U.S. lawmakers are concerned that the terror attacks on Mumbai, India in November, which killed some 170 people, could happen in the United States. They heard from U.S. homeland security and law enforcement officials at a Senate hearing Thursday.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who calls himself an independent Democrat, opened a hearing of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs committee to examine ways to prevent the kind of deadly attacks that occurred in Mumbai from happening in the United States.
"It is imperative that we take smart, cost-effective security measures here in the U.S.A. through means such as security awareness training, exercises focused on soft targets and improved information sharing about potential threats," he said.
Donald Van Duyn, Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the attacks in Mumbai show how ordinary weapons can cause mass casualties. "It comes as no surprise that a small, disciplined team of highly trained individuals can wreak the level of havoc that we saw in Mumbai. Other terrorist groups will no doubt take note of and seek to emulate the Mumbai attacks," he said.
Those involved in the Mumbai attacks, about 10 in all, were armed with automatic rifles and grenades, and carried global positioning devices when they came ashore on speedboats and descended on hotels and restaurants and other sites, taking and killing hostages.
Charles Allen, the chief intelligence officer at the Homeland Security Department, says Indian authorities were not prepared for such a scenario. "In Mumbai we saw attackers were able to exploit the initial chaos to move on to new targets, while responders still focused on initial targets. From that perspective, while preparedness training for this kind of attack might not have prevented it, the effects could likely have been mitigated and reduced had authorities been well-prepared and exercised responses to terrorist attacks across all levels of government," he said.
Allen says the attackers conducted extensive surveillance of Mumbai's public facilities and transportation routes before the strikes, giving them an advantage during the attack because they knew traffic patterns and escape routes.
He says his agency is working with intelligence and law enforcement officials to identify and monitor would-be terrorists who may be scoping out potential targets here in the United States.