New York City is increasing already tight security as a precaution against possible terrorist reprisals for the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Additional safeguards are in place ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit Thursday to Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center destroyed by al-Qaida on September 11, 2001.
New York officials say there are currently no specific threats against the city. But authorities are taking no chances. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Monday that security has been increased since bin Laden’s killing, although not all measures are visible to the public.
"We’re working closely, our counter-terrorism bureau and our intelligence division, working closely with our federal partners both at home and abroad to see if there’s any indication of, perhaps, retaliatory acts," he said.
Extra precautions are in place at what Kelly referred to as "iconic sites." These include Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and various houses of worship. The commissioner said additional resources have been devoted to transportation infrastructure. Subway and rail passengers are subject to random bag searches. On the waters surrounding New York, close attention is being paid to ferries, harbor taxis and bridges.
There is an unmistakable police presence around Ground Zero, which President Obama plans to visit on Thursday. According to Kelly, there are police department linguists behind the scenes monitoring online chat rooms, and liaison officers stationed overseas to gather intelligence.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers are going about their daily routines. Rob Walsh works for the New York City emergency medical service. He says the security is reassuring, but notes it is a relatively new feature in American life. "It’s the new normal. You’ve just gotten used to it. You know, some days you don’t want to read the newspaper in fear of seeing that there is an attack. But the past almost 10 years, it’s what you’ve come to get used to," he said.
Walsh adds that his 7-year-old son never knew a time when city residents never had to think about precautions against possible terrorism.