NY Daily News: Iranian snoops have been taking pictures of sensitive sites around New York City, a congressional panel is told
Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal are among the sites authorities say were snooped
NY Daily News — by Joseph Straw
WASHINGTON — Cops have caught “hostile” Iranian snoops shooting pictures and video at key city sites at least six times since 9/11 — twice the number previously reported.
NYPD intelligence boss Mitchell Silber disclosed the cases Wednesday to the House Homeland Security Committee, which is looking at the growing threat posed by a cornered Iran and its proxies in the U.S. — chief among them Hezbollah.
“We believe this is neither an idle nor a new threat,” Silber told the panel, calling them incidents “we struggle to categorize as anything other than hostile reconnaissance of New York City.”
In May of 2005 six men on an East River sightseeing cruise raised the crew’s suspicion when they paired off with maps and cell phones, talking on them “in an unusual manner” while they shot video and photographed landmarks including the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
Tipped off, the NYPD determined all of the men were on the Iranian government payroll, one of them at the rogue nation’s mission to the United Nations.
During the UN General Assembly in September 2008, cops responded to reports of men photographing MTA railroad tracks inside Grand Central Terminal. The shooters, members of the Iranian delegation, denied any suspicious intent, but one man’s camera also held photos of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Then in 2010, federal air marshals saw four men at the Wall Street heliport photographing and videotaping the facility’s waterline and structural supports.
One of them held a camera at waist level.
The camera crew turned out to work for Iranian state television, in town for the UN General Assembly.
In each case, Silber said, the individuals were released and the NYPD shared the information with federal counterparts.
Committee Chairman Pete King (R-L.I.), who called the hearing, was unsurprised by the revelations.
“That’s life in New York,” said King, a top supporter of the NYPD’s aggressive counterterrorsim efforts.
In 2004 two Iranian mission guards were thrown out of the country after the third case of security staff videotaping city infrastructure, including subway tracks and city landmarks.
Last year the feds broke up a game-changing plot in which they claim Iran’s Qods Force sought to hire a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
The brazen scheme called for the lunchtime bombing of a Washington restaurant favored by the diplomat, with no regard for civilian casualties.
Neither the State Department nor the Justice Department would say if any of the Iranians were expelled from the U.S. as a result of their suspicious activities.