The NYPD Has Become A Counter-Terrorism Powerhouse Since 9/11

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 changed the world, the United States, and forced the New York Police Department (NYPD) to become a leader in the global war on terrorism.

When the Twin Towers fell, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was wrapping up his two terms as mayor of The Big Apple. America’s greatest city came under new management in January 2002 when billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg took over after his electoral victory in November 2001.

The challenges faced by Bloomberg as a newcomer to New York City politics were daunting as New Yorkers were trying to return to normalcy in the wake of the attacks. To accomplish what needed to be done for the safety of all New Yorkers, Bloomberg asked Vietnam War veteran Raymond W. Kelly to join his administration as police commissioner of the city of New York.

Kelly was no stranger to the NYPD, having served the city for decades as an officer and eventually rising to become police commissioner from 1992 to 1994 under Mayor David Dinkins. The challenges faced by his city were too important for Kelly to say no to his mayor, asking him to serve once again.

The then-head of the NYPD explained to CBS 60 Minutes in 2011 that he, “jumped at the chance,” to re-join and lead the NYPD at Bloomberg’s request. Kelly went on to say that, “I knew that we had to supplement, buttress our defenses of the city, we couldn’t rely on the federal government alone. I believe we had to create our own counter-terrorism capacity, indeed, our own counter-terrorism division.”

With his mission assigned to him, Kelly formed the law enforcement entity’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, the first of its kind in the country. Despite the importance of having a division of the NYPD dedicated solely to counter-terrorism efforts, Kelly understood he needed to revamp the organization’s intelligence division.

To ensure that an experienced manager was at the helm of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, Kelly recruited Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) veteran, David Cohen. Cohen had just come from being the number four official at the CIA as Deputy Director of Operations. The former high-ranking spook came out of the shadows and was introduced to the world by Kelly, January 24, 2002 as the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence in a press-packed news conference at City Hall.

At his disposal, Kelly had the NYPD’s 50,000 employees –35,000 uniformed officers and 15,000 civilians employees — to work with. As an organization, the NYPD is double the size of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Given the tragedy of September 11 and with Bloomberg’s support, Kelly made sure that he delegated responsibilities accordingly to Cohen as well as to his Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Frank Libutti.

Kelly understood that the work done by those directly beneath Cohen and Libutti, was perhaps the most vital towards ensuring his city’s safety which is why he started his day as commissioner, meeting them at 8 a.m., five days a week. Knowing that many threats to New York City come from abroad, Kelly sent officers overseas for two year assignments through the International Liaison Program he created with private funding from the non-profit New York City Police Foundation.

Even though Kelly, Cohen and Libutti are no longer at the helm of managing New York City’s fight against terror, their work continues by the NYPD’s thousands of dedicated public servants and silent warriors. New York City has not seen an attack like September 11, 2001 since then.

Kelly emphasized at the time of his 60 Minutes interview in 2011 that, “we’re [New York City] the number one target in this country. That’s the consensus of the intelligence community. We’re the communications capital, we’re the financial capital.”


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