Is Gotham Ready for Bioterror?

Savage terror attacks in recent years have killed thousands of people in the United States, Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The increasingly brazen acts, while violent and tragic, have been limited in scope because of the terrorists’ dependence on conventional weapons—firearms, vehicles, and homemade bombs. After each incident, a familiar sequence of responses ensues: politicians call for resolve; civil authorities and residents work to clean up the damaged area; medical personnel give aid to the victims; shopkeepers and merchants reopen. And almost everyone outside those directly affected moves on, hoping that terror won’t call their number in the future. Getting on with life makes sense, of course, but complacency about terrorism looms as a serious problem in free societies—especially since future terrorist threats hold the potential to shake the foundations of our society. The overwhelming evidence—from Osama bin Laden’s hard drive to incessant ISIS tweets—is that our jihadist enemies are determined to break through conventional limitations on death-dealing and do us even more grievous harm.

Of all the types of unconventional threats we face, bioterror may be the most worrisome. The danger is especially pressing for high-visibility areas such as Washington and, especially, New York. Gotham’s centrality as a cultural and financial center, along with its size and symbolism, makes it a more desirable target for jihadists than any other city. According to a Heritage Foundation breakdown of 74 failed terrorist plots against the United States between 9/11 and 2015, 16, or 22 percent, targeted New York, more than any other U.S. city—one reason that New York felt the need to create its own antiterror unit. (Another reason: city officials didn’t trust federal law enforcement and intelligence entities to give the NYPD actionable intelligence on a timely basis.)

Biological attacks are disease outbreaks on steroids, requiring a speed and scope of response much greater than typically needed for natural infectious-disease events—or conventional terror. Responding to bioterror in New York would present particularly significant challenges because of the city’s size, population density, and transportation issues.

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About OyiaBrown

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