New terror threats haunt in 9-11's shadow

Sept. 2, 2014
Whether it is Godzilla or jihadists, Gotham must stay vigilant to all threats

When it comes to confronting terror head on, whether real or movie generated, no major city has more experience battling demons than New York. From Godzilla and King Kong, to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of Ghostbuster fame, the Big Apple has met and conquered imaginary enemies no matter what species and or planet of origin.

But it has been the real monsters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the “principal architect of the 9/11 attacks" according to the 9-11 Commission Report, and the looming threat of Abu Bakr-al- Baghdadi, the strongman of the brutal jihadist group ISIS, that haunt the dreams of professionals charged with protecting some of the West’s largest cities.

No time since the “war on terror” began almost two decades ago, has the threat on Western soil been as imminent. In fact, the validity of the ISIS threat worldwide has prompted security officials in the United Kingdom to increase the country’s threat level to “severe”, indicating that “a terrorist attack is highly likely, although there is no intelligence to suggest that one is imminent,” said UK home secretary Theresa May several weeks ago when the alert was issued. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said new laws would be introduced to counter what the PM called “a greater threat to our security than we have seen before.”

Not since the days after four suicide bombers killed 52 travelers on the London transit system in July of 2005, has the specter of Muslim terrorists jolted Britain as hard. With the sudden rise of radicalized Sunni militants traveling to and from the UK and places like Syria and Iraq, the UK, along with several other western European nations have expressed fear that their citizens will return home trained and equipped for terrorist acts.

Our own President Obama, however, seems undeterred when it comes to potential U.S. threats. Talking to supporters at a political fundraiser Newport, R.I. recently, he told the crowd that the ISIS crisis in the Middle East did not “immediately threaten the homeland,” and went on to say Americans should feel “pretty safe” since the U.S. has “hardened its defenses” since September 11, 2001. Later that week on national television Mr. Obama added that his White House really “doesn’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the ISIS threat in Syria.

Unfortunately it seems ISIS just might have a strategy for us – and it could be New York. In a recent article in The Daily Beast, Army Col. Kenneth King, the commanding officer for Camp Bucca, a detention facility maintained by the U.S. military in Iraq, said that when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from the camp in 2009, as he and other detainees were released after it closed, the future leader of ISIS issued some chilling final words to reservists from Long Island.

 “He said, ‘I’ll see you guys in New York,’” recalled Col. King, who added that at the time he didn’t take these words from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a threat. Col, King said that Al-Baghdadi knew that many of his troops were from New York, reservists with the 306 Military Police Battalion, a unit based on Long Island that includes numerous members of the NYPD and the FDNY. The camp itself was named after FDNY Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca, who was killed at the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the years since 9-11, New York police officials admit that at least 16 potentially devastating terrorist attacks have been thwarted thanks to enhanced surveillance technology, its sophisticated Domain Awareness System and the hard work of the city’ first responders and the citizens themselves.

Some in the U.S. Senate feel our actions related to the ISIS threat on American soil should be more decisive. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham offered a stern warning recently when he said he regarded ISIS as a “direct threat to our homeland.”

 “Mr. President, be honest with the threat we face,” Graham added. “They are coming.”

Whether the threat is ISIS militants currently operating in Ciudad Juarez, on the border across from the city of El Paso, Texas, or potential sleeper cells of homegrown jihadists within the very heartland, it would certainly seem a higher sense of vigilance is in order so all Americans can feel more than "pretty safe".

About the Author

Steve Lasky | Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief/Security Technology Executive

Steve Lasky is a 34-year veteran of the security industry and an award-winning journalist. He is the editorial director of the Endeavor Business Media Security Group, which includes the magazine's Security Technology Executive, Security Business, and Locksmith Ledger International, and the top-rated website He is also the host of the SecurityDNA podcast series.Steve can be reached at [email protected]