Faisal Shahzad rigged his rusty Pathfinder to deliver fiery death to the heart of New York City, authorities said. Instead, he and that sport utility vehicle wound up providing a 53-hour live drill for the nation's anti-terror response system - and an object lesson about where the next threats may appear. Newsday caught up with the two senior members of New York's congressional delegation and a Washington-based terrorism expert to review those lessons learned.

 

U.S. REP. PETER KING (R-SEAFORD):

Q. What have we learned from the attempted Times Square attack about where anti-terror spending should be increased?

A. Clearly, the Securing the Cities program to protect Manhattan against dirty bomb attacks.

Very little could have stopped the attack, but it does show that the attack [threat] is almost invariably going to be against Manhattan, and it's going to be brought in from outside the city.

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Q. Doesn't the attempted attack show the limits to what you can accomplish with technology?

A. If the "ring of steel" they have downtown is moved to the midtown area, 38th to 60th streets . . . many, many cameras having equipment that reads license plates, and with terrorists knowing that, it could very likely make it much less likely that they'd be willing to attack.

Q. Which initiative is the most underfunded?

A. I know of several threats New York City has had, where all the technology in the world wasn't going to help. What they needed was massive amounts of police around the clock. But the federal government, for the most part, it's very hard to get them to reimburse for personnel costs. They want you to spend the money on technology primarily.

Q. Where has the most money been wasted?

A. When the Patriot Act was originally passed, the small-state senators insisted on having a provision in there that every state had to get a minimum amount of Homeland Security funding whether they needed it or not . . . They're not going to be attacked by a terrorist in a million years, but they look great on the Fourth of July . . . (Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota have collected $561 million since 2002.)

 

FRANK CILLUFFO, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Q. What lessons can we take from the attempted Times Square attack about where anti-terror spending should be increased?

The primary lesson is the reminder that intelligence continues to be the lifeblood of our counterterrorism and homeland security efforts. The danger has metastasized and includes threats emanating from overseas as well as homegrown threats and the increasingly blurring of the two. This new reality demands an enhanced domestic intelligence capacity driven by state and local law enforcement.

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Q. Doesn't the attempted attack also show the limits to what you can accomplish with technology?

Technology and infrastructure, of course, have their limits. Perfect security is not attainable, and spending is a zero-sum game . . . As pertains to Manhattan, additional cameras and sensors to detect CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] weapons are wise investments.

Q. Which initiative is the most underfunded?

We cannot conceptualize the threat exclusively in narrow, tactical terms. . . . We must think critically about how we can continue to de-legitimize, de-globalize, and de-glamorize terrorism and al-Qaida's narrative. . . . Preparedness and resilience are also important. The Times Square bombing was unsuccessful because of an unskilled perpetrator and the vigilance of street vendors. We should devote resources to preparedness and resilience in addition to security organizations.

Q. Where has the most money been wasted?

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It is difficult to measure. . . . The key is to design a multilayered, dynamic defense and invest in a wide variety of capabilities to support the system. If we invest solely in static, traditional security measures, we will be unprepared, vulnerable and our adversaries will simply game the system.

 

U.S. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-N.Y.)

Q. What lessons can we take from the attempted Times Square attack about where anti-terror spending should be increased?

A. Lesson No. 1: New York City is still the No. 1 target for terrorism, but this is not a New York problem. It's a national and international problem. New Yorkers shouldn't be footing the bill. The federal government has the responsibility to pay for this. In this instance . . . there was a connection to Pakistan, and the guy lived in Connecticut, beyond the ambit of the New York police.

Q. Doesn't the attempted attack show the limits to what you can accomplish with technology?

A. There's always more than can be done: I'm working with Police Commissioner [Ray] Kelly on the Securing the Cities Initiative - that is, at every entrance point into New York that there'll be detectors. They are working on technology now that could detect explosives on someone's person. . . . The second thing we need is the sensors through the Midtown Surveillance Program. The administration has not been good here. . . . Now, of course, given what happened in Times Square, it'll be easier this year and we're working to get $30 million.

Q. Which is the most underfunded initiative?

A. Identifying traditional explosive devices. The terrorists look for places that we're weak. We're getting much better at detecting nuclear, chemical or biological devices, which are the most deadly. But explosives can still do great damage.

Q. Where has the most money been wasted?

A. The big anti-terror program, UASI (the Urban Areas Security Initiative). A GAO report showed dollars going to some cities that Homeland Security doesn't even see as at risk, cities like Omaha and Louisville. They got increases last year. New York should get more than half the UASI money. It now gets about 18 to 20 percent.