When Bobby Farid Hadid, an Algerian merchant marine, was twenty-three, he discovered that a pay phone in a train station near the Algerian shore was broken. He could call anywhere in the world free. He dialled the country code for the United States, followed by ten random numbers. Sheilla Jean-Baptiste, a young Haitian-American in New York, picked up the phone. “Hello, America?” Hadid said.
They both spoke French. They discussed their ages, their jobs, and their races. Hadid described himself as “light.” Jean-Baptiste said she was black, and asked if that was O.K. She was eager to “make a friend from far away,” she said. Hadid began sending her postcards and calling her from ports around the world.
They corresponded for four years, and in 1994 Hadid applied for a visa to America, where he hoped to find work. Two marines on his company’s boat had been assassinated by Islamist insurgents, and he no longer felt safe in the shipping industry. He didn’t know English, but he said that “it sounded like music to me: the rhythm, the way they pronounce the ‘h’ sound using their throats.”
A week after arriving in America, Hadid, who was Muslim, met Jean-Baptiste at her parents’ home. “He had one of the most welcoming faces,” Jean-Baptiste said. “He wanted to know about every little thing—who, what, why?” Within a month, they married. To understand her husband’s upbringing, Jean-Baptiste, who was Catholic, began reading the Quran.
Hadid rented a pushcart and sold hot dogs at Thirty-ninth Street and First Avenue. A few people mocked his accent, slipped him fake money, or threw buns at him, but for the most part Americans were “open-minded, funny, beautiful,” he said. After working as a vender for a year, he was hired by Pitney Bowes to repair copy machines. On his days off, he drove a cab. At night, he lay in bed replaying the events of his day, thinking, What did I do today—did I achieve something?
On September 11, 2001, four of his colleagues at Pitney Bowes died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Hadid watched the television for hours, crying. He thought, I have to protect this beautiful country of ours. I want to move this country forward, even if it’s just by a millimetre. He enrolled at the training academy for the New York City Police Department, which was seeking Arabic speakers. As a child, he had hidden under his bed when he heard police sirens, but now the N.Y.P.D. sounded like “paradise on earth—the money, the shield,” he said. He became an officer in July, 2002, at the age of thirty-five. On the wall of the couple’s living room, in Astoria, Queens, he hung a two-foot photograph of the Twin Towers.
Jean-Baptiste was skeptical about his new career, but, she said, “I kept my opinion to myself.” His friends were less discreet. “The N.Y.P.D. is against minorities,” one told him. “Why are you going against your own community?” Hadid explained his reasoning by describing American traffic court. “Even the person who gets a parking ticket can confront the cop in front of a judge,” he told them. “That’s democracy, that’s freedom. In this country, you can fight anyone.”
Hadid thrived within the police hierarchy. The captains and lieutenants, whom he always called Cap and Lou, felt to him so superior that they seemed otherworldly. He was promoted from monitoring traffic at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge to translating and transcribing wiretaps, and then to the vice team. In 2005, he was one of only forty officers to receive a nearly perfect score on the department’s language exam, earning the title “master linguist” in Arabic and French. A year later, he won a meritorious commendation from the commissioner for infiltrating a high-end prostitution ring. He dressed in a suit and a tie, exaggerated his accent, and persuaded a madam to lead him to a room where twenty Japanese teen-agers were being held. “He brings to the Police Department a special talent,” a supervisor wrote.
In 2007, Hadid was promoted to the rank of detective and approved for a top-secret security clearance. He became a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a cell of investigators and analysts who work with the F.B.I. “I think I fulfilled my American dream,” he said. He had a jolly, exuberant presence, and he easily cultivated confidential informants. He warmed them up by chatting about shared holidays and wedding rituals. In Algeria, he had taught himself a dozen Arabic dialects by watching movies with subtitles. In an evaluation that year, he was described as “an accomplished linguist who utilizes his Arabic language skills to the benefit of all” and “maintains the highest level of Police Ethics.”
Hadid often prayed during his lunch breaks. His family had never been particularly religious—his sisters didn’t cover themselves, and, aboard the marine ships, he used to drink and gamble—but Jean-Baptiste had converted to Islam four years into their marriage and now wore a hijab. When she began studying the Quran, he decided to reread it. They had three sons who went to Islamic Sunday school, and he wanted to be able to answer their questions. “It was embarrassing that I come to America, and they end up showing me my religion,” he said. “That’s my ego.” He tried to adhere to the five pillars of Islam, but only when they didn’t interfere with his work. He explained his approach by repeating a French saying: Il faut suivre la mode ou quitter le pays—“You have to follow the fashion or leave the country.”
After five years on the force, Hadid was asked to work as a French interpreter on his first homicide. The body of a young Sicilian waiter, Angelo Guzzardi, had been found in a dumpster in Brooklyn a few days before 9/11. The case had gone cold.
Hadid flew to France with two Brooklyn detectives, whose parochialism made him self-conscious. “They could not even use the bathroom without me,” he said. Working alongside French officers at the Paris Police Prefecture, they interrogated a Congolese-Frenchman, Marien Theophile Mbossa Kargu, who had shared an apartment with Guzzardi in Brooklyn during the last week of his life. Kargu had drawn suspicion after he falsely told friends that Guzzardi had died in the Twin Towers. For nine hours, Kargu insisted that he knew nothing about his roommate’s death.
The next day, the detectives interviewed Kargu’s girlfriend, Leïla Grison, who had lived in Brooklyn with Kargu and Guzzardi. She was half Algerian. Hadid told her in French that he, too, was Algerian. Her son was biracial. Hadid had biracial sons, too. “I was using everything I had,” he said. The detectives gave her coffee, food, soda, and cigarettes, but she wouldn’t talk.
After three hours, Hadid tried what he called his “last resort,” focussing on hannana, an Arabic word for the love a mother feels for her child. “I am giving you my word right now,” he told her. “If you tell me exactly what happened, I promise you are going to spend tonight with your son.” She started crying and asked for another cigarette. Then she began speaking more slowly. “I could feel it in her voice,” Hadid said. “She is tired and wants to get it over with.” She confessed that her boyfriend, who was angry at Guzzardi for giving her cocaine, had inadvertently killed him in a fistfight while she was at the laundromat. When she returned to their apartment, Kargu was on his knees, sobbing. “It was an accident,” he told her.
As soon as Kargu learned that his girlfriend had given him up, he confessed, too. He said that he had tried CPR and then contemplated calling the police, but his “mind went in circles.” He said, “The fact of being black and to have caused the death of a white man—this created a panic inside of me.” He wrapped Guzzardi in a garbage bag and then dropped the bag in a dumpster. Kargu and Grison flew home to Paris that night.
After the confessions, Hadid and the detectives stepped out of the interrogation room and hugged one another. Hadid told them, “You got your collar.” They stood on the copper roof of the police station, overlooking the Seine, and took photographs. In one, Hadid wears a black suit with a wide red tie, and his gold shield hangs from the pocket of his blazer. He looks triumphant and a little cocky.
The next day, Hadid’s colleagues flew back to New York, and Hadid stayed in France to visit his sister, who lived in Lille. At her house, he received a call on his cell phone from Grison, who was crying. “Please, can we just talk for few minutes?” she said. He reluctantly agreed. “I felt obligated to talk to her because of what she did, helping us to not only solve the case but to put the father of her son behind bars,” he said.
Just before leaving for the U.S., Hadid met with Grison for twenty minutes at an outdoor café in Paris. Hadid was accompanied by his cousin and her son, who played nearby while they talked. Grison felt remorse for betraying her boyfriend, and she asked whether he would be extradited to America. When Hadid said that he couldn’t talk about the case, she began crying again. “You did the right thing,” he told her. “You have a tranquil conscience now.”
A few weeks after Hadid returned to New York, Grison e-mailed him to wish him a happy New Year. Hadid showed the e-mail to Jean-Baptiste, who was sitting in the living room with two of their sons. “My whole family wishes you the same,” he wrote in response. “Very good year full of happiness, prosperity, good health and overall lots of success and good hope in this life.”
Hadid and the other two detectives were awarded Certificates of Appreciation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and Detectives of the Month by The Gold Shield, a publication of the N.Y.P.D. union. A few weeks after he returned to New York, Hadid was promoted to sergeant. “I was very proud of that,” he said, “and I felt that I could never do enough to say, ‘Thank you, the United States, and God bless you. Thank you.’ ” He fantasized that, after twenty years with the force, he’d get a job in politics, maybe even end up as an aide in the White House. Once, when he and another sergeant were on Thirty-ninth Street, he said to him, “Can you believe the guy standing next to you used to sell hot dogs on this block?”
A month after he returned from France, he was summoned to the office of David Cohen, the deputy commissioner for the department’s Intelligence Division. Formerly a deputy director at the C.I.A., Cohen was appointed after 9/11 to “protect New York City from another terrorist attack,” he said. Under his direction, the Intelligence Division began treating the Muslim faith as a cause for scrutiny. The division’s new Demographics Unit sent confidential informants to infiltrate mosques, as well as cafés and bodegas, and to collect the names and license-plate numbers of congregants at religious services; video cameras were sometimes installed outside the mosques. The rationale for the surveillance was outlined in a report, “Radicalization in the West,” published by the Intelligence Division, which suggested that sites where Muslim men congregate could be “incubators,” encouraging people to embark on a path from “preradicalization” to “jihadization.” “Indicators” of radicalism included “growing a beard” and “becoming involved in social activism.” One of the sites that the N.Y.P.D. targeted was a mosque near Hadid’s apartment, where he had prayed for more than ten years.
Cohen said in a deposition that he was impressed by Hadid’s “good record of comportment,” and his “valuable experience on terrorism-related issues,” adding that “those reasons were connected to our interest in building and sustaining a counterterrorism intelligence program.” He wanted Hadid on the Citywide Debriefing Team, a secret arm of the division that was created under Cohen’s watch and that operated out of the same building as the Demographics Unit, in Chelsea. Hadid hadn’t known it existed.
Hadid and another sergeant, Frank Garcia, were tasked with supervising a team of eight officers, who interviewed arrestees at precincts, at central booking, and in their homes, gathering intelligence on “travel routes, trends, patterns, tactics, techniques and procedures which may have a nexus to terrorism as well as information on criminal activity,” as one department report put it. The people they interviewed were often immigrants, who had been arrested for petty offenses, like possession of marijuana, driving without a license, or disorderly conduct. The detectives wrote detailed chronologies of their lives, including the names and phone numbers of their relatives, and documented the contents of their wallets or pockets: bank statements, business cards, scraps of paper containing a MySpace password.
At the end of the interview, the arrestee was usually asked to become a confidential informant. “They said, ‘We’re going to send you to bodegas, to mosques, to places where your people hang out, and all you have to do is listen,’ ” Hadid told me. Occasionally, detectives would promise to help the arrestees with their immigration status. “They said yes because of the fear and the pressure,” Hadid said. They were referred to a different unit, and Hadid never heard from them again.
On his new desk, Hadid placed English, Arabic, and French dictionaries, the N.Y.P.D. patrol guide, a small statue of Bob Marley, and the Quran. Against the wall of his cubicle, he propped a copper-plated picture of Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem. Hadid said that he was approached by four analysts from the Intelligence Division who asked to look at the picture. He was happy to chat about the mosque. “It’s one of the holiest sites in Sunni Islam,” he told them.
Every few weeks, the Citywide Debriefing Team was told to focus on a “country of concern.” The nations were chosen by examining what the “current threat picture looked like,” Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, said in a deposition, explaining that they were trying “to find those people that were radicalized towards violence.” One week, the team was instructed to debrief people from Tunisia. “This is one of my areas of expertise,” Hadid told his supervisor. “Do you have anything more specific? Do we know what we are looking for?” Hadid said that his supervisor replied, “Any Tunisians.”
When no country of concern had been designated, Hadid said that the detectives reviewed a list of the arrests made in New York City in the past twenty-four hours. “They’d look for Muhammad, Abdul, Daoud, Akbar, Hussain,” Hadid said. The arrestees were sometimes questioned for up to four hours. Hadid said one detective insisted that if a person was looking forty-five degrees to the left he was lying about the details of his life. “Some of them cried,” Hadid said. “They got very shaky. They were just in shock.” Muslim arrestees were frequently asked to reveal the mosque where they prayed, and on which days; the schools their children attended; the airline they took when they arrived in America; how often they returned to their homeland; the jobs and addresses of family members back home; whether they’d gone on pilgrimage to Mecca or fasted on Ramadan. A Palestinian-American, arrested for an improper left-hand turn, felt compelled to tell Hadid and another detective that he was hoping for peace in the Middle East, and that he wished people would “know the true nature of Islam.” In the report of his debriefing, the Palestinian-American is described three times as “nervous” and five times as “evasive.” Hadid said, “Inside, I was laughing. I mean, come on, we are supposed to be fighting terrorism.”
Once, Hadid said, after his team interviewed a parolee at his home in Queens, a detective filed a debriefing report that drew attention to an Arabic video, “The Message,” resting on the man’s television stand. The movie, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1978, chronicles the birth of Islam and stars Anthony Quinn. “It’s a beautiful movie,” Hadid told the detective, laughing. “What’s the big deal?” The detective told him that the movie is about Muslims killing one another. “I have the movie,” Hadid said. “You should interrogate me.”
Hadid tried to participate in as few debriefings as possible. “What they were doing was wrong—it was completely stupid,” he said. “I was not going to go there and be part of that.” He spent more time in his office, in Chelsea, reviewing the debriefing reports filed in the past few months. “I like to read, and when I read I study—I go into depth,” he told me. Of nearly six hundred reports filed in the past year, he was alarmed by how many reports focussed on Muslim men, when only three per cent of New Yorkers are Muslim. In the files, he came across a report about one of his neighbors, who had recently complained about being detained at J.F.K. airport. Hadid became worried that, as a result of the reports in the Intelligence Division’s database system, people’s names were being flagged when they travelled. Two members of the Citywide Debriefing Team were stationed at J.F.K., where they assisted with T.S.A. inspections and researched travellers’ histories, reservations, and payment methods. Hadid advised his detectives not to file debriefing reports unless they had information about illegal activity, a policy consistent with the department’s Patrol Guide.
Often, the detectives ignored him. The Citywide Debriefing Team documented all their interviews, regardless of whether the reports contained intelligence. “We had to generate them to show that we were working,” Frank Garcia, the other sergeant overseeing the team, said in a deposition. In an e-mail with the subject line “The Numbers game again,” Garcia told the officers, “We must play the game.”
Rumors circulated that Hadid had been denied a top-secret security clearance, which was not true. Donald Powers, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division’s Investigations Unit, said in a deposition that he heard Hadid “had only been granted a secret clearance, not a TS clearance,” and interpreted it as “some type of warning.” He assumed that there had been “derogatory information” in Hadid’s record, he said, because “there is usually a negative reason why you’re not granted that.” A memo summarizing a private meeting between a lieutenant and a sergeant in the Intelligence Division noted that Hadid “refused to give up his Algerian citizenship and voted in the last Algerian elections.” (Hadid had retained his citizenship—“I’m not going to forget my roots,” he said—but he hadn’t voted in the elections.)
After Hadid had been with the unit for five months, seven senior officers in the Intelligence Division held a meeting about him. According to a memo that outlined the conversation, the group discussed whether he was travelling in the city alone, without a partner, while on duty. There was also concern that Hadid’s office was “in close proximity to the Analytical Shop,” where confidential paperwork was kept. The memo said, “Hadid disappeared on Fridays to attend prayer service.”
Cohen ordered the Investigations Unit to start an internal probe of Hadid. An integrity-control officer, William Brosnan, “will conduct surveillance,” a memo said. In a deposition, Cohen explained that Brosnan would investigate “if there is a pattern of departures at a certain time, certain day—whatever it is—and simply monitor Sergeant Hadid’s movement at roughly those times to see where he goes.” Cohen said, “If Sergeant Hadid gets in another car, starts it up and drives away, then Lieutenant Brosnan on surveillance follow him.”
In the years after the World Trade Center attacks, Muslim officers found themselves promoted to prestigious units because of their linguistic and cultural knowledge. A 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal announced that the N.Y.P.D. was “reaching out to immigrants” who want to take “Islam back from terrorist groups.” But their newly elevated status could also make them look like interlopers. In a 2008 lawsuit, a Muslim Egyptian officer in the Intelligence Division’s Cyber Unit complained that his colleagues told him that Muslims had no place in law enforcement, and that they should be operating hot-dog carts instead. Mohsin Aftab, a Muslim officer from Pakistan who worked in the Demographics Unit in 2005, told me that after he expressed doubts about the purpose of eavesdropping on mundane conversations between Muslims he was transferred. “I asked simple questions, like ‘Why do we have to do this report?’ ” he said. “They sent me packing. My heart was broken.” He said, “I did not get support from fellow-Muslims, because everyone is so scared of losing their jobs.”
The N.Y.P.D.’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which at the time had a staff of seven hundred and fifty people and a two-million-dollar budget, seemed especially attentive to the activities of Muslim and Arabic-speaking officers. The bureau investigates officers who have fallen under suspicion, using surveillance and sting operations called Integrity Tests. Charles Campisi, who ran the Internal Affairs Bureau between 1996 and 2014, wrote in his memoir, “Blue on Blue,” published this year, that the “prospect of a terrorist infiltration of the NYPD ranks isn’t just some vague, half-formed nightmare on my part.” He asks, “How hard is it to imagine that there could be an NYPD cop out there who’s willing to cross to the other side? . . . Or a cop who could use the trust built up over the course of years to penetrate the NYPD’s world-class intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus?” Preventing this outcome, he writes, requires “constant, proactive Internal Affairs or counterintelligence monitoring,” as well as adherence to “the old admonition: If you see something, or hear something, or even just suspect something, then say something.”
One officer, who was teaching himself Arabic, was reported to the Internal Affairs Bureau after his supervisor saw him browsing luggage on an Arabic Web site. The bureau spent a year surveilling and investigating him, and staged an Integrity Test in which a man posed as an imam.
Mohamed Abdelal, an officer born in Egypt, came under suspicion in 2008, after he tried, on his day off, to visit a jailed Egyptian businessman, who had embezzled money from a friend of Abdelal’s. A sergeant at the jail alerted the Internal Affairs Bureau. “Everything going on in our country, unfortunately these are signs and things that we look out and prepare ourselves for,” the sergeant said at Abdelal’s administrative trial. “It’s not profiling, it’s nothing. It’s just putting one and one together equals two.”
For a year, Abdelal said, undercover I.A.B. agents monitored his home; investigated his family, his friends, and his father’s business, a travel agency, and consulted with Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service about his movements. (The N.Y.P.D. denies investigating his family.) He was also subjected to two Integrity Tests by an undercover officer with a fake Arabic name. Abdelal told me, “They were trying to do a gotcha—to show I was part of a sleeper cell or something. They dissected everything about my life.”
Once, when Abdelal was spending the day with a college friend, a dentist visiting from Ohio, he noticed that a man wearing a black T-shirt and carrying a small black duffelbag appeared to be following them. Abdelal and his friend entered different stores, to see if the man would do the same. After the man followed them in and out of a Baskin-Robbins and back into a cigar shop, Abdelal began video-recording him with his phone. “Is there a reason you’re following us?” he asked. The man stared straight ahead, chewing gum, and said nothing. “I just want to know,” Abdelal continued. “You got to keep up if you’re going to follow us.” Silent, the man kept chewing.
No new information emerged from I.A.B.’s probes. The department charged Abdelal with improperly identifying himself at the jail visit and failing to seek approval from his commanding officer. For this, along with a few other minor violations, he was terminated from the department. The deputy commissioner of trials, however, wrote that “none of these, even in combination, would ordinarily justify termination.”
Abdelal told me, “It’s very hard to lose your job at the N.Y.P.D. unless you have committed a crime,” adding, “Even cops who have done heinous things—they still got to keep their jobs.” (The officer who was responsible for Eric Garner’s death is still on the force.) Abdelal continues to be haunted by the idea that someone is watching him. “There’s always this feeling of ‘Who’s following me? Who’s recording me?’ ” he said. When he learned that Muslim civilians were being surveilled by the N.Y.P.D. at mosques and cafés, he wasn’t surprised. He said, “The department was doing the same thing on the outside as the inside.”
Hadid was transferred out of the Intelligence Division in May, 2009, after only a year. An audit of his e-mails and an investigation by the integrity-control officer had revealed a discrepancy between the number of debriefings that Hadid had reported and the number of reports filed in the Intelligence Division’s database system. He was accused of asking officers to falsify debriefings, a charge he denied. “The investigation reveals at a minimum that Sergeant Hadid has failed to supervise his subordinates,” David Cohen wrote in a memo. The F.B.I. was instructed to shut off Hadid’s security clearance.
He was put on the midnight patrol shift in the 115th Precinct, in northern Queens, which has a sizable Muslim population. He worried that residents there would recognize his face from the debriefings. The move from plainclothes to uniform felt like a demotion, but he still took pride in the work. In an evaluation performed in 2010, his supervisor wrote, “Sergeant Hadid consistently reflects a high level of integrity and professionalism. He carries out department policy in an exemplary manner.”
But Hadid felt as if something had shifted: he had lost the department’s trust. Hadid said that when he called in sick one day—for the first time in seven years—a lieutenant from his precinct paid a surprise visit to his house and asked to see his cough medication. Then he was subjected to an Integrity Test. An officer called him, pretending to be a journalist, and asked him about a local crime. Hadid passed the test: he directed the journalist to contact the public-information office.
In October, 2010, officers from the Paris Police Prefecture flew to Brooklyn for Kargu’s murder trial. Hadid invited the French detectives to his house for dinner. His mother, visiting from Algeria, made couscous for them.
Cops are seeking a man wanted in connection to a burglary inside an apartment building in the Sunset Park area.
Authorities say that on Thursday, February 22 at around 8:18 a.m., the suspect broke into the apartment building on Fourth Avenue (cops haven’t released where on Fourth Avenue) by prying open the front door. The man then pried open the basement door and proceeded to remove several tools from inside a room.
The individual is described as a male, 35 to 45 years-old, approximately 5’10”, and around 180 pounds.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
All calls are strictly confidential.