'The Public In New York City Should Be Extraordinarily Confident,' He Tells CBS2's Maurice DuBoisBy Maurice DuBois

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, the NYPD has a highly sophisticated, multi-layered approach to keeping the city safe.

CBS2’s Maurice DuBois spoke with Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism and CBS contributor John Miller to see where the department is 20 years later.

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They met in the Joint Operations Unit, where there are dozens of cameras, multiple departments and a relentless approach to counterintelligence locally and globally. Miller has worked in and around this environment for decades.

Maurice DuBois: “Is the threat against New York City higher now than it was before that plane took off?”

John Miller: “I think we certainly have to consider it higher now… The key for us is our capabilities as a country are so so much further than they were 20 years ago in the counterterrorism realm. Things we do with special forces, things we do with drones, things we do with technology.”

DuBois: “Describe for me the unit that we’re in right now.”

Miller: “This is the only city in the United States, and probably the world, where you have 1,500 people in a municipal police department that show up every day and all they do is intelligence or counterterrorism… Officers that you see out on post with long guns and bulletproof vests… Dozens of analysts, who are pouring over threat information… And then we have the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Next door, multiple departments keep their thumb on the pulse of New York. There’s also a map showing the flight plan for every plane coming into the city.

“If one goes off its path, a bell rings in a control tower and the phone rings here,” Miller said.

Complete Coverage9/11 Twenty Years Later

Miller said instability in global security is an added concern now, with the transitions in Afghanistan, but added threats against the city are nothing new.

“We run them down, 99.9% of them turn out to be just that — an empty threat,” he told DuBois. “But if you look at the 20-year arc since 9/11, there have been 50 plots either against New York City or coming from New York City involving international terrorist groups and domestic terrorist groups. If you look at the last five years, that’s where 50% of those plots happen.”

New York City incidents in that time period include a bombing in Chelsea in 2016, another in the subway, and a bike path terror attack in 2017.

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“There are going to be those that get through all those layers of netting,” Miller said.

He said the possibility of cyberattacks also demands constant scrutiny.

“Every time we see some odd glitch with the trains, with the power grid, with the water, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What’s behind that glitch? Is it a normal glitch? Or is somebody pulling strings from four continents away in a hostile foreign power?'” he said.

Miller added the internet and various platforms have aided terrorists in their messaging and in NYPD intel.

“Osama bin Laden was an old world terrorist,” said Miller. “ISIS found Twitter, ISIS found social media… A lot of people who actually came on the radar because the plotting was done over social media.”

But looking back 20 years, the attacks on 9/11 in our city still have a personal resonance for a man so steeped in global intelligence.

DuBois: “You’re a New York guy. You’ve lived here a long time… Did you take it personally, like a lot of us did?”

Miller: “Very much so, and so many different ways… I thought about the interview with bin Laden in Afghanistan where he said this was going to happen… Danny Richards from the bomb squad… You could be sitting there with him that summer and by that fall, he would be gone. Emergency service cops, I knew the command staff of the fire department, we were friends… It’s the thing that made me quit one job and start another where I felt I could take the knowledge that I had and put it to work in a different way.”

More personal insight from Miller — how he actually processes the enormous amount of critical, ultimately world changing, information.

DuBois: “I’m sitting here wondering how do you actually sleep? You think about all this stuff all the time.”

Miller: “I sleep like a baby… We don’t worry about anything, because we can use that same time for planning. And planning is way better than worrying.”

DuBois: “How confident should the public be right now?”

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Miller: “I think the public in New York City should be extraordinarily confident. There is no police department in the world, there is no other city in the world that has dedicated this number of people, this amount of money, these kinds of resources to protecting a city the way we protect New York… You’re about as safe here as you’re going to be anywhere in the world.”

Maurice DuBois