Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force--The NYPD
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The NYPD is the best and most ambitious antiterror operation in the world. Its seat-of-the-pants intelligence is the gold standard for all others.

Christopher Dickey, who has reported on international terrorism for more than twenty-five years, takes readers into the secret command center of the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism division, then onto the streets with cops ready for the toughest urban combat the twenty-first century can throw at them. But behind the tactical shows of force staged by the police, there lies a much more ambitious and controversial strategy: to go anywhere and use almost any means to keep the city from becoming, once again, Ground Zero. This is the story of the coming war in America's cities and New York's shadow war, waged around the globe to stop it before it begins.

Drawing on unparalleled access to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other top officials, Dickey explores the most ambitious intelligence operation ever organized by a metropolitan police department. Headed by David Cohen, who ran the CIA's operations inside the United States in the 1980s and its global spying in the 1990s, the NYPD's counterterrorism division had uptotheminute details of new attacks set in motion to target Manhattan in 2002 and 2003.

New York's finest are now seen by other police chiefs in the United States as the gold standard for counterterrorism operations and a model for even the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Yet as New Yorkers have come to feel safer, they've also grown worried about the NYPD's methods: sending its undercover agents to spy on Americans in other cities, rounding up hundreds of protesters preemptively before the 2004 Republican convention, and using confidential informants who may be more adept at plotting terror than the people they finger.

Securing the City is a superb investigative reporter's stunning look inside the real world of cops who are ready to take on the world and at the ambiguous price we pay for the safety they provide.

Customer Reviews:

  • Disappointing
    So bias it is hard to read. The NYPD and those members interviewed for the book can do no wrong and where there appears to be a problem the author moves swiftly along. There is a complete lack of objectivity and analysis and if you have the misfortune to belong to the CIA or the FBI clearly you can do nothing right. There was enough here for an interesting book but the author ends up doing the NYPD doing no favours.
    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....more info
  • Cops and Terrorists
    In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a rare moment of lucidity observed that fighting terrorism was 90 per cent intelligence and police work with the implication that military operations would account for only 10 per cent of the effort. Although this observation was forgotten in the ill conceived and ill managed Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), it still remains true. Most experts on counter-terrorism and on terrorist movements have maintained that fighting terrorism is a job for some combination of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They also have noted that it is only through international cooperation between such agencies that transnational terrorist threats can be countered.

    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.

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  • Fascinating Read
    This book provides a fascinating look not only into the NYPD Counter Terrorism Force but into all the intricate details behind the need for its development.

    Definitely a great read for anyone interested in policing, counter terrorism or intelligence.

    Would have given it 5 stars, except Dickey is shamelessly liberal. Which is fine of course, but he shows a lot of bias in his writing when talking about anything dealing with the Bush administration. Certainly his facts are straight, but I think he gives a unnecessary amount of scolding without any context from the White House perspective. So, buyer beware of the political slant....more info
  • Thinking Globally, Policing Locally
    "Securing The City" describes, with journalistic immediacy, how the NYPD's Counterterrorism Division is organized and operates to keep the city safe after 9/11. The author's main premises, amply supported throughout the book, are: (1) to prevent terror attacks, there is no substitute for good, seat-of-the-pants, ground-level policing and information-gathering; (2) it is vital to save lives by preventing such attacks in the first place, even if this just amounts to scaring the bad guys off rather than arresting them; and (3) the real threat is an ever-mutating mixture of global, local, and even homegrown terrorist cells and individuals. Logically enough, Dickey (and the NYPD) concludes that local police forces must adopt a global information-gathering reach to do their jobs of keeping us safe here at home. That is why the NYPD sends officers overseas to exchange intelligence with their counterparts in other countries, and why every agency involved in the effort - local police, FBI, CIA, etc. - absolutely _must_ work together seamlessly to keep our country safe. And the author gives many examples of where they don't, as well as where they do.

    These ideas are not obvious, and not easy - they are difficult to implement, and have been resisted every step of the way. Christopher Dickey has done a great service in bringing them forward so compellingly for public debate. The book's title is a little misleading, since it is really global in scope; the NYPD is just the example he uses, both positive and negative, to make many of his points. I think the book is important; that following its recommendations can make America safer; and that policy makers and concerned citizens will benefit by reading, debating, and learning from it. ...more info
  • Interesting and Compeling!
    Interesting and compelling subject matter. But not as well written as my husband would have liked. He was disappointed with some blatant liberal political comentary....more info
    *"When you catch a terrorist and look at the map in his or her pocket, it is always a map of New York; it's not a map of some other place."
    *"Mayor Michael Bloomberg, July 2006"*


    This book intricately details not only the changes that the NYPD deemed necessary post 9/11 to keep its own citizens... as well... as the world's peace loving citizens safe... from terrorism... but also shares historical data regarding terrorist strikes... before 9/11. Did you know that Ellis Island... then known as "Black Tom Island"... had served as a storage yard for munitions waiting for shipment to Europe... before America was actually a part of World War I? On July 30, 1916 a "terrorist" set off a blast that not only sent shrapnel through the metal skin of the Statue of Liberty... and blew holes in buildings... but killed a ten-year-old boy in his crib in New Jersey. People were shook awake as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland. Many other pre-9/11 terrorist attacks including the assassination of Jewish Defense League leader Rabbi Meir Kahane... and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing... are covered... as the author "reverse-engineers" the current high state of terrorist alert... we now find ourselves living in.

    Since 9/11 the NYPD has completely reconfigured its job descriptions... along with its intelligence and security boundaries. The two main characters in this reincarnation are Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly... and former CIA head of United States operations... and now NYPD Intelligence Chief David Cohen. Ray and David believe that New York's role in the arena of world terror... is not unlike throwing a stone into a placid lake... you know there will be outward ripples. Terrorist activity in New York... affects the world... and terrorist activity in the world affects New York. The NYPD has broken new ground... by actually having men in more than ten countries overseas. They believe that having men out in the field... working in police stations in other countries...drinking beer with their foreign counter parts... accomplishes much more... than simply working out of an embassy... as our other agencies do. This of course has caused "conflicts" with the "THREE-LETTER-GUYS"... as Kelly and Cohen call the FBI... CIA... NSA... and others... but the problem of sharing information between these groups... is portrayed as having been worse... than is depicted in the movies... but with the forward thinking of the "new" NYPD... this seems to be improving. With the aforementioned international presence... this book covers in detail the Madrid bombings... the London bombings... suicide bombings in Israel... and more. The reader is also educated as to the pre-emptive legwork done by the NYPD which has "more cops on its rolls than the next five largest police departments in the country combined." The NYPD feels that other agencies are more geared to catching terrorists after the fact... while Kelly's and Cohen's main thrust... is to find... or dissuade... them... before the attack is completed.
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  • Ask's and answers the tough questions about policing in the age of terror
    I enjoyed reading this book and I have to commend Christopher Dickey for writing a well-rounded and thorough examination of what it is like to have to secure the biggest terror target in the world. Where Dickey is at his strongest is when he examines the tough questions regarding individual liberties and securing the greater population. He does a very good job of showing what happens when the police make mistakes and cross the line into violating civil rights. Dickey does a fine job of showing off the technical expertise and pragmatic approach of the NYPD and how they approach their new found responsibilities with a combination of technology, luck and good old fashioned police work.

    I also respect Dickey for giving other parties who may not agree with the way the NYPD is handling this new challenge a chance to express their views without making them seem like whiners, nihilists or kooks. As I said above, he also is willing to show the negative impacts bad policing can have and uses the 2004 GOP convention as a case in point.

    My only criticism is that we really don't have a context to see how strong a program this is since there is no real apples to apples comparison with say the Feds or other agencies. He does mention Scotland Yard briefly but without enough information to compare them to New York except to cast them in a negative possible light. Other than that this is a book well worth your time! ...more info