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Post 9/11, NYPD's counterterrorism efforts draw praise, fire

After the attacks of Sept. 11, the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism tactics have raised concerns about civil rights and unchecked power. If you ask NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, his record speaks for itself. Since Sept. 11, 2001 there have been no successful attacks in New York. That, he says, is thanks to the NYPD' efforts.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism tactics have raised concerns about civil rights and unchecked power. If you ask NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, his record speaks for itself. Since Sept. 11, 2001 there have been no successful attacks in New York. That, he says, is thanks to the NYPD' efforts.

Kelly created the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, the first of its kind in the nation, in 2002. But the agency's investigative techniques and alleged demographic profiling have resulted in criticism over the NYPD's focus on the Muslim community.

"Get real. We live in a very dangerous world," said William Bratton, former LAPD chief, on AirTalk Friday. "We're doing it within the law. Cameras in public spaces are allowed."

Bratton said that New York remains the number one terrorist target in the world and, he says, the most significant threats are coming from within the Muslim community. 

New York's proactive policing is a welcome change to a common law enforcement mentality, Bratton said. "We very frequently talk about it's not a matter of if an attack is going to occur, it's just a matter of when." 

The effort to protect New York’s 8.2 million residents has vastly transformed the role of local cops since the attacks in 2001. The Department’s Intelligence Division was overhauled and given both the tools and the people to analyze and detect threats, as well as the authority to thwart them. 

The city's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) oversees the operational control of the Counterterrorism Bureau. Detectives partner with FBI and CIA agents on terror investigations in New York and around the world. The Department recently came under fire for also using undercover officers of Arab and Muslim descent to gather information on potential homegrown threats. 

Jay Kopstein, former deputy chief for the NYPD, told AirTalk's Larry Mantle that everything the police did was lawful and in the public's best interest. 

"The gathering of the information is available to police," Kopstein said, just as "it's available to journalists."

These counterterror efforts have cost tens of millions in federal grants and city funding, but Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the President of the RAND Corporation, told KPCC's Larry Mantle that the money spent on counterterrorism is appropriate and effective.

Since 9/11, the United States has thwarted 32 terrorist plots created by individuals associated with or inspired by al-Qaida.

"Their capacity to carry out another attack on the scale of 9/11 has been largely removed," Jenkins said. "We still worry about truck bombs and individual shooters, but that's a vast improvement."

NYPD’s approach to counterterrorism has been largely lauded as successful. When a car bomb nearly went off in Times Square in May 2010, President Barack Obama thanked Kelly for his work defending the city. 

"There's a considerable amount of resources dedicated to the protection of the citizens that the citizens don't see," Kopstein said. 

Post 9/11, the U.S. has developed a sophisticated system of collecting intelligence regarding threats. Organizations pool intelligence in a national counterterrorism center that can help authorities find clues and develop leads on possible attacks. 

According to Jenkins, the center receives 8,000 to 10,000 pieces of information every day, which must be sorted and properly disseminated to local authorities.

"The problem they face," Jenkins said, "is the volume of information."  

This weekend's 10th anniversary of 9/11 has prompted a "credible but unconfirmed" report of a possible terrorist attack on New York and Washington. 

Jenkins told AirTalk that three individuals were mentioned in the report and that authorities can now use the federal database of terrorism intelligence to search for the suspects' recent communications, travel records and other clues that may confirm the report.

Guests:

William Bratton, Chairman of Kroll, a risk consulting company; former Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (2002–2009); he was also Chief of the New York City Transit Police, Boston Police Commissioner and New York City Police Commissioner

Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the President of the RAND Corporation; he started RAND’s terrorism research in 1972 and is the Co-Editor of the recent RAND study “The Long Shadow of 9/11: America's Response to Terrorism”

Jay Kopstein, former Deputy Chief for the New York Police Department (NYPD) who retired in 2010 after 37 years of police service; for the last 12 years of his police career he was assigned to Operations Division and was involved in the planning and coordination of most large special events and significant incidents in New York City

Brian Michael Jenkins and William Bratton in-studio following their AirTalk interview in New York.

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