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Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force--The NYPD Paperback – February 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
With an informed eye on the history of New York City as a leading target of world terrorism, Dickey, Newsweek's Paris bureau chief and Middle East regional editor, chronicles the effectiveness and resources of the high-tech intelligence operation of the New York Police Department. He speaks without bias of hard-nosed veterans Raymond Kelly, the pragmatic NYPD police commissioner, and David Cohen, a former CIA analyst, who formed the counterterrorism division, which watches over the city with more than 600 cops and operatives stationed stateside and around the world. As Cohen says: There's a plot taking shape on New York City every day of every week since 9/11. Dickey examines the history of terrorism in the city, but poses the thorny question of surveillance vs. civil liberties (e.g., helicopters whose cameras can look directly into specific apartments) since the 2001 World Trade Center tragedy and the Madrid and London bombings. In the increasingly crowded field of war on terror books, Dickey's (Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son) measured meditation on a secured city and its vigilant police force stands out as one of the best. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A fascinating, and frightening, look into the world of antiterrorism. Securing the City kept me riveted." -- Kathy Reichs, author of Devil Bones
"If you're concerned about a terrorist threat to America, you need to read this eye-opening and extraordinary book. Dickey reveals the little-known existence of the New York Police Department's counterterror force, the first line of defense against another 9/11. This book should be read by the FBI, the CIA, and by every cop in America. An essential addition to the literature on global terrorism." -- Nelson DeMille, author of The Gate House
"The United States needs a new counterterrorism strategy -- one that is vigilant, creative, sustainable, and aligned with the country's constitutional values. Securing the City is not only a fascinating inside portrait of the New York Police Department's response to the terror threat after 9/11, it is also an important contribution to public policy. The federal government has much to learn from the leadership culture and street work of the NYPD, as Christopher Dickey's penetrating reporting makes clear." -- Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens
"Dickey offers a rich inside account of the most extensive antiterrorism effort in any American city. A long-time expert on extremism and the Middle East, Dickey offers amazing detail as well as a broad history of the threats to U.S. national security. There are many important lessons to be learned in Securing the City." -- Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East
"Christopher Dickey has written a work of meticulous reporting that reads like a John Le Carré novel, illuminating the shadowy world of terrorists, and that of the New York City cops who hunt them down. A terrifying, and yet reassuring, read." -- Michael Korda, author of Ike and With Wings Like Eagles
"Revealing and nerve-rattling." -- The New York Times
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Top Customer Reviews
It just left me wondering how much freedom are we going to give up for a threat that we mostly keep alive by our foreign policy?
It is "readable" although the style jars at times as it attempts to be read as a spy novel and anyone with anything beyond a bare knowledge of CT or policing will end up being very irritated as I was. The author clearly knows his stuff and I am still at a loss to understand the complete lack of objectivity in the writing. The title says it all - the Best Counterterror Force - however absurd this is, the book stays loyal to the idea throughout.
All of the preceding is by way of introduction to this rather interesting book. It is an anecdotal puff piece on the successful response to terrorism developed by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) since 9/11. In fact if read closely this book provides a resounding argument supporting Rumsfled's observation. Because their focus is entirely on protecting New York, the NYPD was able to develop an effective intelligence program that provides direct and timely support to tactical forces. By exercising the street knowledge of beat cops, standard police surveillance and investigative techniques, and the very diversity of New York as mirrored in the NYPD, the force has been able to develop an extremely effective counter-terrorism program. As a local force, the NYPD has been able to conduct operations normally forbidden to federal agencies such as the FBI. In another break with federal level operations the NYPD has developed working relationships with foreign police services around the world. Indeed NYPD has developed an impressive dossier of counter-terrorism tradecraft that is both tested and efficient. It appears to really protect the city.
Indeed if one reviews the history of Islamic inspired terrorist groups since 9/11 around the world, in almost all cases it has been police actions informed by intelligence that have either thwarted terrorist strikes or arrested the perpetrators of the strikes that have occurred. The DHS ought to think seriously about this.
NYPD's fighting force
Feb 12th 2009
From The Economist print edition
The NYPD offers an alternative to the highly militarised war on terror
It is not often that a city has its very own counter-terrorist force. But since the attacks of September 11th 2001, New York has felt uniquely vulnerable--and uniquely entitled to special protection. In a vivid and thought-provoking book about the years since the twin towers collapsed, Christopher Dickey analyses how the New York Police Department (NYPD) counter-terrorism division has made itself one of the best in the business.
This did not happen easily or without resistance. The NYPD's commissioner, Ray Kelly, a former marine, and his intelligence chief, David Cohen, who had worked for the CIA, faced considerable opposition in building their team. The principal aim was to use human intelligence to prevent future attacks. To achieve that they had to gather accurate and detailed information about al-Qaeda and other groups, and learn from the attacks they launched overseas. Never mind that this irritated the FBI and the CIA--the "three-letter guys", as Mr Dickey calls them--who tended to regard the NYPD as some kind of Johnny-come-lately muscling in on their turf.
Mr Dickey ends up admiring Mr Kelly and Mr Cohen for creating a counter-terror organisation which many now regard as among the most energetic. They fought for and won the right to station people overseas--in London, Tel Aviv and as far off as Singapore--to provide first-hand information-gathering from useful places. And their most important achievement, in Mr Dickey's estimation, is to have turned New York's multicultural diversity to their advantage, building up a team of more than 600 linguists fluent in some 50 languages and dialects. In 2007 NYPD analysts published a 90-page booklet, "Radicalization in the West", seeking to pass on what they had learnt about the home-grown threat in Europe and America.
A scheme to attack a busy New York subway station was foiled just two days before the Republican convention in 2004 when, thanks to an informant, Mr Kelly was able to arrest the Muslim plotters. The group was clearly incompetent but, as Mr Dickey points out, motley conspirators could be dangerous, "even when some were morons".
"Securing the City" is a gritty, down-to-earth work; a very American book about a very American city. Mr Dickey accompanies cops on the beat, rides in their helicopters and describes in detail their gizmos and their crime labs. He delights in a tough-guy language that owes as much to Mickey Spillane as to Raymond Chandler. So the general reader can enjoy a book that has the pace and drama of a thriller, and for the specialist interested in questions such as how to defend a city of nearly 8.5m people, or what turns young Muslims into suicide-bombers, there is much to ponder.
As the Middle East editor of Newsweek, Mr Dickey is not only one of America's most knowledgeable commentators on the area, he was writing about Osama bin Laden for almost a decade before the attacks on the twin towers. He adds fascinating new detail and asks some troubling questions. What was learnt from waterboarding senior al-Qaeda captives such as Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad? Where do you draw the line between protecting security and abusing human rights? What do we know now about the Madrid and London bombings--and the important question of whether the bombers acted alone or with help from al-Qaeda? Whereas the Spanish attacks seem to have been home-grown, the evidence suggests to Mr Dickey that the leader of the London bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was "an active al-Qaeda recruiter".
The book shifts constantly from the local to the global and back. It is sharply critical of "the dangerously ill-conceived, mismanaged, and highly militarised `global war on terror'," and sees the success of the NYPD's counter-terrorism programme as offering an alternative approach. Mr Dickey worries about the depth of Muslim anger which drives the violence, and to which America has been largely oblivious. But he also draws comfort from the resilience of New Yorkers, whose faith in the American dream may well turn out to be their strongest line of defence.
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