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NYPD Counterterrorism Program Essay

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Updated: May 21st, 2020


While acts of terrorism are as old as human civilization, the horrific events of 11th September 2001 brought home the painful reality of the devastating nature of terrorist attacks to Americans. The city that bore the brunt of these attacks was New York City which suffered multiple human losses and property loses in the billions of dollars.

Prior to these attacks, New York had relied heavily on the Federal government for protection against terrorists. However, the 9/11 attacks demonstrated that the federal government was not fully capable of preventing all attacks.

This perception made defense against terror attacks a priority for the New York Police Department (NYPD) and to achieve this, the department created its own unique counterterrorism program. This program has taken some of the tasks that are traditionally carried out by Federal agencies such as the FBI and the CIA.

This paper shall argue that the NYPD program provides a model for what might be used by other major cities to protect themselves from terrorist attacks. To reinforce this claim, this paper shall analyze the most significant strengths and weaknesses of NYPD counterterrorism program.

The paper shall then demonstrate that the proliferation of such metropolitan programs can be a positive development enhancing the effectiveness of federal CT efforts.

Significant Strengths

Local law enforcers have powers which give them the ability to work at the local level in a manner that federal authorities cannot.

A report from the 5th Annual Sovereign Challenge Conference (2010) revealed that while the federal government is supreme in matters that pertain to external security and foreign affairs, they have a fairly restricted scope when it comes to local operations.

This is a fact that is corroborated by Finnegan (2005) who states that the NYPD has deeper resources than the federal agencies which enables it to perform its counterterrorism works at the local level more effectively.

The NYPD counterterrorism program initiatives have resulted in the foiling of various terrorist attempts. Through operation “Hercules” which involves teams of heavily armed officers fortifying high-profile targets, the NYPD program manages to intimidate terrorists by an overt display of force.

Finnegan (2005) states that this display of force creates a hostile environment for terrorist operatives making it unlikely that they will target New York.

The effectiveness of these intimidation techniques is evident from the foiled bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge by an Al Qaeda operative who on capture admitted that the intense police activity around the bridge resulted in his postponing of the bombing activity (Finnegan, 2005). The NYPD program therefore results in less terrorism plots against the city.

An especially effective initiative by the NYPD counterterrorism program is the outreach program which empowers local business people who might unwittingly come into contact with terrorists. This initiative is through a program called Nexus which keeps track of businesses that deal with merchandise that may be used for terrorism purposes.

Finnegan (2005) reveals that through this program, the NYPD visit hundreds of businesses weekly and request for information that might be of use from business owners.

One of the key speakers at the Annual Sovereign Challenge Conference (2010) noted that any person who buys dual-use material such as concentrated hydrogen peroxide in large quantities in New York would be flagged down by the NYPD since the seller would most likely report the unusual purchase.

Such programs are therefore highly effective in the prevention of terrorist attackers who utilize locally available materials.


NYPD has placed some of its officers overseas to assist the department learn from attacks in other cities. While the intention may be admirable, the manner in which NYPD goes about these overseas missions is highly ineffective and is allegedly a major cause of concern for Federal intelligence officials.

Stein (2010) highlights that NYPD foreign officers lack the proper training or resources to operate effectively in the international sphere. Police Commissioner Kelly justifies having NYPD officers overseas by stating that they act as an early warning system by providing useful pieces of information that can be used to better protect New York (Schorn, 2006).

However, federal law enforcers demonstrate that these overseas officers are redundant since the NYPD has 130 officers in the federal run Joint Terrorism Task Force. These officers investigate terrorism under federal authority and some are even deployed abroad to assist with forensics support (Annual Sovereign Challenge Conference, 2010).

These officials have access to classified information that is obtained from foreign CIA operatives. As such, the NYPD foreign officers are of no real value to the NYPD and they only serve as a hindrance to federal CT efforts.

Another great weakness posed by NYPD’s counterterrorism program is the sheer amount of monies that are dedicated to funding the program. Stein (2010) documents that the NYPD spends an excess of $68 million annually for its intelligence and counterterrorism operations.

While some of these funds are obtained from private donors, the lion share comes from taxpayers. New York is constantly appealing for federal grants to undertake its counterterrorism activities. Some of these funds are used to fund programs such as the International Liaison Program whose usefulness is highly questionable.

In addition to this, well established traditional federal agencies such as the FBI and the CIA are better equipped to handle international cases. Efforts by the NYPD on this front are therefore redundant and a misuse of taxpayer’s money.


The event of 9/11 clearly demonstrated that cities need more than solely relying on federal protection from terror attacks. Schorn (2006) states that “New York is believed to be the No. 1 target of international terrorists”. With this in mind, it is justifiable for the city to take up measures to counter terrorism.

The major strength that the NYPD possess is that they are able to work directly with the community and with individuals and business within their jurisdictions.

The federal CT efforts can make use of this strength and therefore increase their effectiveness which is mostly reduced as a result of resource restriction. The NYPD counterterrorism program can therefore play a complementary role to the efforts of the federal counterterrorism efforts.

Evidently the vast resources that New York has give it the ability to carry out its counterterrorism programs at a scale that most other cities cannot.

Falkenrath (2009) reveals that the NYPD is able to devote a significant portion of its resources to counterterrorism measures due to the wealth of the City as well as the relatively low crime rate which means that funds can be diverted from other crime fighting programs.

It is therefore unlikely that the NYPD program could become adopted in totality by other cities in the USA. However, the NYPD program offers a good model of how the police force of a city can integrate counter terrorism efforts with its primary role of law enforcement.

The positive results that the NYPD program has had in terms of foiled terrorist attacks and increase awareness and response times are attributes that each city should aim to emulate.


New York City is hailed as the American city which has done the most to help defend itself against terror attacks. This paper set out to demonstrate that the NYPD program does indeed present a model that might be used in other major cities to counter terrorisms.

To reinforce these claims, this paper has engaged in a detailed discussion as to the strengths of the NYPD program and how it can be used together with the federal departments to form a powerful combination.

However, the paper has also demonstrated that there are inherent weaknesses in the program that make the NYPD program a potential hindrance to federal CT efforts. Nevertheless, the strengths and promise that NYPD’s counterterrorism program holds makes it a worthwhile model in the fight against terrorism.

Failed and Failing States


The terrorist attacks on US soils in September 11, 2001 dramatically changed the world’s view of failing states. While the states had been left much to their own devices following the end of the cold war, the 9/11 attacks brought to sharp focus the significance of failed and failing states in terrorism perpetration.

This was the case since a failing state, Afghanistan, was identified as the location from which the terror attacks had been hatched and effectively executed by Osama’s Al-Qaida network.

The world therefore realized that that ignoring failing or failed states is a major risk for the rest of the global community since it is from such countries that act as launching pads for large scale terrorist attacks.

In light of this new found significance of failing and failed states in counterterrorism measures, this paper shall discusses the ways in which failed and failing states pose a threat to national security.

The paper shall proceed to perform an analysis of a failed state, Somalia, so as to reveal the threat that it poses to U.S. national security. A strategy that may be adopted to deal with this threat will also be documented.

Threats by Failed and Failing Sates

Failing and failed states provide safe havens for terrorist organizations some of which operate internationally. The September 11 attack was perpetrated through the failing state, Afghanistan.

This country served as the safe haven for Osama and Dempsey (2006) notes that prior to the 2001 invasion by US troops, Afghanistan was the operating base for Al Qaeda with numerous training camps in the country.

It was only after the invasion of Afghanistan and the establishment of a functional government that the country stopped serving as a hub for terrorists.

One of the means through which the strength and influence of terrorist organizations has been significantly curtailed is by cutting their finances. This has been through the freezing of bank accounts suspected to belong to terrorists and the imposition of measures to detect and stop money laundering by the terrorist organizations.

While these measures have had significant successes all over the world, failing and failed states continue to be hubs through which cash for terrorist activities and weapons can be smuggled through. This cash is then used to finance terrorist cells which can attack the US.

The citizens of failed states are most prone to radicalization by terrorist groups since they are mostly disillusioned and live in poverty. Stohl (2002) states that most Islamic terrorist groups are extremist in nature and aim to share their ideology with sympathizers.

The danger that results from radicalization is real since the new age of terrorism is characterized by fanaticism and religiously motivated groups which use any means including suicide bombs to achieve their ends.

It is difficult to neutralize terrorist organizations that operate in failed states as a result of limited human intelligence. Dempsey (2006) reveals that while military campaigns may be favored against certain terrorist targets that operate in failed states, the same is not possible as a result of limited or no intelligence.

In addition to this, most failed states lack communication infrastructure that makes it difficult for any assault on the terrorist organizations that operate from such countries.

Analysis of A failed State: Somalia

Rotberg (2004, p.85) characterizes failed states as being “tense, deeply conflicted, dangerous, and contested bitterly by warring factions. Somali is therefore a fully fledged failed state since it has for over two decades lacked a government and been characterized by bitter warring factions.

The government has suffered from its civil wars with numerous civilian causalities. This has resulted in Somalia posing significant threat to the national security of the US.

Hains (2008) states that while Somali was written off by the international community following the failed UN sanctioned US attempt to restore order in early 1990, the country has continued to pose escalating threats to the region in particular and to the world at large. With such realities in mind, the world can no longer afford to leave failed states to their own devices.

As a result of the lawlessness in Somalia, the country acts as a safe haven for terrorist groups. As a matter of fact, the Al Qaeda cell in East Africa is able to operate in Somali with the protection of the Islamic movement.

Stohl (2002) documents that Al Qaeda used failed states including Somalia for its training and safe haven and transit prior to the September 11 attacks in US.

In addition to this, Somalia is home to Al-Shabaab, an organization that has been designated by the U.S. government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (Rollins, 2010).

This organization explicitly airs anti-Western sentiments and in fact applauds the infamous Somali pirates for their attacks on Western vessels.

Anti-money Laundering efforts are now well established in majority of the countries in the world and this regimes help to combat terrorist financing. Somalia which has no effective government lacks the capacity with which to implement AML efforts.

Giraldo and Trinkunas (2007) reveal that this lack of capacity by Somali has resulted in Somalia being used as a hub through with terrorists and terrorist finance flows through the region.

Terrorist organizations are constantly seeking to recruit new members to join their cause. Somali presents good grounds from which the organizations can gain supporters as a result of the vulnerability of the area and the increasing influence by Islamic militias.

The U.S. air strikes in Somalia following the 2006 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia resulted in the radicalization of the population. As a result of this, the terrorism threat posed by Somali to the international community increased monumentally increased.

This invasion resulted in the involvement of Somali-born citizens in international terrorism demonstrating the influence that radicalization has.

Strategy for dealing with threat

To effectively deal with the terror threat that is brought about by failed states, it is necessary to recover the states. The recovery can occur through reversal of the conditions which resulted in the state failing. One of the causes of failed states is perceived inequality within the local populace.

It can therefore be reasonably assumed that a fair distribution of resources may result in a reversal of the situation. Hains (2008) documents that the fair distribution of emergency as well as development aid by the international donor community can reduce the likelihood of a recovering state failing

A nation’s justice system has a direct bearing on the perceived legitimacy of a government by its people. Hains (2008) states that the reason for this is that the nation’s citizens are more likely to cooperate with the security apparatus if they perceive that the justice system is effective and fair.

Failed and failing states are generally characterized by weak, ineffective or at worse non-existent justice systems.

The US can therefore offer aid and expertise to strengthen a country’s justice system. By doing this, the particular country will not pose a risk to the US since the government will be accepted by the people and will be unlikely to become a failed state.


This paper set out to discuss the ways in which failed and failing states pose a threat to our national security. To this end, the paper has outlined threats by failed states and proceeded to perform an analysis of one of the failed states, Somalia.

This paper has demonstrated that while Prior to the events of September 11, failed states were viewed more as humanitarian tragedies, the events of 9/11 led to the world seeing failed and failing states as major national security problems that must be dealt with if world peace is to be preserved.

The paper has shown that the US can no longer ignore the terrorist threat posed by Somali since there are indications that the country was used to train international terrorists and continues to fund terrorist organizations.

From this paper, it is evident that the only sure manner in which the threat posed by failed states can be removed is if the states are restored back to functional modes.


5th Annual Sovereign Challenge Conference. (2010). Regional Issues – Global Implications. The JSOU Press, MacDill AFB, Florida.

Dempsey, T. (2006). Counterterrorism in African Failed States: Challenges and Potential Solutions. Strategic Studies Institute.

Falkenrath, R. (2009). . Web.

Finnegan, W. (2005). The Terrorism Beat; How is the NYPD defending the City? The New Yorker.

Giraldo, J. K. & Trinkunas, A. H. (2007). Terrorism financing and state responses: a comparative perspective. Stanford University Press.

Hains, C. M. et al. (2008). Breaking the Failed-State Cycle. RAND Corporation.

Rollins, J. (2010). International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress. DIANE Publishing.

Rotberg I. R. (2004). “The New Nature of Nation-State Failure.” The Washington Quarterly. Vol. 25 No 3, 2002: 85-96.

Schorn, D. (2006). . CBS. Web.

Stein, J. (2010). “”. Washington Post. Web.

Stohl, M. (2002). Networks of Terror, Failed States and Failing Policies After September 11. Strategic Outreach Program.

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