Thursday, October 06, 2005

A new threat to the NYC subway system?

NYC Increases Subway Security After Threat

NEW YORK - City officials stepped up mass transit security Thursday, saying they had received a credible threat that New York's subway system could be the target of a terrorist attack in coming days.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the threat originated overseas, and was the most specific terrorist threat city officials had received to date. No one in New York has been arrested or detained, he said.

A law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the threat is "specific to place, time and method" and involved a bombing.

Some officials in Washington appeared to be taking the threat less seriously.

"I've spoken with top-level authorities in Washington, and the threat, while specific in terms of location, does not have the highest level of credibility or corroboration," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "Nonetheless, in a post 9/11 world you cannot be too careful."

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly urged the public to report suspicious people or activities. Police planned to look through bags, briefcases, baby strollers and luggage in a large-scale search of the mass transit system.

"We have done and will continue to do everything we can to protect this city," Bloomberg said, adding that he planned to take the subway home Thursday night. "We will spare no resource, we will spare no expense. We have increased our police presence on our subways."

Some commuters took the threat in stride.

Paul Radtke, 45, of Hoboken, N.J., said he had heard similar warnings before and found it hard to take them all seriously.

"Unless it's something dramatic that's happening, I've got to go to work," Radtke said after getting off a subway train at Penn Station. He said the only travel habit he is changing is trying not to make eye contact with police officers so they won't search his bag.

An estimated 4.5 million passengers ride the New York subway on an average weekday. The system has more than 468 subway stations.

New York's security level remained at orange, the second-highest. The level has stayed the same since Sept. 11.

Bloomberg said there was no indication the threat was linked to this month's Jewish holidays.

"We have never had before a specific threat to our subway system," he said. "Its importance was enhanced above the normal level by the detail that was available to us from intelligence sources."

I didn't see any increased police presence on my way home. There were no police at all at the subway station near my work in midtown, none at Times Square that I saw, and none at Grand Central. I have never been stopped for a search, but that would be difficult considering there are hardly any NYPD or MTA police conducting searches. I rarely see them, and the kiosk I mentioned is back to being regularly manned.

As I've said before, the random searches of subway and commuter train passengers are nothing more than an illusion of safety. The illusion is even greater because the ineffectual NYPD and MTA police aren't even doing many searches now. However, that's not a bad thing if they're not wasting their time...

Notice what the passenger said about not making eye contact with the NYPD. But in London, that behavior added to an innocent man's "suspicious" appearance and got him detained on suspicion of being a terrorist. Apparently in England, it's not just the side of the road you drive on that's reversed.

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