The New York Police Department (NYPD) has the plans, training, and policies in place to respond to a Mumbai-type terrorist assault on the city, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told a Senate hearing today.
The attacks, blamed on 10 members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization, occurred over a four-day stretch in late November, killing approximately 170 people, including 6 Americans.
Outlining how the commando-style raid unfolded, Kelly noted the similarities between Mumbai and New York City.
“Consistent with previous attacks around the world were some of the features of the target city: the country’s financial capital; a densely populated, multicultural metropolis; and a hub for media and entertainment industries,” he said. “Obviously, these are also descriptions of New York City.”
He also demonstrated point-by-point how the NYPD has the proper policies and protocols to meet the threat head on.
The terrorist siege on Mumbai began when the ten terrorists entered the city through its harbor. Kelly explained that NYPD harbor officers are armed and trained with automatic weapons, while divers scour the bottom of cruise ships and other vessels for bombs. Nevertheless, the Port of New York and New Jersey is so expansive, he says, that even with the Coast Guard’s help, more port and maritime security help is needed.
As the Mumbai attackers fanned out and attacked targets across Mumbai, they met little resistance from the city’s police because they could not match the terrorists’ firepower.
“In contrast,” Kelly said, “the [New York] Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit is trained in the use of heavy weapons and the kind of close quarter battle techniques employed in Mumbai.”
The NYPD has begun to conduct such training more widely across its police force as well. Police recruits now receive basic instruction in three types of tactical weapons. And in case the city faces an even broader attack than Mumbai, the NYPD now provides similar weapons training to officers in its Organized Crime Control Bureau and will leverage its firearms instructors so additional officers can fill in for Emergency Services officers that need relief. Since Mumbai, the NYPD has already performed two exercises based on the attacks there.
The NYPD has also engaged with the private sector to prepare businesses, such as hotels, for a commando-style assault on their facilities. In Mumbai, previous intelligence warnings of a terrorist strike on the city’s landmarks led the Taj Mahal Hotel to bolster its security, but as months went by without an attack, the hotel eased those measures.
After the Mumbai attack, the department’s NYPD Shield program, a police alliance with over 3,000 private security managers, reviewed hotel security best practices with security managers from around the city.
Under another program, Operation NEXUS, NYPD detectives visit businesses terrorists might exploit and train staff to recognize behavior that may indication attack planning. Hotels receive advice on how to protect their exteriors from car and truck bombs as well as other training such as spotting hostile surveillance.
Another element of the Mumbai attack that made it so successful was the terrorists’ technological sophistication. On top of using GPS to identify landing locations, testified Charles E. Allen, undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, “the attackers used wireless communication devices, including satellite and cell phones, to coordinate movement activities, establish defensive positions, repel rescuers, and resist Indian efforts to suppress them.” The terrorists may have even monitored press coverage through their wireless devices to gain tactical advantages.
Kelly said that "When lives are at stake, law enforcement needs to find ways to disrupt cell phones and other communications in a pinpointed way against terrorists who are using them.”
Currently, state and local governments are barred from blocking wireless signals because the Communications Act of 1934 prohibits interfering with federal airwaves. Federal agencies, however, can jam wireless signals with the permission of the Federal Communications Commission in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in “life and safety situations.”