Yesterday President Obama praised NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's record when asked about the notion that Kelly might lead the Department of Homeland Security. "Ray Kelly's obviously done an extraordinary job in New York," Obama said. "And the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously, our concerns about terrorism often times are focused on big-city targets, and I think Ray Kelly's one of the best there is." This is strange for several reasons.
For one, Obama's Justice Department just threatened Kelly with its full-throated support for a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD. This angered Kelly enough that he felt the need to retaliate by publicly expressing his support (at a boat dedication) for whistleblower Edward Snowden's motives. Kelly, who has overseen a period of unparalleled secrecy and who punished a department whistleblower with involuntary commitment, praised a federal whistleblower that Obama is actively attempting to prosecute!
Also, while the president is correct in saying that "the federal government partners a lot with New York," it's not exactly a harmonious partnership. FBI agents have gone on record criticizing the NYPD's propensity to meddle in ongoing investigations, as well as pursue terrorism suspects that aren't worth pursuing. Part of the CIA's mission in New York was to "improve [the NYPD's] volatile relationship with the local FBI and specifically the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force."
Even the CIA's relationship with the NYPD was on murky legal footing. A recently declassified report from the CIA's Inspector General showed that the four (that we know of) CIA agents who were sent up to work with the NYPD weren't entirely clear about the scope of their authority—one agent "believed he had 'no limitations' as far as what he could or could not do." The IG wrote that there was "inadequate direction and control by the Agency managers responsible for the relationship."
Leonard Levitt has more on Kelly's "sandbox problem" with the Secret Service, the Port Authority, and even the State Department.
Perhaps the president was just trying to offer some banal praise to smooth things over? Or maybe he really is considering Kelly for the post. If Kelly lets us take our contact solution onto planes, will we even care about any of this?