Safe at Home? NYC Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik

This partial transcript of War on Terror, October 8, 2001, was provided by the Federal

LINDA VESTER, HOST: Now to the terrorism security in your city, your town. 18,000 law enforcement organizations in this country have gotten the alert from the FBI. New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik is one of those who got the call.

Mr. Commissioner, thank you very much for being here.


VESTER: First let me ask you about the anthrax attack. Well, it's not an anthrax attack yet, but people are concerned that it may have been. We have two cases. How well prepared are police departments around the country for a bio-terror attack?

KERIK: Well, I think they're pretty prepared. And let me tell you what we're doing in New York City. We have a synchronic surveillance system within the fire department's EMS service to monitor and track flu-like symptoms and things that would pop up as sort of a...

VESTER: Early warning?

KERIK: Like an early warning tracking system.

VESTER: Right.

KERIK: And those systems are also implemented in the hospitals. So if there's something there we think we should be looking at, we'll look at it. We've had no serious threats. We've had no threats at all here in New York, and people have to realize that. These two cases in Florida, they are being looked at. We could have no links, as the attorney general said earlier, to the terrorist groups or any of the terrorist cells. But we'll continue to monitor and look at them.

VESTER: Well, you have sophisticated system here in New York City. But let's say Palm Beach County, Florida, or somewhere else in the country, their system may not be so sophisticated. The key to halting some sort of bio-terror attack is early detection. How good are the detection systems in other parts of the country?

KERIK: Well, I think everybody's sort of getting on board with the tracking systems and monitoring systems. You know, this is something that perhaps some of those cities and states haven't looked at in the past or been as concerned with until September 11th, but things have changed and changed rather rapidly. And I think right now, everybody's looking, and they're doing the best they can.

VESTER: You said you're concerned that -- well, the -- what we hear now in Florida, that now we're just going to have a bunch of kooks, that there will be these scare threats and that we're all going to have to contend with them.

KERIK: Well, you know, sometimes there are sick people out there. You know, when -- prior to September 11th, we had -- we averaged about six or seven bomb scares or bomb threats a day in this city. That number after September 11th went up to about 100 a day. Since then, it's dropped substantially, but there are some sick people and they do some stupid things.

VESTER: Let me ask you a hard question. In a major city like New York City, where you have so many officers on high alert, is it still porous? Are there still holes?

KERIK: Well, perhaps, you know...

VESTER: I mean, can somebody get into a subway system and release something into the air system of the subway or a hospital or the New York Stock Exchange?

KERIK: Well, these are all things that are being looked at and being monitored and being surveilled now. We have a very, very sensitive monitoring system. We also have a group of business leaders and corporate leaders and security directors that we meet with, the police department meets with, when there are problems like this. I've met with that group within the last three weeks. We've talked about different things that they should be looking at for businesses, ventilation systems, the subways, for example, the bus terminals. These are all things that we already have in progress, and they seem to be working pretty well.

VESTER: Let me ask you about the investigation. Two hundred twenty- nine individuals the FBI is still looking for as of tonight. New York City's police department has been called on to help.

KERIK: Uh-huh.

VESTER: What specifically have you been asked to help with?

KERIK: Find 229 individuals. I can't...

VESTER: Or some portion thereof.

KERIK: I can't into the investigation, per se, but what I can tell you is we have a substantial number of detectives assigned to the joint terrorist task force, which is comprised of the FBI and the New York City Police Department. And our investigators work around the clock, monitoring and tracking the people that we feel we should be looking at. And they're doing that really around the country, not only in New York City, not only in Florida, but really around the country right now.

VESTER: You know, another thing that has been stepped up quietly is checking the water systems all around the country. What do you know of in New York? Is there some coordination with the police department?

KERIK: Well, it's coordinated between the police department, between the federal government, the FBI. We also have military involvement. These are all things we're looking at as a part of our homeland security program.

VESTER: OK. Let me ask you about law enforcement and special training because some people have wondered whether we need to just step up everybody's training. You've trained Army officers in special forces, counterterrorism, et cetera, et cetera. Do you think that that kind of training now needs to be expanded to cops around the country, but also to, say, flight crews on commercial airliners now?

KERIK: Well, I think these are all things that Tom Ridge will look at in his new position in homeland security. And I think that you will see crossovers between municipal, state and federal agencies and the military. Right now, we're augmented by the National Guard and some military units in some of the security at our bridges and tunnels, our airports. You may see some of that, unlike you've seen in the past. Training, intelligence -- these are all things I think we have to work very closely together on.

VESTER: OK, a personal question. In the first minutes of the attacks on September 11th, you were among those trapped. Now we have aircraft dropping bombs, and some of the crews have written on the fronts of the bombs, you know, "For the fire department of New York," "For the NYPD," for your colleagues who lost their lives in these attacks. How does that make you feel to know that the military is sort of going at this with you in mind?

KERIK: I think it's well deserved. I was at a funeral today, Ronnie Cleffer's funeral, and his daughter, Jamie, read a letter to him. Those bombs should have NYPD on them. They took 23 of my cops. The whole world is angry about it. The people that did this deserve what they get.

VESTER: Understood. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik of New York City, thank you very much for being with us.

KERIK: Thank you.

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