locker contained explosives, shape charges, pipe bombs, guns, silencers, IEDs, targeting packages, and among other items, a human silhouette firing range target on which “FBI Anti-Terrorist Team” was written around the bullseye. At the very same time the officers were surveilling the community in upstate NY, Fuqra was the subject of a massive investigation in Colorado involving 150 individuals with local, state, federal, and private entities from 15 states including the New York City Police Department.

One incident that was noted in the report was rather peculiar. On December 24, 1988, there was a "fire in a trailer at the compound, which...went unreported until a neighbor saw the smoke and called the fire department...the fire department was denied access and reported hearing live ammunition discharging as a result of the fire." Later, one of the officers secretly entered the compound undercover with a garbage man to surveil the fire damage.

Following this in January 1989, the officers used a fixed-wing plane to take aerial photographs of the compound. They also attempted to obtain night vision equipment to conduct surveillance. In the summer of 1991, an officer accompanied an Air National Guard helicopter mission searching for marijuana and diverted the aircraft over the compound to take additional photographs. The officers' investigation continued right up until the time they themselves were investigated.

The report cited lack of protocols in documentation and oversight and recommended the replacement of the Administrator for the Bureau of Water Supply Police.

Albeit, their law enforcement protocols may have been lacking in this instance, their interest in this Muslim community was not unjustifiable. The methods they used to carry out this investigation may have been inappropriate and I understand why there were concerns. The officers conducted an illegal search, ran background checks from vehicle license numbers, and used both a plane and Air National Guard counterdrug helicopter to take aerial photographs of the compound. But, the DOI report is interesting for another reason, however. It is interesting because of what it reveals about the substance of the investigation in the context of what we now know.

We now know that the pre-9/11 approach to terrorism was that it was an issue to be addressed by law enforcement and legal professionals. Action was only to be taken after the fact and political correctness was to be observed. Granted, we have the advantage of hindsight in a post-9/11 world. However, that advantage is not so pleasant given what was required to gain it.

The DOI “closing memorandum” is dated March 4, 1992. Among the conclusions:
“The BWSP investigation lacked any reasonable factual basis. It was the product of irrational fears acted upon by a police unit suffering from inadequate training, ignorance of the law, poor management, supervisory paralysis, and boredom.”
(emphasis added)
Irrational fears? Let me add some rationality to them. The first attack on the World Trade Center occurred less than one year later on February 26, 1993. Six people were killed & over 1,000 were injured. Participants in the plot were reportedly trained at the Muslim compound in question. The plot also included plans to attack other New York landmarks, such as the UN building, FBI offices, and city tunnels. (Some members of the NY compound are NYC bridge & tunnel workers). Members of Fuqra were convicted in the conspiracy.

View or download the DOI report below:

[UPDATE: Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers! I hope you'll check out some of my other posts on this topic. Stay tuned for more to come.]


Baron Bodissey said...

CP, this is excellent work. When I get time I will post on it and link your report.

Newvictorian said...

Indeed, ditto the Baron. I've done a post and linked and also added you to the blogroll. You are inspiring me to do more than idle chitchat at my blog!


Jesse Clark said...

Great research, CP. As usual, I've included a link in my post today.

Keep up the good work.

Conservative Mutant said...

One can learn lots of interesting things from this report.

1) That Village Voice article, which mentions the investigation circumstantially, seems to be conflating some rather separate issues. Gatto, by their account, is a pro-active, highly effective leader who's been getting the DEP police better training, equipment, etc...yet according to his wife, he "blew the whistle" on this investigation. Now, I'd have to agree with the DOI to some extent; what stuff they did pick up would all have been completely inadmissible, and reading between the lines of the report, they clearly knew they were up to something that wouldn't bear daylight. It would have been better if, instead of blowing smoke about "federal agencies," they'd actually gotten the BATF, say, in on the case. (Code word: "militia"!) But blowing the whistle on the investigation (as opposed to quietly shutting it down or legally cleaning it up) seems an odd response from a proactive cop. In fact, the point seems to be moot: this particular investigation originated with Frank Munari, appointed Acting Police Administrator after a Nov. 1991 report on "management problems" in the BWSP. Now, Gatto may have had something to do with the earlier report, but the JF investigation only seems to have surfaced in official eyes afterwards. Mention of the JF investigation in connection with Gatto seems to be a conflation, attempting to link racial element's to Gatto's unpopularity with the "racist" JF investigation.

2)The DOI's recommendations for how to deal with this seem to be essentially just a continuation of changes triggered by the Nov. 1991 report on "Enforcement Activity and Overtime Practices," namely, the reorganization/consolidation of the DEP's law enforcement arm (including the BWSP) and some purges in management. Patrick Murphy, former Deputy Chief, Sources Division, is named specifically (he was already on his way out after the first report); the managers who winked at the investigation seem to have taken the fall, rather than the officers who actually did it. I can find no information on line about Sgt. Van Tyle, who seems to have run the investigation, but then-Officer Benedetto, who originally requested it, now ranks as Assistant Chief of Police and is the Chief of Operations for DEP Police. Make of that what you will.

Don't know what your source is, CP,
but you might try asking for the Nov. 1991 report as well; I doubt it has any bearing on the JF investigation, but it might be worth checking to be sure.

Always On Watch said...

Outstanding work here!

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But I have to ask myself, "How many other 'Muslim communities' are being overlooked?

At least, certain activities are no longer viewed as mere criminal matters. A step in the right direction, I think.

Notta Libb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
k9strapon said...

I know the officers in question personally, and I need to clarify some points: first, they did not investigate the JDL or the weathermen, just the radical muslims. Secondly, they started their investigation after numerous attepmts to coordinate with both the FBI and ATF, but after getting absolutely no response from either agency, they did their job - investigate possible criminal activity.