The Next 9/11: Center Convenes Experts to Discuss the Emerging Threats to New York and America

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On Tuesday, January 27, the Center for Security Policy, with sponsorship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation held an open forum in New York City at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College entitled: "World At Risk: View From New York – The Bi-Partisan Congressional WMD Commission Report."  The forum afforded an opportunity to address the implications for New York City and the United States more generally of a recently released report entitled World at Risk produced by the blue-ribbon, congressionally mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

Hosted by the Center’s President, Frank Gaffney and its New York Director, Amanda Bowman, the forum brought together top-level homeland security and defense officials, noted scholars, law enforcement leaders and others to discuss the most pressing national defense and security issues of our time before an audience of nearly 200 attendees.
Mr. Gaffney said of the event, "The Commission’s riveting conclusion that it is more likely than not that there will be an attack involving biological or nuclear weapons by 2013 must be of special concern to communities like New York known to be a prime targets for America’s enemies.  That concern was reflected by the participation in this  conference of such prominent officials and top experts on terrorism and law enforcement and their eagerness to address these and other threats.  We look forward to working with them and with the many community leaders and engaged citizens in the audience to help enhance the security and resiliency of the New York Metro area in the face of these dangers – and those of the country as a whole."

Ms. Bowman added, "The current threat of weapons of mass destruction is one where the risks are outpacing our defenses and our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.  For New Yorkers, this is an especially poignant realization and one which requires us as citizens to become actively engaged in solutions. There is absolutely no time to lose; this forum is an important first step." 

A highlight of the conference was the keynote address by New York Deputy Policy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism, Richard Falkenrath.  Drawing on his experiences both in his present position and in his previous incarnation as a senior policy-maker in President George W. Bush’s National Security Council, Mr. Falkenrath observed:

Our domestic intelligence capacity, while moderately improved since 911, still leaves a lot to be desired.  Aside from consequence management and locking up nuclear materials, the most important step you can take to deal with WMD terrorism is good old-fashioned international and domestic counterterrorism….The bread and butter of counterterrorism is identifying the cell and dealing with it….The NYPD does what it can but much that needs to be done requires a national government with a national or global scope.

The program also featured two panels:  The first was "A Conversation with the Commissioners" moderated by Frank Gaffney and drawing on the insights of WMD Commissioner Stephen G. Rademaker and Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush.
Mr. Rademaker expressed the view of the Commission when he declared: "It is unquestionable that al Qaeda is interested in acquiring nuclear and biological weapons….For these groups, nuclear probably cannot be acquired without the assistance of a government.  So therefore the most likely WMD used against us from these groups would be biological."

Ms. Townsend remarked that, "The single greatest threat to our homeland security at the moment emanates out of the tribal areas of Pakistan. That is an extremist Islamist problem." She cautioned the new administration in Washington, "Even if people around the world like us better…you are not going to persuade Al Qaeda not to attack you because we are better liked in the Arab world."
The topic of the second panel discussion, moderated by Judith Miller of the Manhattan Institute, was, "Are Our Defenses Keeping up with the Growing Risks?" In response to Ms. Miller’s question what were the most important things we could do to protect ourselves, the distinguished panelists responded with a variety of practical suggestions:

Stephen E. Flynn, Council on Foreign Relations: "It is so important to have an informed citizenry on issues of WMD so that we move from a paternalistic, ‘How are you going to take care of us?’ mentality to ‘How do we manage this collectively as a society that is at risk from time to time?’ by drawing on our greatest asset – our citizens?…We should give the American people things to do to get them engaged.  If Americans think somebody is taking care of them, they won’t do it themselves."
Michael Sheehan, former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism: "You should never let your foot off the gas of your intelligence programs….keep a relentless focus including a little bit of risk-taking, but above all, find the [terrorists] and keep them under pressure."
Major General Donna Barbisch (US Army Ret.), former Department of Defense, Director, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Program Integration: "We should direct our leadership to ensure that every program that we do has a real, rational basis and the efficacy is identified.  Don’t put up a false wall to help pretend that we are safer….We are spending way too much money on things that don’t make any difference."
Charles A. Duelfer, Iraq Survey Group:  "We should really enlist the support of the Russians and Chinese and ensure that they take the same concerted actions against perpetrators of terrorism."


Congress established the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism to build on the 9/11 Commission’s work and to assess our nation’s progress in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism and provide a roadmap to greater security with concrete recommendations for improvement. The Commission examined the government’s current policies and programs, identified gaps in prevention strategy and recommended ways to close them.  For more information on the Commission’s work, please visit

Selected video of the "World at Risk" conference can be viewed below. More video from the conference will be uploaded shortly. 



Center for Security Policy

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