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In New York, never enough security

The city has spent billions on upgrades, gadgets and manpower, but the threat of terrorist attacks remains. Officials say they need even more federal funding.

May 08, 2010|By Tina Susman and Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times

"Listen, it's just not possible to totally prevent an attack," said former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, who ran the New York department in the mid-1990s and returned to live here last year. "You can harden Times Square and harden Wall Street, but the next time a car with a bomb drives up to a crowd during a Yankee or Mets game, or for that matter in Boston at a Red Sox game … boom — there it all goes." In a nod to Kelly, Bratton said the city is significantly safer from attack now.

The attempt to bomb Times Square last weekend at the height of the pre-theater dinner hour followed by eight months the discovery of a plot by Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi to carry out a suicide attack on the New York subway system.

Pakistani American Faisal Shahzad, who is suspected of parking his bomb-laden SUV in Times Square, was arrested Monday night after he had boarded a flight bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Nissan Pathfinder was packed with 100 pounds of fertilizer, but not the explosive kind that was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

Former New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Timoney says that that fact and other apparent blunders — such as Shahzad's house keys being left in the SUV — shouldn't diminish the fact that the suspect was bent on terrorism. "This guy was a professional killer, except he was incompetent," Timoney said.

Indeed, the whys and what-ifs linger. What if Times Square street vendors hadn't noticed the vehicle and alerted police? What if customs agents hadn't spotted Shahzad's name on a manifest of the Dubai-bound jet after it had been added to the no-fly list?

"The good news is we're so much farther along than we were," Bratton said. "The bad news is, we still have a long way to go."

tina.susman@latimes.com

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

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