The security industry and the private sector as a whole is "absolutely vital" to our nation’s security, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security, told SIW in an interview ahead of the ISC East tradeshow in New York City, which has now been postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.
"So much has been done through the private sector. The government’s role is almost limited here in that the research, the advances have almost entirely been made in the private sector," King said. "My goal has always been to have the Homeland Security Department function very much like the Pentagon as far as dealing with the industry to encourage and to work with the security industry, constantly trying to stay ahead of the enemy, constantly trying to improve, and constantly thinking outside-the-box."
King has been named as the 2012 recipient of the Fred V. Morrone 9/11 Memorial Award, which would have been formally presented during ISC East at the Security Industry Association’s Security Week Gala. The award, which is presented by the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police (InterPort Police), was established in honor of former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Superintendent Fred V. Morrone, who died along with 36 other members of his department in the 9/11 terror attacks.
Presented annually, the award recognizes those who have contributed both domestically and aboard to the fight against terrorism. Past recipients of the Morrone Award include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Homeland Security Advisor Francis Townsend, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and DHS Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson.
"It’s a great acknowledgement of my efforts to keep America secure, to work with the private sector and the government to ensure that we, as a country, have the most available and efficient and effective technology possible to combat international and domestic Islamic terrorism," King said of the honor. "This is a threat that is going to face us for many, many years to come."
King said he believed the country is much more secure than it was on 9/11 and that it would be "extremely difficult" for al-Qaida or any of its affiliates to carry out an attack comparable to that again in the U.S. He cautioned, however, that just because al-Qaida may have been weakened, they still pose a threat to homeland security.
"The other side of it is, is that in a number of ways, al-Qaida is more dangerous than it was prior to Sept. 11. Because even though they cannot carry out the major attack, it has adapted and changed its’ methods," he explained. "It now has a number of affiliate organizations: AQIM (al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb), AQAP (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) and al-Qaida in Iraq. It is recruiting people who are under the radar screens in the United States, it is using people who have no previous terror connections and are living here legally, so it is harder for us to know now who the enemy is and it also makes it more difficult for us to know when and how we’re going to be attacked. Because we have not been successfully attacked on the mainland or in the homeland, I think too many Americans somehow feel that this struggle, this war is over and it’s not. It’s far from over."
To answer this challenge, King said the U.S. also has to adapt and "cannot afford to sit back and relax," adding that the country needs to stay ahead of the terrorists from both a technology and strategy standpoint. King also lauded the efforts of the NYPD, FBI and others involved in the intelligence community whose efforts have helped thwart other attacks. Just last week, authorities say they were able to foil a bomb plot aimed at the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan. According to King, the New York/Long Island area remains the top target for terrorists in the country and that crowded areas, specifically in midtown and the financial district, as well as mass transit are the areas at greatest risk for attack.