As the top terror target in America, New York City has taken every measure to defend itself from another 9/11. The New York Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit is one of the most sophisticated in the world – complete with sea, land and air capabilities all dedicated to thwarting an attack. Correspondent Scott Pelley gets a personal tour from the anti-terror unit’s architect and leader, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.The following script is from “The counter-terrorism bureau” which aired on Sept. 25, 2011.
This week, the United Nations General Assembly is in New York with 137 heads of State moving all over town. No city, at any time, has a security challenge like that. And this year it comes as U.S. intelligence is investigating “credible information” that terrorists want to target New York with a car bomb.
After 9/11, New York City decided that it would never leave itself vulnerable to terrorism again. So Ray Kelly, the police commissioner, began to build something unique. Kelly tends to get things done. He was born in New York City 70 years ago. Fought with the Marines in Vietnam, joined the NYPD as a cadet, and along the way picked up a law degree and a master’s degree from Harvard.
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Now, 10 years after 9/11, with an investment of billions of dollars, Kelly has created, what he believes, is the most powerful and technologically advanced counter-terrorism bureau that anyone has ever seen.
By air, land and sea – the nation’s largest counter-terrorism squad is on the beat in America’s largest city. One thousand officers – many of them armed like soldiers – are part of a presence that is meant to send a message: New York City is too tough a target. NYPD counter-terrorism is the creation of police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Ray Kelly: We’re 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. We’re a city that’s been attacked twice successfully. We’ve had 13 terrorist plots against the city since September 11. No other city has had that.
Kelly is a classic cop. He started as an NYPD cadet and rose all the way to commissioner. He left the force before 9/11. But within four months of the attack, the mayor asked him to come back.
Extra: Ray Kelly’s rise to the top
Kelly: I jumped at the chance.
Pelley: You knew you needed to do what?
Kelly: I knew that we had to supplement, buttress our defenses of this city. We couldn’t rely on the federal government alone. I believed that we had to create our own counter-terrorism capacity, indeed our own counter-terrorism division. And, that plan was put into effect fairly rapidly. And the reason we were able to do that is this is a hierarchical organization.
Pelley: You call it a hierarchical kind of organization. In other words, you’re the boss.
Kelly: That’s correct. That’s the way it works here.
Pelley: And you’ve got 50,000 people working for you.
Kelly: 35,000 uniformed police officers, 15,000 civilian employees. That’s correct.
His police force is bigger than the FBI because no cop has more to protect than Ray Kelly.
Kelly [nat sound]: We’re going to the U.N.
We were with him, in his hi-tech command truck last Wednesday when he headed to the east side as New York hosted the United Nations General Assembly. He wanted to be there when President Obama arrived. To prepare for those 137 heads of State, Kelly has to understand the threats that all of those foreign leaders have at home so their local troubles don’t play out here.
Kelly: We have to look abroad. We do that with the Secret Service, to see what the issues are in another country. Does that raise the threat level here?
The threat level in New York was already high. Intelligence said that there could be a car bomb attack on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and that worry had still not been resolved.
Extra: Kelly on 1993 WTC attack
Vinny Giordano [nat sound]: All our interior and exterior checkpoints are up and running. Bomb squad’s completed all its sweeps and their Ops are up.
Kelly had the tower of the U.N. Secretariat building surrounded. Snipers on the roof tops, divers in the river, helicopters above. Mr. Obama slipped into the U.N. with the Secret Service, under the blanket of the NYPD. All of this came just ten days after Kelly’s team had secured the most sensitive event in the nation.
It was the 9/11 National Memorial on the tenth anniversary of the attack on America. Osama bin Laden had written about attacking again on this very day. And Kelly had more than 8 million New Yorkers to protect.
As the names of the fallen were being read, Kelly was watching from his brand new Joint Operations Center.
From here he can see everything. All in one cavernous room Kelly has representatives from the military, the FBI, Federal Emergency Management, state and local first responders. The center is a symbol of the 10 years and three billion dollars that he has spent to prepare for every kind of threat.
Pelley: Are you satisfied that you’ve dealt with threats from aircraft, even light planes, model planes, that kind of thing?
Robert Anderson, Pat Milton and Nicole Young are the producers.
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