Local Officials Try Retooling Antiterror Programs To Crime Issues


Juliette Kayyem, the Massachusetts homeland security adviser, was told this year that to qualify for its full allotment of federal money, the state need a plan to protect against improvised explosive devices, known as I.E.D.'s, reports the New York Times. “I.E.D.'s? As in Iraq I.E.D.'s?” she recalled thinking. No one had ever suggested homemade roadside bombs might begin exploding in Massachusetts. “There was no new intelligence about this,” she said. “It just came out of nowhere.” State and local authorities have begun to complain that the federal financing for domestic security is being too closely tied to combating potential terrorist threats, at a time when they say they have more urgent priorities. Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman said he lives “every day as a police chief in an American city where violence every day is not foreign and is not anonymous but is right out there in the neighborhoods.”

Some $23 billion in domestic security financing has flowed to the states from Washington since the Sept. 11 attacks, but authorities in many states and cities say they have seen little or no intelligence that Al Qaeda, or any of its potential homegrown offshoots, has concrete plans for an attack. Many local officials are trying to retool counterterrorism programs so that they focus more directly on combating gun violence, narcotics trafficking and gangs – while arguing that these programs, too, should qualify for federal financing, on the theory that terrorists may engage in criminal activity as a precursor to an attack. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expressed concern about shifting money to other law enforcement problems from counterterrorism. “If we drop the barrier and start to lose focus,” he said, “we will make it easier to have successful attacks here.”

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/us/26terror.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Comments are closed.