Security Experts Concerned About White House Proposal to Cut Counter-Terrorism Funds
GAMBA: It was 11:30 in the morning and Columbia University students Jack Goodman and Beatriz Vernon had just found out about the attacks in Brussels. They were taking the subway at Columbus Circle, but Goodman´s metrocard didn´t work.
JACK GOODMAN: As the train rolled in, I, in the heat of the moment jumped over the barrier and got slightly caught.
BEATRIZ VERNON: Suddenly this woman with braids, wearing a hoody and jeans came up to us. Then she said don’t panic and flashed us her NYPD badge.
GAMBA: An undercover policewoman. The type of officer there might be less of in the future. That’s if Obama’s proposed spending plan for 2017 cuts the budget for an antiterrorism program called the Urban Area Security Initiative.
BRIAN NUSSBAUM: The Urban Area Security Initiative is focused on large urban areas. It funds the development of counterterrorism capability in local level.
GAMBA: That was counter terrorism expert Brian Nussbaum. Last year, New York City received over 180 million dollars. But Nussbaum says the White House proposal would cut the city funding in half.
BRIAN NUSSBAUM: It would really rein in particular programs, make paying for events security for particular high profile events, whether it’s the UN General Assembly or new year’s eve in Manhattan.
GAMBA: The funding that would be cut also pays for an extra 550 counter terrorism officers. You know, those robocop policemen armed with machine guns, bullet proof vests and helmets.
Judzia Bee is a New Yorker who takes the train from Grand Central everyday. She says she has been seeing more agents since the attacks in Brussels.
JUDZIA BEE: Large amounts of police officers and also soldiers over there.
GAMBA: And you hadn’t seen them…
JUDZIA BEE: There were a few but never this many.
GAMBA 5: Richard Frankel is a retired FBI agent. He says he’s concerned that New York City police force will be weakened if budget cuts are made.
RICHARD FRANKEL: It could affect their training, it could affect the amount of people they have to respond. It would have a definite negative impact.
GAMBA: He says if the budget is tightened, the city of New York would also have less
RICHARD FRANKEL: Surveillance, undercover officers, cameras.
GAMBA: Which are there to help the city’s anti terrorism forces keep an eye on bad guys.
RICHARD FRANKEL: It could be that a target that they are interested in has met with other people and they want to find out if it is actually part of a terrorist cell, it could be that maybe there were something handed off between different people, it could be that somebody who wanted to commit a terrorist attack was surveilling a location and they want to see what location this person has been at.
GAMBA: So surveilling a city with 8 million people can be tricky..
MATHEW HORACE: Security is a delicate balance between protecting the public and also allowing civil liberties of everyone to remain intact.
GAMBA: That´s Mathew Horace, formerly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
MATHEW HORACE:Just imagine what would happen at every subway station in the city of we had to do primary screening prior to getting to subway station.
GAMBA : He says you can never have too many resources invested in security.
MATHEW HORACE: Lets face it we all want to see better and greater so if there is money attached to that then we get more resources and we re all better of because of that.
GAMBA: According to Mayor De Blasio, New York City has stopped more than 20 terrorist plots since 9|11. Four of them during the past two years.
So Nussbaum, counterterrorism expert says slashing funds that would help protect New York City, is not a good idea, especially after New York has proven it has done a good job investing the money in security.
BRIAN NUSSBAUM: New York has a reputation among state and local government of having done a good job with the resources it received and it is one of the highest risk in the country so I think many people were surprised by the proposal to cut the funding that much.
GAMBA: Obama´s final annual proposal will be voted on by Congress later this year.
Laura Gamba, Columbia Radio News