A New York City Police Department helicopter with an ultra-sensitive radiation detector affixed to its tail hunted block by block in lower Manhattan last month for a black SUV containing the components of a homemade radiological “dirty bomb,” says the Washington Post. The 30-minute training exercise failed to detect a deliberately planted chunk of radioactive cesium-137, a material that — if dispersed by an explosive — could paralyze the nation’s financial nerve center.
At an estimated cost of $90 million, the Securing the Cities program absorbs a small fraction of the Bush administration’s national security and counter-proliferation expenditures. Critics question its value, noting its rapid growth in the absence of a specific threat of urban nuclear terrorism, as well as the program’s technical challenges and operational limitations. Said Richard Falkenrath, New York deputy police commissioner for counterterrorism and a former Bush White House homeland security aide: “Certainly, if this model goes nationwide, they need a lot more help, because most other parts of the country are not going to have the ability to devote these sorts of resources” without cutting into everyday crime-fighting.