Rich Cooper

May 4, 2010

For what seemed an endless series of weeks, DHS Secretary Napolitano was mercilessly mocked and derided for uttering three words following the failed Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253 – she stated, “The system worked.”  As debatable as those words may have been to describe the failed intelligence and cooperation efforts, they seem to be the only words that accurately describe the unfolding results of the capture of the suspected and failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.  

Between the discovery of the bomb early Saturday evening by an alert T-shirt vendor, we had:

– The calm and orderly evacuation of Times Square by the NYPD’s finest;
The wide distribution of the collected Times Square video imagery of the suspected bomber;
The tracking of the vehicle’s identification number; 
The interviewing of the vehicle’s original owner to determine its sale and new whereabouts; 
The culling of e-mail records to review the sales transaction from Craigslist to verify suspects; 
Working with Connecticut local law enforcement to monitor Shahzad’s Bridgeport residence; and 
Apprehending him before midnight on an Emirates airliner bound for Dubai

The system worked.

Every dollar spent on the NYC advertising campaign of “See Something? Say Something;” on security cameras and first-responder training; and on all of the interagency cooperation between the NYPD, the FBI and other federal and regional law enforcement – it all showed the return on investment that our nation’s leaders have wanted and expected. In short, everything worked.

As much as there is to praise and applaud by all of the parties involved with this incident, there remains much for us to be vigilant.

The word “lucky” is a more than accurate description of the thwarted attempts onboard Flight 253 and in Times Square. It should also be noted that through the active involvement of people who were self-empowered to act, hundreds, if not thousands of lives were saved. The spirit of 9/11’s Flight 93 – taking action against those who would do any one of us harm – is part of the human spirit. We should not lose sight of it nor underestimate its resolve because it is one of the greatest tools we have in the fight against those who think murder is an appropriate means to an end.

The NYPD, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, DHS personnel (TSA, CBP, I&A, etc.), as well as other federal, state and local law enforcement deserve tremendous praise for their work on this case. While we can all celebrate the apprehension of the bombing suspect, we must recognize that more work needs to be done on this case before a full and accurate picture is completed. There will also be lessons learned that need to be applied to citizens, communities, first-responders and intelligence agencies.  

We can all breathe easier when luck is on our side, but luck will not always be there. That is why the signs of promise “the system” has yielded give me hope that we are slowly and surely maturing this new American adventure called homeland security.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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