NYPD are flustered by accidental safe house discovery
A RECORDING has emerged of the moment an apartment superintendent inadvertently walked into one of the New York Police Department's supposedly top-secret anti-terrorist safe houses, heaping embarrassment on the force.
During a routine inspection, Salil Sheth came across a sparsely furnished apartment containing pictures of terrorists, photographs of local landmarks and Muslim literature. The building supervisor called police, thinking he had stumbled upon an al-Qa'ida terrorist plot. But Mr Sheth, who manages an apartment complex in New Brunswick, New Jersey, had inadvertently walked into a base for undercover officers investigating a terrorist cell.
The telephone call, in which Mr Sheth reported the discovery to New Brunswick police, has only just been released after the Associated Press news agency won a year-long battle with the NYPD.
In it he tells police he has found "suspicious activity" in an apartment unit in his building. "What's suspicious?" the operator asks.
"Suspicious in the sense that the apartment. . . has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios," Mr Sheth says.
"There's computer hardware, software, you know, just laying around. There's pictures of terrorists. There's pictures of our neighbouring building."
The female operator handling the call sounds just as confused and surprised as Mr Sheth.
"Really," she asks. "And pictures of your neighbouring buildings?"
"Yes, the Matrix building," Mr Sheth replies, referring to a local developer. "There's pictures of terrorists. There's literature on the Muslim religion."
Unaware the NYPD was in town conducting an undercover operation, the FBI seized the material inside, creating the embarrassing situation of the NYPD having to request that the FBI return its property.
The force had already come under pressure after a series of incidents prompted suggestions that NYPD terrorism surveillance operations were infringing the civil liberties of Muslims. (© Daily Telegraph, London)