Editorial: Alleged plot spotlightsNYC's daily security test
The amazing thing isn't that Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was arrested last week for allegedly trying to blow up the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The amazing thing is that he was able to drive a van loaded with a 1,000-pound fake bomb into the heart of Manhattan's financial district.
To facilitate the sting operation that resulted in his arrest, the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force had to let down its sizeable guard to clear his way through traffic checkpoints and let him park next to the Federal Reserve building.
As anyone who works downtown knows, security is extremely tight there. Checkpoints, bomb-sniffing dogs, street closures and other measures are facts of life, and the NYPD so far is handling them with efficiency and success.
But as intensive growth continues in this international gathering spot and in others -- and as the threat of terrorism persists across the globe -- what then?
More street closures? More vehicle checks? Longer security lines? More bag checks? More close encounters with the ubiquitous security wand? Is this the new urban order we ultimately face?
Robust business districts everywhere must be able to hum around the clock with energy, vitality and a reasonable amount of freedom. This isn't just about civil liberties. Freedom of movement is essential to healthy commerce.
So for communities concerned about safety as well as freedom, the question is this: How much free movement is reasonable, without compromising safety?
Police intelligence experts say local officials can only answer that question competently with a total understanding of their own communities.
It's not enough to know where danger might lurk. Authorities must also know where it most certainly doesn't lurk. They must know who is suspicious and who is less so. They must be vigilant and -- most of the time -- right.
The dilemma is a balancing act. It pits the interests of public safety against the demands of robust commerce. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the feds have shown superior judgment in these tricky waters. So far, so good.