OTR Interviews

Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's take: Homegrown terror and female sympathizers

Former NYPD commissioner sounds off the case of two women who were arersted for allegedly plotting to detonate pressure cooker bombs in New York and the recent rise of American ISIS sympathizers


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 3, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ANDREA TANTAROS, 'ON THE RECORD' GUEST HOST: The arrests in Philadelphia coming one day after three suspects, all American citizens, appeared in federal court in Brooklyn. Two women accused of plotting to build bombs, and a man accused of plotting to help al Qaeda murder U.S. military members overseas.

So why are so many Americans looking to join these terror groups and so many women? Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly joining me in studio. Commissioner, thank you for coming in on Good Friday.


TANTAROS: How do you think the terror war has changed? As a grateful New Yorker, who watched you really transform the NYPD into a force that kept us safe for so long, when you see reports like this, what sticks out in your mind about how its changed over, say, the last decade since 9/11.

KELLY: I'm not sure it has changed. It's pretty consistent. Two individuals just arrested today in Aurora, Illinois, one planning to go to Syria, the other planning to attack a military base. So, yeah, it's fairly consistent. It's just that we haven't paid that much attention to it. If a plot fails, it's a one-day story. But they sort of accumulate over time. They want to come here and kill Americans or kill other Americans, as we saw in the arrest yesterday. It's an ongoing problem that will be with us for a long time to come.

TANTAROS: Are we safer now?

KELLY: I think the government has done a lot. And we haven't had any successful attacks. I mean, obviously the Ft. Hood massacre was -- I consider a terrorist attack. But other than that, we haven't seen a successful attack. So I think you have to credit local government and federal government. They're doing a lot. And I think we are safer but it's only people who have said we're not safe. We live here in a very open society. New York City, for instance, 10 million people a day are in the city. There's a lot of potential there for mayhem.

TANTAROS: A big target.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has come in and he has reversed a lot of the, I think, good things that you did when you were on the force, a lot of the good terror techniques that were used to foil a lot of these plots that people don't know the NYPD and others have stopped. What do you think about that?

KELLY: Well, quite frankly, I'm not certain that he has changed in that area.


TANTAROS: Well, like listening in on the mosque. Representative Peter King is pretty vocal that that's a useful tool. And the NYPD should have every resource at their disposal to try to go after potential threats.

KELLY: One thing they did change was the Demographics Unit, which I thought was a mistake. This is the most diverse city in the world. We have a right to know where people are living. We can't just rely on census data. That's one thing they did eliminate. But I think they have been clear in saying they appreciate what we put in place before. But I think some crime fighting initiatives have sort of drifted.

TANTAROS: What's the most useful technique that you think the cops are really focusing on now to foil these terror plots? I mean, we see, with these women, they seem to be radicalized over the Internet. I mean, it's changing, so we see more women joining this fight. And the women that were apprehended yesterday in the New York area said that they could do more damage here rather than go abroad. And a lot of that came through the radicalization of the Internet. How's the police addressing that?

KELLY: Well, obviously, there is a lot of monitoring going on in the Internet. The police are able to enter chat rooms. Because New York City has such a diverse police force. Police officers born in 106 countries. They have unique language skills. They are able to get that in these chat rooms and find out what's really going on. We have people who were born in Karachi, so they are able to understand the nuances of a lot of these chat rooms. It is ongoing battle. It's not easy. Every day is a challenge. We see people who are surfacing that really we haven't seen before. A lot of the radicalization is coming about just on the Internet. You see these films that are done. Very sophisticated. They are very well done. These recruitment films. So many of them will show you pictures of the World Trade Center.


KELLY: They're still so proud of that and so focused on New York.

TANTAROS: It's a recruitment tool.

KELLY: Absolutely.

TANTAROS: That they still use.

KELLY: Yeah.

TANTAROS: But they have been more sophisticated. And I think the administration has warned us about these lone-wolf attacks. It's not like it used to be where you had to be trained over there in the mountains of Afghanistan. You can be radicalized behind a computer. That's what is changing and that's what is so scary.

KELLY: Exactly. That's what you saw in the case yesterday. They were getting information from the Internet. They were using "Inspire" magazine which has been out there since 2010. It's a clear how-to book to commit terrorist actions. It was used by the Boston Marathon bombers. It was used in many other attacks. So the information is out there, on the Internet. The radicalization process is alive and well on the Internet.

TANTAROS: We have got to stay alert.

Commissioner, thank you for your service, for keeping us safe, and for coming in tonight.

KELLY: Thank you. Thank you, Andrea.