Cardillo Cover-up: Seedman Speaks

Al Seedman is a legendary figure in New York City police lore. An elegantly attired, tough talking, cigar chomping Jew, he served in the NYPD from 1942 to 1972, investigating thousands of murders, including the cases of Joe Colombo, Joey Gallo, and Kitty Genovese. He was named Chief of Detectives in 1971. In 1972, he abruptly resigned, retreating to silence and exile from his beloved police department.

New Information on Cardillo shooting from Al Seedman

In 1974, he published with writer Peter Hellman Chief! Classic Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives. It’s a classic indeed, full of interesting detective work, but it is largely silent on the true reason for his resignation from a job he loved at the top of his game.

Planning a re-issue of the book as an Authors Guild edition, Hellman reached out to Seedman, now 92 and living in Florida, for a new introduction. Hellman got plenty. Seedman was finally ready to talk about the true reason for his resignation: the shooting of Police Office Phillip Cardillo in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque # 7 in Harlem on April 14, 1972, and the subsequent cover-up. Hellman’s recent New York Post story about Seedman and Cardillo is linked below.

To the police rank and file, the Cardillo killing is the greatest scandal in NYPD history—a story of murder, betrayal and cover-up.

Some of the key figures in the scandal are still with us, namely Representative Charles Rangel, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Seedman told Hellman that cops at the mosque were “betrayed” by top NYPD brass colluding with Rangel and Farrakhan. Rangel and Farrakhan quickly arrived at the mosque after the Cardillo shooting. So did Al Seedman and the NYPD cavalry. Outside, a riot was brewing.

The police had sixteen suspects in the basement of the mosque, almost certainly the shooter among them. In the basement, Seedman encountered Rangel and Farrakhan. According to Hellman’s account, Rangel told Seedman that a senior police official “wanted the mosque to be cleared of cops at once. This edict was seconded by Louis Farrakhan.”

Rangel then issued a veiled threat to Seedman. “That crowd upstairs, they know you’re down here,” Seedman remembers Rangel saying, “I don’t know how long it will be before they come down. If you don’t leave now, I can’t guarantee your personal safety.”

Seedman called NYPD Chief Inspector Michael Codd to request back-up. Codd denied the request. “And he made it clear to me,” Seedman told Hellman, “that we should abandon the mosque to minimize the threat of a possible riot. And then he hung up.”

Seedman felt “betrayed.” But he had been given an order: abandon the mosque.

Seedman says he struck a deal with Rangel, with Farrakhan standing at their side: he would release the sixteen suspects to Rangel if the congressman promised to deliver them to the 24th Precinct for questioning later that day. Rangel agreed. The NYPD abandoned the crime scene and the suspects. Rangel and the suspects never showed up at the 24th Precinct.

Thus began a forty-year ordeal seeking justice for Police Officer Phillip Cardillo and answers to the mosque shooting. Was there a conspiracy to lure police officers into an ambush at the mosque? Cardillo and three others were first on the scene, racing to respond to what turned out to be a false “officer in distress” call. Was the FBI somehow involved in a cover-up, perhaps shielding valuable informants or controversial methods from the NYPD? It’s happened before. Think “Whitey Bulger.”

Ray Kelly? He was a young police sergeant at the time, stationed at the hospital where Phillip Cardillo died six days after the shooting. Thirty-four years later, as police commissioner, Kelly re-opened the case. Six years after that, in March of this year, Kelly’s spokesman in effect closed the case, saying the Major Case Squad had turned up “no new information.”

But sources tell me that the FBI was singularly uncooperative with the NYPD’s Cardillo probe, slow-rolling inquiries and providing only heavily redacted documents. Why would they do that? Well, consider the times. 1972 was an era of violent revolutionary action in the United States: the Weathermen, the Black Liberation Army, Vietnam, Watergate, urban bombings, cop killings. The FBI supposedly ceased its COINTELPRO operations and black bags jobs against domestic dissidents in 1971. And we know that the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, Farrakhan’s predecessor at Mosque #7, were COINTELPRO targets.

There are other possible lines of inquiry as well. Independent investigators have turned up redacted documents indicating the FBI had five or six informants in or around the mosque in April, 1972. What would the unredacted documents tell us? Forty years later, maybe Charles Rangel and Louis Farrakhan have reconsidered their positions on the case. Have they been interviewed? Al Seedman is in ill health and no longer smokes cigars, Peter Hellman reports. Maybe someone should go down to Florida and get him on the record before he goes off to that great cigar store in the sky.

Murder cases famously are never closed, and that goes double for a cop killing. Ray Kelly’s NYPD is not at fault. But after a six-year investigation, if the NYPD has run out of leads, Kelly should do the right thing and call for a federal probe. Let’s see if the Justice Department and Congress can get to the bottom of this. They should start with the FBI’s relationship with the Nation of Islam.


Read Peter Hellman’s New York Post story on Al Seedman here.

Read my Daily News op-ed calling for a federal probe of the Cardillo killing here.

Read my New York Post team report on new evidence in the case here.

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?

It’s been a tough few months for our equine friends. In New York, by the close of Aqueduct Racetrack’s winter meet, nineteen thoroughbreds had broken down—a polite term for suffering a catastrophic racing injury—and were executed by lethal injection. Nineteen. That’s a huge number.

Albany is investigating. Good luck with that.

Over at HBO, the terrific horse racing series, “Luck,” endured a third horse death in two years and was hounded to cancellation by the animal rights crowd. Or were the producers just using PETA as an excuse to bail out in the face of bad ratings?

Now this from the AP: the Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico, has applied to the federal government for a permit to open the nation’s only horse slaughterhouse. The horses would be “custom slaughtered” and then “processed for human consumption at the plant,” the AP reports, citing documents obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.

Roswell will be sending the equine meat not to aliens but to Europe and Asia, which to many Americans is pretty much the same thing. They eat horses in Europe and Asia, don’t they?

We’ve been down this road before, a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. In 2006, responding to an uproar over slaughterhouse killings of the iconic American animal, Congress banned the use of Department of Agriculture funds to inspect the dwindling number of horse meat plants in the U.S. No inspection, no meat. The plants closed.

The result? The state of the American horse worsened: more neglect, abandonment, and illegal trucking of the big critters to chop shops in Canada and Mexico.

Congress reversed the measure in November. Now what?

Read the AP story here.

Tibet Burning

The International Campaign for Tibet today released a video of the January self-immolation of Tibetan Losang Jamyang in the city of Aba. A former monk turned to activism, he was 22. At least thirty Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in the last year.

Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi was 26 when he set himself on fire in protest of his country’s attacks on his dignity and liberty, attacks at once vast and maddeningly granular–controls over speech and worship, controls over association, controls over where and how to sell fruit. Bouazizi ignited the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring. Losang Jamyang ignited only himself.

China is not Tunisia, not Egypt, not Yemen, not Syria. China is not even the former Soviet Union. But it is a country of fruit vendors too.

See the video here


Remembering Cardillo, Calling for a Federal Probe

Hundreds of motorcycle-riding cops converged on the 28th Precinct in Harlem yesterday to honor the NYPD’s Phillip Cardillo, gunned down forty years ago. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch gave an emotional speech. “Bring those to justice who did this,” he declared. There is “still work to do.”

Meanwhile, the Daily News published my new revelations in the case:

“Was a Cop Killer an FBI Informant?”

Forty years ago this weekend, Police Office Phillip Cardillo was gunned down in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque No. 7 in Harlem. No one was ever convicted in the case. To the police rank and file, it is the greatest scandal in NYPD history — a story of murder, betrayal and coverup.

On April 14, 1972, Cardillo and three other patrolmen were lured into an apparent ambush in Mosque No. 7 by a fake “officer in distress” call. In the ensuing melee, all four officers were badly beaten and Cardillo was shot. Top NYPD brass quickly ordered a full retreat from the mosque.

The result: no crime scene, no physical evidence, no witnesses.

Cardillo died six days later. Neither the mayor nor the police commissioner attended the funeral. Beat cops regarded it as the ultimate betrayal.

In 1976, a member of Mosque No. 7, Lewis 17X Dupree, went to trial for Cardillo’s murder. He was acquitted. Prosecutors were hampered by the lack of physical evidence and witnesses.

But was that the whole story? According to three investigators who have never given up on the case, as well as documents I obtained, there is some evidence suggesting that Dupree was working for the FBI.

Was the alleged murderer of a New York City police officer an FBI informant?

Did the FBI withhold information from prosecutors to protect their informant?

Read more in the Daily News.

Remember Cardillo

“Remember Cardillo.” It’s a bitter watchword for two generations of the thin blue line in New York City. Forty years ago this Saturday, Police Officer Phillip Cardillo was shot in an apparent ambush at Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7 in Harlem; he died six days later. No one was ever convicted in the case. Roadblocks were thrown up at every turn in the investigation. Why? Was it politics? Race? Or did the FBI tank the Cardillo probe to shield high-level confidential informants? In the New York Post today, Phil Messing, Don Kaplan and I report new evidence in the case:

The prime suspect in the 1972 murder of an NYPD cop at a Harlem mosque was under FBI surveillance for at least seven years before the slaying, The Post has learned.

Louis X17 Dupree, who was charged twice in the killing Officer Philip Cardillo, 31, had been in the cross-hairs of at least six federal informants before the mosque shooting, according to bureau files obtained by The Post…

Read more in the New York Post…

Iran’s Nuclear Secrets

In September 2011, I wrapped up an investigative consulting assignment for Fox News, reporting and writing an hour-long special called “Iran’s Nuclear Secrets” for one of Fox’s documentary units.

In the special, we weighed the hard evidence relating to allegations that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and talked to some of the world’s top counter-proliferation experts. You can see a brief preview of the documentary below:
Read More

The A.Q. Khan Files

For the Fox News special, “Iran’s Nuclear Secrets,” I worked with journalist Simon Henderson to reveal new A.Q. Khan documents. Khan, of course, was the driving force behind Pakistan’s atomic bomb and the nuclear arms trafficker long thought to be the mastermind behind an elaborate global supply and procurement network.

The documents obtained by Fox News suggested that for decades Pakistan spread nuclear weapon technology around the globe in exchange for cash, political influence and help with its own atomic bomb program. Among those on the other side of the deals: China, Iran, North Korea and Libya.

You can read the story here.

Jeff Lewis of ArmsControlWonk had an interesting take on the new documents, here.

But, on second thought, Jeff had more to add, here.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

They might as well. Race horses continue to die at American tracks in shocking numbers. My article about thoroughbred breakdowns, below, was originally published in the New York Times in August, 2006. Six years later, we are still having the same arguments, and too many horses are still dying. At Aqueduct Racetrack in New York, nineteen horses have died in the last four months. A special panel has been appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate. Meanwhile, a flood of cash pours into horse racing from casino interests. More on this subject will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Justice for Barbaro

BARBARO, the tragic hero of this year’s Preakness Stakes, is on the mend and it’s back to business for thoroughbred racing. This weekend the celebrated Mid-Summer Derby — the Travers Stakes — is taking place at Saratoga Race Course. And this week, a panel appointed by Gov. George Pataki is scheduled to begin considering bids to run New York’s $2.7 billion racing franchise at Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont racetracks. The current franchise expires in December 2007…

Read More

Report: Tibet Self-Immolations & Religious Repression

Check out this December 2011 special report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

This CECC Special Report demonstrates an apparent correlation between increasing Chinese Communist Party and government repression of freedom of religion in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries, and 12 instances in 2011 of current or former monks and nuns resorting to self-immolation.

Reporting from each of the Commission’s 10 annual reports (2002-2011) reveals a trend of deterioration in the environment for Tibetan Buddhism, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monastic institutions. The trend worsened significantly after mostly peaceful political protests swept across the Tibetan plateau in March and April 2008…

Read more here.

Fire in Paradise

Read the opening chapter of my book on the great Yellowstone Fires, Fire in Paradise.