It was a move made with no fanfare and that drew scant attention. Yet it sent a message about the direction of the NYPD's intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus under Deputy Commissioner John Miller and Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Insp. Paul Ciorra of the highway division was promoted last month to deputy chief of the intelligence division, where he had been until 2009 when Miller's predecessor, David Cohen, forced him out.
Credit former Commissioner Ray Kelly for hiring Cohen, a longtime CIA operative who created an NYPD intelligence division to fight terrorism. Discredit Kelly for allowing Cohen to perpetuate a culture in which the intelligence division refused to share information with other law enforcement agencies and within the NYPD.
This played out in 2009 in what was perhaps the most serious terrorism threat against the city since 9/ll: a plot by Colorado-based Najibullah Zazi and two friends from Queens to plant bombs in NYC subways.
While the FBI tracked Zazi as he drove to New York, Cohen ordered an intelligence detective to contact an informant about Zazi. But Cohen did not alert the FBI, which was leading the investigation.
The informant tipped off Zazi's father, who told his son. Fortunately, the bureau had a wiretap on the father's phone. Agents scrambled and arrested Zazi and his two plotters.
After that, Cohen transferred Ciorra, then a deputy inspector, to a captain's slot in the office of the deputy commissioner of trials. His assignment was to prepare the schedules of the department's five police trial judges -- an obvious dump.
Except for the notorious demographics unit, which reportedly tracked Muslims in NYC, virtually all of Kelly's and Cohen's anti-terrorism programs remain intact. "There is almost no difference structurally or mechanically," Miller told me on Sunday.
Rather, the greatest difference has been in cooperation and collaboration. "It's all about how the intelligence bureau and the counterterrorism bureaus . . . function together," Miller said. "They don't wonder what intel is hiding from them."
As for returning Ciorra to the intellligence division, Miller said, "He knew the players and our federal partners so that bringing him back into fold meant we were able to have someone in a senior operational position with no learning curve."