After 9/11 NYPD had to take a hard look at itself. It wasn’t happy with what it saw. While a good department that controlled crime inside its city, it was as complacent as the rest of the nation when it came to large scale attacks from terrorists. The last WTC incident was almost ten years earlier and frankly things were moving along fairly smoothly.
That won’t happen again. I do not like Bloomberg, but he is smart enough to put people in charge who won’t screw things up, like Ray Kelly. From all accounts he simply refused to accept failure. You screw around on Kelly’s watch you had better start running if he finds out, especially if your screwing around resulted in terrorists killing his citizens. Miller points out New York has a bigger budget and more manpower, but that isn’t the issue. They have more citizens to watch, so I’ll argue the ratio isn’t all that out of whack. What makes the difference is the attitude. Boston didn’t have the right one, they do now.
—-While the Boston Police Department responded effectively to last week’s marathon bombing, terrorism experts say that the attack, which killed three and injured more than 200, might well have been prevented had the perpetrators lived in New York City. It’s not just a question of numbers and resources. Yes, the NYPD has a vastly larger force—roughly 35,000 uniformed officers versus Boston’s 2,000—and a far larger budget. The NYPD spent $330 million of its $4.6 billion annual budget in 2011 combating terrorism, a staggering sum that dwarfs Boston’s police budget.
But the 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism divisions, terrorism analysts say, would have been far more likely than their Boston counterparts to have flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for surveillance, given police commissioner Ray Kelly’s insistence on aggressively monitoring groups and individuals suspected of undergoing radicalization. New York cops almost surely would have monitored Tsarnaev, for example, if they had known that Russia had warned the FBI in 2011 that he was an Islamic radical, that he was potentially dangerous, and that he had spent six months in Dagestan last year. “We would have been very reluctant to shut down an investigation if we knew all that it seems the Bureau knew or could have known, especially once he had traveled to a region of concern,” said Mitchell Silber, the former director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD, who now works at K2, a New York–based private security firm. “Dropping coverage on someone who came back to kill New Yorkers was one of my top fears.”
In August 2007, Silber and Arvin Bhatt, another NYPD analyst, wrote what was then considered a controversial report arguing that with the decimation of al-Qaida’s “core” and the group’s metastasis into far-flung clusters, the primary threat to the city would come from “homegrown” Muslims under the age of 35 who had become Islamists in the West. Based on an analysis of some 11 plots, their report, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, concluded that the plotters were “unremarkable” citizens who had undergone often rapid radicalization, nine out of ten of them in the West. The analysts identified a pattern of radicalization and listed common characteristics of each stage of the process prior to committing a terrorist act. Since then, the NYPD has looked for such warning signs among New York’s diverse Muslim population of 600,000 to 750,000 people—about 40 percent of whom are foreign-born—as homegrown terrorist plots increase. In 2005, there was just one homegrown terrorist plot in the country; by 2010, there were 12.
Tim Connors, who served as an army officer in Afghanistan and now trains police officers for CAAS LLC, a New York–based consulting company, said that the elder Tsarnaev fit the department’s radicalization profile perfectly. “His behavioral changes alone—never mind his overseas trip and Russia’s warning to the FBI that he was a radical—would have been more than enough to trigger NYPD scrutiny,” said Connor. For instance, the elder Tsarnaev experienced a “family crisis” when his father left his mother to return home to Dagestan. The NYPD report warns that such incidents often trigger radicalization. He also began exhibiting what the report calls “self-identification,” when a person begins exploring radical ideas and dramatically changing his behavior—for instance, “giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster clothes” in favor of “traditional Islamic clothing” and “growing a beard.”
Duh! Ya’ think the elder bomber wasn’t sending off the stereotypical signals?? The difference is in Boston, the JTTF may be handcuffed by the DOJ. In New York, the NYPD would tell the DOJ to kiss its white Irish ass and do what it had to do to insure the safety of its people! In Boston, they may have policies in place, driven by political correctness, that hamstrings the police. In New York, those policies may be on the books, but they don’t exist on the streets.
—In New York, Tsarnaev’s mosque quarrel and his sudden behavioral changes might well have been reported by concerned worshippers, the imam himself, or other fellow Muslims, given the NYPD’s close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well as its network of tipsters and undercover operatives. Once it had Tsarnaev under surveillance, the NYPD, through its sophisticated cyber-unit, might have detected his suspicious online viewing choices and social-media postings. Other detectives might have picked up his purchase of a weapon, gunpowder, and even a pressure cooker—an item featured in an article, “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” in the online al-Qaida magazine Inspire. Even if the NYPD hadn’t been watching Tsarnaev, it might have been tipped off to such suspicious purchases thanks to its Nexus program, launched in 2002, under which the department has visited more than 40,000 businesses in the metropolitan area, encouraging business owners and managers to report suspicious purchases or other activities potentially related to terrorism.
I’m not in favor of the level of surveillance the NYPD and Bloombergs wants. There is a level you can cross. But with the current technology and more importantly the mindset of the NYPD there is no way Tsarnaev- or “roadkill” as I like to call him- would have gotten past their people.
Miller is right.