Officials in New York City and elsewhere were on guard Monday for a possible terrorist revenge attack following Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.
"There are no specific threats against New York City as of this moment," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday at a news conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials at the construction site of One World Trade Center. "But we are certainly not taking any chances. Our assumption is bin Laden's disciples would like nothing better than to avenge his death with another attack in New York."
Kelly's caution was echoed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's public-safety director Elizabeth Glazer, who chaired a planning meeting Monday with the NYPD, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port Authority and other agencies about security measures.
"We are acting out of an abundance of caution," Glazer said.
With no specific threat information, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there was no active national terrorism alert. But she told Scripps Howard News Service that a "situational awareness alert" was issued Sunday night by the department to law-enforcement and transit agencies around the country that cautioned bin Laden's death could inspire attacks from al-Qaida or allied groups or even by radicalized "lone wolf" individuals in the United States.
As soon as word came that bin Laden was dead, the NYPD took nearly a dozen steps to ramp up security, putting its nearly 35,000 officers on alert for suspicious activity and evidence of an attack. Suffolk and Nassau County cops also were told to be vigilant, officials said.
Kelly held over transit officers working the late-night tour Sunday and Monday evening so that more would be in the subways in time for the rush hours. Cops assigned to critical-response vehicles also had their shifts extended by about two hours Monday, police said.
Among the other visible measures, Kelly said, were increased subway bag searches and placement of emergency-service vehicles near subway and rail hubs. Police helicopters and harbor units were on patrol near bridges, ferries and water taxi docks, Kelly said.
Hidden from the public were the actions of hundreds of NYPD counterterrorism cops, including 11 posted overseas, and heavy monitoring by police linguists of extremist chat rooms, said Kelly.
The MTA and the Port Authority also announced stepped-up police activity on railroads, bridges and tunnels.
Long Island MacArthur Airport Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto said the facility was taking action "both seen and unseen."
Kelly said it was likely that communication problems and isolation kept bin Laden from being directly involved in any of the recent plots against the city. But he was and will be a major inspiration for terrorists and lone wolves.
"We have to wait and see as to what happens," said Kelly, noting that al-Qaida units in the Mideast are still very much a threat.
At Kennedy Airport's JetBlue terminal, Gladys Torres, 75, who saw the Twin Towers collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, said she thought it was too soon for a reprisal attack. "Nothing is going to happen today," said Torres. "After this week, maybe."
With Matthew Chayes,
Jennifer Maloney, Emily Ngo
and Yancey Roy