On the very day Osama bin Laden was killed in a precision Navy Seals operation, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation were recalling how one year earlier, panic was spread by the discovery of a bomb-laden SUV planted in the heart of Times Square by a homegrown militant. Faisal Shahzad’s bombing attempt sent a wave of fear across New York City and shut down Times Square for 10 hours.
The killing of bin Laden does not and should not diminish our worries about and preparedness for the next terror attack. Homeland security experts believe – and we agree – that future terror attacks are inevitable. And at least in the near term, they may be driven by a desire to avenge bin Laden’s death.
Without him as its leader, al-Qaida may not be the threat it once was. But the would-be Times Square bomber represents a new breed of homegrown terrorists that police officers are uniquely positioned to confront and thwart. These self-radicalized terrorists don't have the formal training or the resources of the 9/11 attackers, but they still have the power to paralyze a city with fear. More than ever, it will be up to frontline law enforcement officers to stop this from happening.
Recalling the one-year anniversary of the botched bombing, New York’s police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, believes his city was lucky. “We had an individual who was able to drive in there with what he thought was a functional bomb," he said. “It could have been a major catastrophe.” Since then, New York police have expanded programs to monitor the stockpiles and sales of fertilizer, household chemicals and other potential homemade-bomb ingredients; to patrol the subways with bomb-sniffing dogs and heavy arms; and to use license-plate readers, closed-circuit cameras and radiation detectors to harden Wall Street and midtown targets against dirty bomb and other attacks, AP reports.
Here in Los Angeles, the LAPD wisely sent additional officers to the Staples Center for the Lakers playoff games. The Department is also focusing extra attention on transportation hubs, the Port of Los Angeles and critical telecommunications facilities.
It’s important that we not allow bin Laden’s death to lull us into a false sense of security. The threats our city and our nation faced last week are still with us. The LAPD and our city must remain at elevated levels of alert and security.
So as we train and work to prevent the next terrorist attack, it’s probably a good idea to think as much about the May 1, 2010 attempted Times Square bombing as we do about the possibly diminished al-Qaida threat now that its leader has been taken down by our Navy Seals in Pakistan.