Monday, October 10, 2005

New York City Subway Terror Plot Showed Appropriate Decision Making

The response of the New York City authorities to the potential terrorist attack over the weekend was an appropriate response and an example of the correct way for information flow and decision making to work. The federal government was in the best position to accumulate the information about the potential attacks, as it is responsible for leading the way on the war on terror. The federal government controls the CIA, military, FBI, and other agencies with superior resources for obtaining and interpreting information. The local New York City authorities were the correct ones to make the decision on how best to react to the situation. They knew their security capabilities and the true likelihood of the success of such an attack were it to be attempted.

The federal government is indeed the best resource to lead the effort in information gathering and determination of potential attacks by terrorists. The war on terror should be and is a combined effort of multiple federal agencies who can keep overarching global and strategic goals in mind while engaging in the conduct of the war. It has the resources and the capabilities that local governments cannot hope to have. While the coordination of the war leaves much to be desired, it is the correct level to lead that war.

However, the local level of government is the right level at which decisions about actions should be made. Local authorities know of the likelihood of the success of planned actions and the best countermeasures to take against the potential terrorist attacks. They also know their budgetary and resource constraints and can reach out for additional help where necessary. Additionally, and most importantly, they know their citizens and how those citizens will react to potential countermeasures.

While New York City officials have come under fire for the decision to flood the subways with police officers, the decision was New York City’s to make. The officials took the information that they had at the time and the time constraints that they had and decided that public safety was best served by not assuming that the risks posed were minimal. They knew the situation on the subways and the best way to protect the riders. This was an example of letting local government govern. Local governments are the first responders in times of crisis, so allowing them to make decisions on how to preposition resources to either prevent or to respond to terror attacks maximizes the probability that they will either deter, prevent, or correctly react to terror attacks. The federal government should facilitate and provide additional resources where necessary, but the decisions properly rest with local officials who are best informed about local situations and their citizens.

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