Veteran Journalist Gets a Bird’s Eye View of America’s Best Counterterrorism Force

Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey examines the NYPD’s fight against terrorism in his new book, “Securing the City

By Genevieve Long for the Foreign Policy Association

When the American public thinks of the United States fighting terrorism, the federal government naturally comes to mind. Yet for some in New York City, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the bureaucracy of the CIA, FBI, DHS, DIA and NSA proved too cumbersome to be effective in preventing attacks. Raymond Kelly was one of the people with this opinion, and after being reinstated as New York Police Department Commissioner in 2002, he created an elite force to go inside the world of potential terrorists—in cities throughout around the planet. The result, seven years later, is described in Christopher Dickey’s new book, “Securing the City”.

Dickey, who is Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek, is a veteran journalist, war correspondent, and author of several books. He has also written for a number of magazines, including Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and others.

Dickey’s book is already garnering accolades not only for its incisive look a rarely examined section of the NYPD, and for highlighting the dense amount of red tape that stands between the federal government and its ability to effectively fight terrorism.

Commissioner Kelly has focused on recruiting native-speakers of key languages needed to track activity in the world of terrorism—including Arabic, Farsi, and Dari. He has also seen to it that agents are stationed not just throughout New York’s five boroughs, but around the world. The NYPD’s counterterrorism network of about 600 agents is posted in major international cities, and the agents speak the languages and know the streets of the terrorist communities they are watching. Many of them, in a manner reflective of New York City’s general ethnic makeup, are foreign-born.

They know the slang of the back streets of Karachi because they are from the back streets of Karachi,” said Kelly during a recent appearance at the Overseas Press Club in New York for a Q&A with Christopher Dickey. He cooperated closely with Dickey for the book.

In contrast, it would be almost impossible for foreign-born applicants to get a similar position with the federal government because of prohibitive laws.

Dickey’s level of extraordinary access to the NYPD’s counterterrorism force for his book is somewhat of an anomaly. That alone could make the book worth reading. As NYPD Deputy Commissioner recently said, “If we gave brought the media out to see us work, that’s all we would ever do.” According to Browne, Dickey was given special access because of his affiliation with Newsweek and the impending publication of his book.

Dickey will continue his book tour at the Houston Forum on February 23 and at the World Affairs Council in Dallas on February 24.

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