Since Golan Cipel’s allegations against New Jersey Governor James McGreevey surfaced, media reports have asserted that McGreevey had tapped the Israeli in January 2002 to head the state’s new homeland security effort — leaving the aide in charge of protecting the lives of the Garden State’s 6 million residents only months after the September 11 attacks.
In turn, some political pundits are accusing McGreevey of having put the state at risk in January 2002 by putting homeland security in the hands of Cipel, a veteran of the Israeli navy and public relations expert with little experience in counter-terrorism issues.
Cipel’s co-counsel, New York attorney Rachel Yosevitz, argues, however, that the media has been misrepresenting Cipel’s former role, especially during the last week after his former boss announced his resignation. In an interview with the Forward, Yosevitz said that Cipel never was in charge of homeland security. She accused the media of getting the story wrong.
“He was a liaison between the governor’s office and security divisions. He was never named homeland security director,” Yosevitz said.
Press reports have described Cipel as the state’s former homeland security chief in addition to outlining his role as the governor’s liaison to the Jewish community. But, in fact, when McGreevey first came into office he created two new positions in the state’s fight against terrorism.
On January 24, 2002, the governor appointed Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Flicker to head his newly created Office of Counterterrorism.
Flicker, the former director of the Division of Criminal Justice, was charged with increasing coordination among law-enforcement agencies, including the attorney general’s office, the State Police, and local, county and federal law enforcement agencies.
But days earlier, McGreevey quietly appointed Cipel to the newly created job of special assistant to the governor for homeland security.
Flicker would report to the attorney general, and Cipel directly to McGreevey.
At the time of the announcement of Flicker, McGreevey told The New York Times that Cipel’s role was to keep him apprised of “how well various state, county and local agencies are functioning.” The Times added: “Presumably that includes Ms. Flicker’s agency, although Mr. McGreevey noted that Mr. Cipel was not her boss.” Further McGreevey stressed that many of the key functions of counterterrorism would be under Flicker — not Cipel.
“[McGreevey] said the state’s counterterrorism efforts needed to be strengthened, including better intelligence and intelligence analysis, functions that fall under the purview of Ms. Flicker,” the Times reported.
A veteran New Jersey government expert confirmed this portrayal and Yosevitz’s contention.
“She’s right,” the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This issue has been misrepresented. The state wasn’t in jeopardy,” noting that the important counterterrorism functions were headed by Flicker.
According to this version, Cipel’s state appointment in 2002 did not pose a threat to the security of New Jersey residents, but simply represented the long, albeit maligned, tradition of newly elected officials filling jobs with or creating jobs for family and friends.
Yosevitz said her client has wanted to clear up the alleged misperception ever since reporters began raising questions about his appointment in early 2002, but McGreevey refused to let him speak with the press about the issue.