NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly launched a stinging rebuke to the federal government’s secret phone and Internet monitoring campaign — and suggested leaker Edward Snowden was right about privacy “abuse.”
“I don’t think it ever should have been made secret,” Kelly said today, breaking ranks with US law-enforcement officials.
His blast came days after the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder outraged New York officials by endorsing a federal monitor for the NYPD.
Kelly appeared to firmly reject Holder’s claim that disclosure of the monitoring campaign seriously damaged efforts to fight terrorism.
“I think the American public can accept the fact if you tell them that every time you pick up the phone it’s going to be recorded and it goes to the government,” Kelly said. “I think the public can understand that. I see no reason why that program was placed in the secret category.”
“Secondly, I think if you listen to Snowden, he indicates that there’s some sort of malfeasance, people . . . sitting around and watching the data. So I think the question is: What sort of oversight is there inside the [National Security Agency] NSA to prevent that abuse, if it’s taking place?”
Kelly has been on the receiving side of this kind of criticism.
The NYPD secretly spied on Muslim organizations, infiltrated Muslim student group and videotaped mosque-goers in New Jersey for years, it was revealed in 2012. The NYPD said its actions were lawful and necessary to keep the city safe.
After the vast federal phone-Internet monitoring program was revealed, President Obama said he had struck the right balance between ensuring security and protecting privacy.
But yesterday, Kelly indicated Obama was wrong.
“I think we can raise people’s comfort level if in fact information comes out as to that we have these controls and these protections inside the NSA,” he said.
Allies of Kelly viewed his criticism as payback for Holder’s decision to recommend — at the 11th hour of a controversial court case — that a federal monitor oversee the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program.
“Everything that Ray Kelly does has a purpose,” said City Council Public Safety Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens). “If Eric Holder wants to lecture Police Commissioner Kelly on how to fight crime in New York, then one of the world’s foremost experts on public safety [Kelly] can lecture Holder on how to fight terrorism.”
Holder and other law-enforcement officials have trashed Snowden and his claim about out-of-control government snooping.
Kelly said of the leaker:
“He tried to give the impression, it seems to me, that these system administrators had carte blanche to do what they wanted to do,” he said. “I think it’s a problem if that’s in fact what’s happening.”