Volume 18 • Issue 23 | October 21 - 27, 2005

Talking Point

Feds should learn, not snipe at city’s terror plans

By Jane Flanagan

I’m with you Mike and Ray.

Sitting down here in Lower Manhattan reading this stuff in the papers about you, Mike Bloomberg and you, my neighbor, Ray Kelly, a gal could get the idea that you guys are up to no good. Thank God I know better, or I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Nothing could be further from the truth.

How do I know? Because I now possess a fairly honed mom’s “Truth vs. B.S.” detector. Living here in Lower Manhattan I’ve had to develop this to a fairly advanced state. I must pay particularly careful attention to matters of national security because they are often being played out on the road to my son’s school.

On 9/11 we lived in Battery Park City and his preschool was near the Stock Exchange. We still live in Battery Park City and now his school is a subway ride away.

On the afternoon of the most recent terror warning about the subways I was sitting at my computer at home. I happened to call my husband, who was out of town. He was glad to get the call. “What’s all this business about the subway?” he asked.

I hadn’t heard about it so I went online and found a news report. “It says N.Y.P.D. is taking it seriously but Homeland Security is casting doubt on it,” I said. Then we both got scared.

Because while the Dept. of Homeland Security has done little to engender our confidence, the mayor and Kelly have done a lot.

A few facts: As soon as he was elected mayor, Bloomberg hired Kelly to be police commissioner. Kelly immediately hired two terror-obsessed guys in key positions: Michael Sheehan, a former army special forces and a counter terrorism official during the Clinton administration and David Cohen former C.I.A. director of operations. Together they have created an anti-terrorism force that is now the model for police departments around the country. Bloomberg said that that Kelly should do whatever he feels is necessary, and that the city will figure out a way to pay for it.

Before 9/11 there were less than two dozen officers working the fulltime terrorism beat, now there are a 1,000. All officers are trained to see counter terrorism as a fundamental part of the job. The N.Y.P.D. has also recruited far more people of Arab descent who can pass its rigorous background check than either the F.B.I. or the C.I.A.

In fact, the Feds are now borrowing N.Y.P.D.’s manpower and expertise.

Compare that to Homeland Security. While I wasn’t sorry to see Tom Ridge and his color-coded charts go, Chertoff is hardly a comfort. Chertoff was the top federal official responsible for the Katrina response. I don’t think I’ll ever forget watching “Meet the Press” that weekend. Tim Russert asked Chertoff if he, or anyone who reports to him, planned to resign considering the horrendous way things were handled. Chertoff responded by saying, “We need to look closely at things that worked well, and many things did work well, and some things that didn’t work well.” Some things?

Following Chertoff on the NBC program was Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish President in New Orleans. He recounted how Wal-Mart delivered truckloads of water to the parish, but FEMA turned them back. How the Coast Guard delivered 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel but FEMA said not to give them the fuel. How FEMA came in and cut emergency communication lines forcing the sheriff to reconnect the lines and post armed guards to protect them.

No, I don’t pay much attention to Homeland Security. But I do listen to Mike and Ray. Yet, somehow the statements of Homeland Security still carry a lot of weight. The New York Times saw fit to shape a story on how New Yorkers “were not buying” the sincerity of the mayor and the police commissioner, considering Homeland’s position. The paper quoted a woman who said that the threat was a ploy to obscure the fact that Bloomberg would not attend a mayoral debate in Harlem. It also quoted a man who said that during an election there is always some “type of threat.”

They have them confused with somebody else. That’s how the feds play the game. Mike and Ray are not playing games. They can’t afford to. New York is their home, too.


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