James Currie thought he had evaded a citywide manhunt. The New York Police Department had identified Currie, 37, as a prime suspect in a murder investigation after a tourist discovered the dead body of Currie’s seven-month-old infant floating along the East River. Shortly after the discovery of the body, authorities allege, Currie boarded a flight to Abu Dhabi, and eventually to Bangkok.
Less than a week after the baby’s body was discovered, Currie sat under questioning in the interrogation room of the Bangkok airport. His surprise was evident; he reportedly asked Sgt. Edward Lee, the officer in the room with him, how the NYPD got to him so quickly. “That’s just what we do,” Lee replied.
The Growth of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Apparatus
Currie did not know that the NYPD’s resources and operations extended far beyond New York City’s – and even beyond the United States’ – borders. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the City of New York pledged to develop a dedicated counterterrorism infrastructure. Prior to the attacks, the NYPD’s main involvement in counterterrorism operations consisted of a select few officers collaborating with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) on investigations in the city. At the time, the NYPD’s intelligence division concentrated on diplomatic security.
After 9/11, the NYPD’s counterterrorism operations ramped up dramatically, as increased funding from the state and federal government, as well as private organizations such as the New York City Police Foundation, poured in. With the extra funding, the NYPD formed an in-house Counterterrorism Bureau, and overhauled the existing intelligence division to concentrate on counterterrorism intelligence.
The expanded Intelligence Bureau commanded the cornerstone of the NYPD’s sophisticated counterterrorism apparatus: the newly-established International Liaison Program (ILP). Through the ILP, the Intelligence Bureau embeds police officers and analysts in major cities overseas. Currently, the NYPD is known to have officers in over a dozen major cities, including London, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Paris, and Abu Dhabi. While the ILP was established primarily for counterterrorism purposes, the NYPD has also been using the program to apprehend criminal suspects who had fled New York City in an attempt to escape the NYPD. In Currie’s case, coordination from within the International Liaison program, coupled with cooperation from the Royal Thai Police, with whom the NYPD has a working relationship, ultimately allowed the NYPD to apprehend and detain the suspect upon his arrival in Bangkok.
Stationing City Cops Abroad: The Advantages and Disadvantages
For a global city like New York, there are certainly advantages to having police officers stationed abroad. Lt. John Miedreich, the coordinator of the International Liaison Program, notes that liaising directly with foreign law enforcement, rather than communicating through a federal law enforcement or intelligence agency, streamlines the process. “The intelligence needs of a municipal police department are vastly different than that of a federal agency,” Miedreich told NBC 4. “Actionable intelligence or let’s say a lesson learned in the way of tactics, techniques or procedures of a terrorist … Analyzing these things allows us to implement policies and procedures that can better help protect the city.”
On the night of the deadly terrorist attacks on the Bataclan nightclub in Paris, an NYPD liaison officer working alongside French law enforcement and intelligence officers quickly relayed information to NYPD officials to gauge the threat of another attack in New York City. Meanwhile, over the next several months in Lyon, another NYPD liaison officer working at the INTERPOL headquarters updated colleagues in New York on the risk posed by international fugitives who may travel through New York.
But despite its benefits, the NYPD’s International Liaison Program is not without its detractors. Officials at the FBI and CIA have complained that NYPD detectives posted overseas often confuse and frustrate their foreign law enforcement counterparts when they show up to crime scenes alongside U.S. federal counterterrorism officials. Thomas V. Fuentes, a former head of the FBI’s Office of International Operations, told the Washington Post in 2010 that ILP was a “complete waste of money.” Fuentes argued that NYPD officers lack the proper security clearances and resources to participate in participate in foreign counterterrorism investigations. He recalls a particularly exasperating scene, when, minutes of the 2005 subway bombings, New York detectives raced into the tunnel to meet local investigators at the scene. Upon realizing that the foreign detectives belonged to a municipal police force, rather than a federal agency, the local detectives responded with irritation. “They were going to kick everybody out, including the FBI,” Fuentes recounted. “The American ambassador is calling the FBI — ‘What’s the story? Who are these guys? Are they with you?’ ‘No, they’re independent.’”
The CIA has its own frustrations with the NYPD. Cooperation between the two agencies deepened significantly following the attacks on the World Trade Center. In a later-declassified 2011 internal memo, the CIA officials referenced the agency’s uniquely “close and direct collaboration” with the NYPD, and stated that “[the Office of the Inspector General] is unaware of any similar relationships between the Agency and other local law enforcement entities in the United States.” On more than one occasion, however, the agency has lambasted the NYPD’s involvement in intelligence operations. In 2015, Techdirt cited the following question from a CIA test, obtained as part of a FOIA lawsuit filed by the ACLU:
Information about a U.S. person may be disseminated to elements of the Intelligence Community so that the receiving element may determine if it may retain the information pursuant to its own authorities. Which of the following is not (at least partially) an IC element?
a. National Security Agency (NSA). b. The New York Police Department. The Coast Guard. d. The Department of Energy.
CIA officials have been quoted has making similarly disparaging statements about the NYPD’s foray into counterterrorism and intelligence. In a 2010 interview, an anonymous former CIA officer complained about the coordination problems plaguing the NYPD’s counterterrorism apparatus:
The NYPD officers working for the [Joint Terrorism Task Force] are not talking to the NYPD officers working for the Counter Terrorism Bureau or the Intelligence Unit. If they did, they would lose their jobs. They are all enemies. There is zero sharing of information. They have no contact with each other in terms of collaboration; it does not work well at all.
These sources reveal a stark disparity between the NYPD’s perception of itself and the federal intelligence community’s perception of the police force. The NYPD, for its part, sees itself as the steward of a global financial, cultural, and political capital. As such, it is the force’s prerogative and duty to operate globally. The perception of the NYPD held by FBI and CIA officials, however, is less forbearing. To FBI and CIA officials, the NYPD may possess the largest police force (approximately 40,000 officers) and have the largest budget (4.89 billion) among municipal law enforcement departments in the United States; but in extending its reach so far beyond New York City limits, the force unduly encroaches on and undermines federal authority.
 Aaron Katersky, Inside the global manhunt for father accused of dumping his infant in New York’s East River, Abc News, August 13, 2018, https://www.abc15.com/news/national/inside-the-global-manhunt-for-father-accused-of-dumping-his-infant-in-new-yorks-east-river.
 Lydia Khalil, Is New York a Counterterrorism Model?, Council on foreign Relations, September 10, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/new-york-counterterrorism-model.
 “Intelligence,” NYPD Website, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/bureaus/investigative/intelligence.page, accessed Sept. 14, 2018.
 Supra note 1.
 Jonathan Dienst, Rich McHugh, Nancy Ing and Michelle Neubert, I-Team: NYPD Embeds Intelligence Officers in 13 Cities Overseas Since 9/11, NBC 4 New York, Nov. 14, 2016, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/NYPD-Stationed-Overseas-Increasing-Global-Terror-Threat-401186455.html.
 Jeff Stein, NYPD intelligence detectives go their own way, Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/11/nypds_foreign_cops_play_outsid.html.
 As quoted in Ljungkvist, Kristen, The Global City 2.0: From Strategic Site to Global Actor (2015).
 Niall McCarthy, How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing?, Forbes, Aug. 7, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/08/07/how-much-do-u-s-cities-spend-every-year-on-policing-infographic/#3031bc19e7b7.