Daily News July 13, 2005
NYC subway vulnerable
Experts: System not foolproof
By Jonathan Lemire
As Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD brass again urged New Yorkers to continue their daily routines, it was still hard to escape the obvious: If a suicide bomber wanted to strike the city's subways, there is little that can be done to prevent it.
"It is impossible to set up a foolproof system to prevent suicide bombings. They can only be minimized," said security expert John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense think tank.
"In an urban area, a suicide bomber is almost always going to be able to blow someone up with him," Pike said. "As terrible as this sounds, the hope is that it's a dozen people on the sidewalk and not a hundred people in a mall."
Pike's chilling words came in response to new evidence that suggests last week's subway and bus explosions in London were caused by terrorists who blew themselves up.
After the deadly blasts in London, the NYPD ramped up security to its highest level since 9/11. Yesterday, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the suggestion that suicide bombers are responsible for the London attacks would not change the NYPD's response.
"Whether the bombers carried devices onto the trains and left them there or stayed with them until they exploded doesn't markedly change our posture," Kelly said. "We will still employ a combination of visibility, vigilance and intelligence-gathering to protect the city."
The best way to thwart suicide bombers is to infiltrate their ranks and undermine their plots before they can attempt to carry them out, experts said.
The experts grimly noted that suicide bombers have the ability to overcome a fear of death because they are spellbound by their political cause and dreams of glorious martyrdom.
"Suicide bombing is, unfortunately, becoming a very common and effective tool of jihadistic organizations," said Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago and author of "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism."
"They believe in what they're dying for, and they are preying on innocents, who they hope in turn will pressure their elected leaders to change policy."
Several security experts pointed to Israel, with its years of experience in battling terrorists, as proof that there is no method to stop suicide bombings.
"The Israelis have had success in stopping a huge number of suicide attacks," said Dan Byman of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "But some still slip through the cracks."
Several New Yorkers riding the subway yesterday expressed fear that suicide strikes would soon move across the Atlantic.
"Every day I'm leery of using the subway system," said Dean'a Jacobsen, 25, of Manhattan. "I think it's possible it could happen here, but I don't have any idea how or when."
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