Luck and VigilanceEditorial
New York Times
May 4, 2010
New York City was lucky this time. The bomb-laden vehicle that pulled into Times Square Saturday night smoldered but didn’t ignite. Two nearby vendors warned a policeman. Officers quickly cleared the area and alerted bomb-squad specialists and investigators.
Early Tuesday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced that federal agents and police detectives had arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan, in connection with the failed bombing. The man, Faisal Shahzad, was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai, Mr. Holder said.
Charges against Mr. Shahzad were not announced, and many questions still need answering. But the goal behind Saturday’s act was clear: to inspire fear, create havoc, take innocent lives.
We are very fortunate that that didn’t happened.
A car bomb in Times Square, even a malfunctioning one, is another reminder that New York remains a tempting target for terrorists. It should be a reminder to Congress and the White House of why New York deserves more support for its antiterrorism measures.
Last year, the Obama administration tried to eliminate financing for a “Securing the Cities” program designed in part to help New York City create links with law enforcement agencies nearby to prevent an attack. The administration said the city was not spending its funds quickly enough. Officials here insisted they were moving ahead but also wanted to reserve some of the money to help build up security systems inside the city.
Congress restored some $20 million in financing. And after Saturday’s incident, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Peter King are now asking for at least $30 million more. That money should allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Chief Raymond Kelly to accelerate their work on two security “rings” — an idea adapted from London’s “Ring of Steel” — that deploy cameras and other surveillance equipment around the city. The first ring would guard the World Trade Center site. The second would be aimed at protecting Times Square.
In Lower Manhattan, the Police Department is moving ahead on a command center — the first step in getting the ring in place. Little has been done to create the ring in Times Square, although the area is already dotted with 82 law enforcement cameras and many more in private businesses.
The city and its residents owe thanks to Duane Jackson and Lance Orton, the two street vendors who did exactly what the police posters and television ads have urged. When they saw something, they said something.
New Yorkers, and all Americans, want to know the details behind this near disaster. Mr. Holder said early Tuesday that the ongoing inquiry is “multifaceted” and “aggressive.” The public needs to be fully informed. Officials in New York and Washington also need to take a hard look at what, if anything, might have been done to head off this earlier. Luck is a good thing. In some cases, it may be the only thing standing between us and a disaster. But no one wants to bet their security on it.