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Friday, January 09, 2009

NY CIty Police: 'Lessons From the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks'

Testimony of NY City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly before Senate Homeland Security Committee on the lessons learned from the Mumbai terrorist attack here:
. . .The attackers displayed a sophisticated level of training, coordination, and stamina. They fired in controlled, disciplined bursts. When our liaisons toured the hotels and railways stations, they saw from bullet holes that shots were fired in groups of three aimed at head level. With less experienced shooters, you'd see bullet holes in the ceiling and floor. This group had extensive practice. And the number of casualties shows it. Ten terrorists managed to kill or injure over 500 people. They were experienced in working together as a unit. For example, they used hand signals to communicate across loud and crowded spaces. And they were sufficiently disciplined to continue their attack over many hours. This had the effect of increasing the public's fear and keeping the incident in the news cycle for a longer period of time. These are a few of the differences from what we've seen before.
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We are also mindful that the attackers approached Mumbai from the water. That's obviously an issue in a major port city like New York. For that reason, our Harbor officers are trained in and equipped with automatic weapons. They have special authority to board any ships that enter the port. Our divers inspect the hulls of cruise ships and other vessels, as well as the piers they use, for underwater explosive devices. We engage in joint exercises with the National Park Service to protect the Statue of Liberty from any waterborne assault and heavily armed Emergency Service officers board the Queen Mary Two at Ambrose Light before it enters New York Harbor to make certain no one tries to take over this iconic ship when it enters city waters. These are a few examples.

As much as we do, the NYPD, even with the Coast Guard's assistance, cannot fully protect the harbor, especially when one considers the vast amounts of uninspected cargo that enters the Port of New York and New Jersey. I have testified before about the urgent need for better port and maritime security. Mumbai was just another reminder.
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The other issue that we examined in our exercise last month, and that was the subject of a New York Times article yesterday, is the ability of terrorist handlers to direct operations from outside the attack zone using cell phones and other portable communications devices. With this comes a formidable capacity to adjust tactics while attacks are underway.

We also discussed the complications of media coverage that could disclose law enforcement tactics in real time. This phenomenon is not new. In the past, police were able to defeat any advantage it might give hostage takers by cutting off power to the location they were in. However, the proliferation of handheld devices would appear to trump that solution. When lives are at stake, law enforcement needs to find ways disrupt cell phones and other communications in a pin-pointed way against terrorists using them.

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