Officials have not properly analyzed potential links among various terror incidents in New York, including two foiled bomb plots and the first deadly attack on the World Trade Center, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The Jewish Week.
"I don’t think we’ve done the kind of sufficient examination which these types of events warranted to see how closely tied together they are," said Kelly, who was top cop here from 1992-94, when some of the incidents took place.
Kelly was tapped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to return to One Police Plaza after stints as head of the U.S. Customs Service, undersecretary of enforcement at the Department of the Treasury and director of corporate security at Bear Stearns & Co.
Kelly said that the NYPD was taking seriously the possibility of a terror attack targeting Jewish neighborhoods, and that Israeli counterparts recently briefed a team of officers about the type of bombs used by Palestinian terrorists and the "nature of the bombers themselves."
The Jewish Week: What was your reaction when a suspected terrorist announced on "60 Minutes" that those who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 originally targeted Jewish neighborhoods?
Kelly: It was a reaction of concern, but I don’t think anyone was surprised. Obviously we’ve seen since the Meir Kahane assassination [in 1990] that the Jewish community has been a target. It’s something we have to guard against. We certainly live in a changed world since 9-11. If you look back, we should have learned a lesson long before Sept. 11. Hopefully we have to use that as a wake-up call.
You were police commissioner during the first World Trade Center attack. Were there signs then that something bigger was at hand?
When we made the arrest six days after the  event, they [the perpetrators] were looked on almost derisively. They went back for the deposit [on the rental truck that contained the bomb.] They didn’t seem to be professional but very amateurish. A local police agency doesnít have the ability to get that information and look on a worldwide basis … We did see it as part of a hatred of America, but whether or not it was tied to a worldwide scheme to continue to attack us, it was not foremost on our minds then.
In retrospect, clearly if you look at the totality of the evidence there, you now know that surely there should have been warnings. Right after the ’93 bombing we had another incident that we foiled in the planning stages; and then later in 1997, there was a group actually assembling the bombs with the detonators [arrested in Brooklyn]. All these things were seen as individual events, not part of a major conspiracy and scheme to hurt America in a very dramatic way.
Based on the information you have now, do you believe the incidents you mentioned are connected in some way, or just random individuals with the same nefarious intentions?
They are people with common interests trying to carry out various acts. I don’t think we’ve done the kind of sufficient examination which these type of events warranted to see how closely tied together they are. What it did show is that we were targeted and should have been much more aware and on our guard than we were. It’s the nature of Americans to be optimistic and forward-looking as a society. We don’t tend to learn very well from history. We should have, in retrospect, been much more aware of it and able to put it all together.
Hopefully, if any good at all comes out of it, we have to be much more vigilant. We have to keep people focused on this issue. We are at war, and it’s very important that we marshal the public to help. We’ve established a hotline, (888) NYC-SAFE, to call if people see something they think is out of the ordinary or suspicious and might not have called in the past, but through the prism of Sept. 11, it may look a lot different.
You dispatched a squad to Israel to study police reaction to terrorism there. What did they learn?
The trip was a success. The detectives from our counter-terrorism division and intelligence division found out, to a large extent, what Israel’s government and police are doing to protect itself, and how difficult their situation is. They gave us some very helpful information. We were looking for tactics and information as to what types of material were used to carry out these attacks and maybe some information about the nature of the bombers themselves.
How real is the danger of a bombing campaign like the one in Israel happening in New York?
It’s difficult to predict. We have to be concerned about some type of copycat person who might want to do something along those lines. This is the capital of the world, and when people are looking for notoriety they come to New York to get it.
What is your sense of the public mood? Are people overly nervous, panicked or calm?
People are pretty accepting of the increased risk. They know itís out there, going on with life, but much more vigilant, for sure more willing to report things than in the past, but more mature, if I could use that word. I don’t see panic by any means.