Cops Say Can't Rely on Feds to Fight Terrorism

ByJohn Miller
September 10, 2002, 3:51 PM

Sept. 10, 2002 -- New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly believes last Sept. 11's terrorist attacks have forced him to look at his job in a very different way.

"We have to do everything we can to protect this city," Kelly told ABCNEWS. "We've been targeted here four times in the last decade, twice successfully. We don't want to be Ground Zero again."

The Bush administration has proposed a new Department of Homeland Security, which would attempt to coordinate the federal government's intelligence gathering with state and local law enforcement.

However, an increasing number of police departments in the country believe they can't afford to wait for a giant bureaucracy to be created — and have taken matters into their own hands.

Kelly hired Dave Cohen, the former deputy director of the CIA to run the NYPD's Intelligence Division. He also hired Frank LiButti, a retired three-star Marine Corps general to run a new Counterterrorism Division.

"In the aftermath of Sept. 11, we want to be able to gather our own information, to do analysis, to make certain New York has whatever leg up it can to prevent another attack," said Kelly.

Sending Detectives Overseas

So the NYPD is doing things no other American police department has done: posting detectives — some permanently — in half a dozen foreign countries to gather intelligence on terrorism. Kelly has also searched his departments for potential translators and undercover agents.

"And we have discovered that we have some very accomplished Arabic speakers, Pashtun speakers, Hindi, Urdu [speakers]," he said, "languages that are in demand these days."

In the past, this has been work American police departments counted on the CIA and the FBI to do. But since Sept. 11, police chiefs have decided they can do more.

"We work closely with the federal authorities, but we simply can't rely on that alone," Kelly said.

Baltimore Police Stopped Potential Terror Act

Other cities are reacting to Sept. 11 in similar ways.

Chicago is allocating $76 million to the war on terrorism, including installing caches of emergency equipment in buildings like the Sears Tower.

Baltimore's Police Commissioner Ed Norris says his Intelligence Unit — once focused on drug gangs and the Mafia — has now been trained in how to spot a potential suicide bomber in a crowd. His commander went to Israel to train, were he learned how to notice behavior they once would have ignored.

This summer, using the new techniques, Baltimore police stopped two men from Morocco. Both had immigration warrants and one showed up in an FBI database of suspected terrorists.

"We had people taking basic panoramic views of the Baltimore's inner harbor about every 10 feet or so," Norris told ABCNEWS, adding that these suspects would take a photograph, stop, and then take another photograph and stop again.

The detectives knew that is how al Qaeda operatives have scoped out potential targets in the past.

"I'm convinced that these guys were probing," said Norris. "Apparently, they've probed before and now they're in federal custody, so I'm pretty happy and proud of what our intelligence folks did that day."

And it's not just the big cities. Small towns across the country are sending sheriffs or police officers to the federal government's Office of Emergency Preparedness, where they're being trained to deal with chemical or biological attacks.

In cities and towns, where they are finally winning the war against street criminals, police are just beginning to learn how counter a new enemy.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events