Skip to comments.Not in New York? The NYPD might have stopped the Tsarnaev brothers before they started.
Posted on 04/26/2013 1:38:55 PM PDT by neverdem
While the Boston Police Department responded effectively to last weeks 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. Its not just a question of numbers and resources. Yes, the NYPD has a vastly larger force—roughly 35,000 uniformed officers versus Bostons 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 Bostons police budget.
But the 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPDs 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 Kellys 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 Yorkbased 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-Qaidas core and the groups 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 Yorks 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 Yorkbased consulting company, said that the elder Tsarnaev fit the departments radicalization profile perfectly. His behavioral changes alone—never mind his overseas trip and Russias 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.
Another red flag would have been Tamerlan Tsarnaevs ejection from his local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston, as initially reported by the Los Angeles Times. The paper disclosed last week that the elder brother was thrown out of the mosque after a shouting match with the imam during a Friday prayer service. The paper quoted several worshippers as saying that Tsarnaev had yelled at the imam for having pointed to Martin Luther King as a role model for Muslims. Tsarnaev protested that King could not be a model because he was not a Muslim. The NYPDs model cites withdrawal from the mosque as an indication of the onset of the indoctrination phase of radicalization, when a believer rejects traditional Islamic mentors in favor of Salafist, or more radical, fundamentalist preachers and friends.
In New York, Tsarnaevs mosque quarrel and his sudden behavioral changes might well have been reported by concerned worshippers, the imam himself, or other fellow Muslims, given the NYPDs 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 hadnt 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.
If Tsarnaev and his brother had still managed to evade police scrutiny, its possible, though not likely, that the NYPDs Ring of Steel—its network of 4,000 sophisticated security cameras, which feed information into a central monitoring system to detect questionable or unlawful activity—might have enabled officials to notice the pressure-cooker bombs before they exploded. Though the department has focused its camera network so far on the Financial District in Lower Manhattan and on such iconic sites as the Empire State Building and Grand Central Terminal, at least 220 cameras have been installed with views of Central Park, where the New York Marathon reaches its finish line.
Finally, the NYPDs early effort to understand Muslim communities and follow tips and leads by sending plainclothes officers to mosques, restaurants, and other public venues where Muslims congregate—in keeping with court-ordered guidelines governing such surveillance—might have secured information preventing last weeks bombings. Reporters for the Associated Press won a Pulitzer last year for a series of deeply flawed articles critical of the NYPDs surveillance program, which the NYPD credits with helping thwart as many as 16 terrorist attacks on the city since 9/11. Max Boot, a military analyst who writes about terrorism, complained in an online essay in Commentary that while it has become fashionable to criticize the NYPD for its intelligence-gathering in the Muslim community as an infringement on civil liberties, there is scant evidence that anyones civil rights have been violated and considerable evidence that such targeted surveillance has kept the city safe. Boot is right to conclude that Boston, among other cities, would do well to learn from the NYPDs example.
And the libs were giving Kelly hell last year for monitoring Islamo students and gee whiz, look who bombs Boston. Same with Peter King who wanted Mosques checked out, they gave him hell as well, calling him all the usual names...Islamophobia blah blah.
But perhaps this article reflects typical NYC arrogance/chauvinism. Only time will tell if their defenses are penetrable. Methinks half a million Muslims is a force that will be hard to contain.
That’s quite a pic! Thank you.
Why? Did they attempt to buy a Big Gulp?
Stop n’ Frisk works. Is that a pressure cooker in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
It's more like justified paranoia. The brothers Tsarnaev wanted to hit Times Square. However we strike the rest of the country, it's not for nothing that we have a surfeit of major league sports teams in or about the city. IIRC, with respect to population, we're bigger than most states.
Be that as it may, I was born here. I only liked coming back for family and friends. It's a political and cultural nuthouse.
"Reporters for the Associated Press won a Pulitzer last year for a series of deeply flawed articles critical of the NYPDs surveillance program, which the NYPD credits with helping thwart as many as 16 terrorist attacks on the city since 9/11."
Only time will tell if their defenses are penetrable. Methinks half a million Muslims is a force that will be hard to contain.
We'll see. Nothing is guaranteed. 9/11/01 was the second attack on the World Trade Center.
In 2010 Faisal Shahzad a Pakistani born and admitted Pakistan trained Jihadist, and also a new US citizen, placed a car bomb in TIMES SQUARE without any detection from the Govt.
Smoke came from the car and the police were called by civilians to investigate it.
Maybe security has imnproved in NY since then but I wouldn't boast about NYs ability to thwart bombers. - Tom
The last Times Square attempt was a guy parking a FRICKIN SUV in the square and running off. Even though you aren't even allowed to stop in the square, the SUV packed with explosives WAS NEVER NOTICED BY POLICE. A street vendor called a cop over when he saw smoke and heard firecrackers. It took a loooong time to evacuate people and actually get a bomb squad on scene. The only reason it didn't blow in the middle of the crowd is because it was a dud.
A bomber leaving a pipe bomb or 5 all over the square would never be caught in time. They'd just drop a few bombs disguised as trash, walk away and BOOM. With the subways all over the square, they'll be in and out within 15 minutes.
Most terrorist attacks have been foiled by the stupidity of the terrorists themselves, not by police/TSA/etc.
There's not much we can do about crazy people planting explosives besides punishing them after the fact. Banning things and reducing freedom for everyone will NOT make us safer from crazies.
Or might not have.
And there's the big IF, as I pointed out in a comment on FR yesterday, that bureaucratic organizations do not naturally share information because of the power that springs from that information. The FBI is nothing if not a fully fledged bureaucratic organization of the first order.