Counter-Terrorism: If You Can Make It There, You Can Make It Anywhere


May 7, 2010: The recent attempted car bombing in New York city was yet another failed attempt to follow up on the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. Always a popular target for terrorists, back in the 1970s, about 40 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States were in New York city. Now it's less than 20 percent. This includes failed attempts, which have been the norm in New York city since 2001.

However, over the last forty years, some 21 percent of all terrorist attacks in the United States have occurred in New York City, which contains less than three percent of the nation's population. Additional federal money for counter-terrorism tends to be allocated by population, not risk of being attacked. So New York city is perpetually shortchanged when it comes to counter-terrorism funding. All cities are shortchanged in this way. Five American cities (New York, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington) accounted for over 35 percent of the terrorist attacks in the last four decades, and get money based on population, not probability of being attacked. All except Washington, where the politicians who decide how to allocate this money, spend heavily to protect themselves.

On the plus side, terrorist attacks have been declining since the 1970s (when most of the 1350 attacks occurred). There were more attacks back then for two reasons. One, there were more domestic terrorists (mostly leftist radicals or various separatist groups). Second, police and federal agencies learned how to deal with terrorists more effectively. In the last two decades, the upsurge in terrorism has come mostly from foreigners (who have a harder time operating inside the United States). Moreover, September 11, 2001 galvanized American security agencies like never before. That made a big difference. The number of American civilians killed on September 11, 2001 was the largest since December 7th, 1941. A lot of Americans are still angry over those attacks, and willing to do whatever it takes to bring all those responsible to justice.



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