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tv   This Is Life With Lisa Ling  CNN  November 17, 2019 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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from packaging tape... to tape that can bond materials to buildings... and planes. one idea can unlock a breadth of solutions. at 3m, we are solving problems that improve lives. it's new year's eve in times square. arguably the biggest party in the world. people from all over have been flocking here for a century to watch the ball drop at midnight. but behind the scenes, the mood is far from celebratory.
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>> please call. plutonium. >> there was a pulse of an image, new york city in the background. someone in the public sees it. they have every right to feel alarmed. >> there are more threats to the city on new year's eve than at any time of the year. and the responsibility of protecting millions of new yorkers and tourists falls squarely on the shoulders of the n.y.p.d. do you think the threat is bigger now? >> terrorism has evolved. it's always evolving. >> attacks on the city can come from anyone and anywhere. how do you prepare for every possible scenario? >> this is all hands on deck. we have to be as vigilant as possible. >> for us this is the big game. this is the superbowl. >> and the days before their biggest event of the year, an embedding with the country's large he felt police force to find out what it takes to keep new york city safe.
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♪ ♪ >> it is a beautiful blue sky. not a cloud in the sky. except for the huge sickening cloud that still hangs over where the world trade centers used to be. >> 18 years ago, one morning in september, all eyes fell on new york. and the city's police force, the largest in the country, was left shell shocked. >> i do recall it very vividly. streets were empty.
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everything changed from that day forward. >> thomas galatti is a veteran investigator for the new york city police department. on 9/11 he commanded a precinct in the bronx, but now he serves as chief of intelligence, overseeing alterist investigations city wide. did you realize at that moment that your life as an officer of the law was going to change? >> i think everybody before 9/11 changed everything. i didn't know who osama bin lauden was. i never followed terrorism. that woke me and everybody up. >> how would you describe the approach to terrorism that the n.y.p.d. employed after 9/11? >> i think that's when the department said, wait a second, this isn't a one-time event. this is something that's going to continue to happen. and i think the n.y.p.d. really reinvented itself. i hate to say it, but the world we live in today, we need to be prepared, and that's why the investment went into, you know, creating these programs.
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>> after 9/11, the n.y.p.d. was prepared to try anything to prevent another attack. while the federal government went after terror cells abroad, the department turned a microscope on what they considered a threat in their own backyard. new york's muslim communities. anger at the n.y.p.d. comes following the leaking of a 60-page report. the demographics unit was a surveillance program designed to infiltrate muslim gatherings in city neighborhoods. >> under cover cops would visit places of worship, cafes and businesses, where people ate, where they prayed, even where they got their haircut. >> no matter where you lived, if you were muslim in new york, there's a good chance your community was being watched.
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♪ ♪ >> everybody is a suspect. we used to watch everybody, people were very terrified. you say the wrong thing, you're done. >> under the surveillance program, a key focus was gatherings of worship. places like majid al salahin, a small mosque in q garden hills. they watched as fear spread in the community. in the beginning, did you feel like there was a lot of heavy handedness? >> of course. a lot of people were afraid to come to pray in the mosque because any wrong move,
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anything, they would be in trouble. >> while under police scrutiny for suspected ties to terrorism, muslim communities like this one had become the object of retaliation for 9/11. >> people pulling the hijabs out of their heads, pushing them, spitting on them, call them terrorist, call them osama. they don't want to go to the presivpr precinct. they didn't feel comfortable going to report it. >> the growing rift between the muslim communities and the n.y.p.d. revealed a misguided policy that would eventually be deemed a failure. >> breaking news from the n.y.p.d.. the department has disbanded its controversial surveillance program involving muslim communities. >> when the secret surveillance program was finally exposed and disbanded, it had yielded no leads to terrorists. would you say, were there any mistakes made in the aftermath of 9/11 in how the department was trying to
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ascertain information? >> i don't think that the department made any mistakes. i think that we were being very prudent. we have to make sure that we abide by the constitution, and we can't violate anybody's civil rights. i think in the very beginning there might have been some growing pains, but i think we're doing a good job now. i think that people are more trusting to us when the people they're talking to represent their own faith. >> 35-year-old bilal is a community affairs sergeant in the 107 precinct. just minutes from masjad alahin. since the scandal they have tried to diversify their ranks. actively recruiting muslim officers like bilal, there are now over a thousand of them on the force. more than any other department in the country. bilal stops here regularly to
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pray and address concerns about security and safety. >> you want to see the police car outside? >> yes. >> okay. >> who wants to sit in the front? most people, even adults, they can tell you about the one time they got stopped by a police officer and whether it was a good or bad interaction. i think they'll remember that for the rest of their lives. these are all our sirens. >> do you think a lot of people are surprised by seeing muslim officers praying in mosques? >> in the beginning, yes. in the beginning it was shocking. everybody had to look what's going on. >> check this out. >> but now there's a lot of young muslim officers. now it's like normal now. >> ready, guys? >> it's there big time. they're working on it, hopefully get there soon. >> it's important to make this point. bilal is not there to gather information on his neighbors. he's there to try to keep them safe, and bridge the gap between the n.y.p.d. and the city's muslim population.
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do you feel like people in the mosque and in the communities really trust you? >> yes, definitely. and you build that trust just by being a practicing muslim like them. there is a little tension when i first walk in. they're a little bit on edge. as soon as i pray the same way they pray, their face completely changes. that tension completely melts away. >> bilal hopes to empower communities alienated after 9/11 by addressing individual grievances. >> people have domestic issues, they have problems with their kids, they have questions with how to report a missing person. i get calls all the time. >> what does it mean to you to work for a department that is sending you out as liaisons to communities that have historically had a distrust for the cops? >> they realize that there was a mistrust issue so they're acknowledging it. i feel like if there's a problem with something, you can do nothing and criticize it, or you can join it and make it better for everyone.
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they're putting what i feel the right officers in the right places to diffuse that tension with the muslim community in order -- for them to not feel that they're isolated and help them understand that they're as part of the system as everyone else. >> by diversifying their team with offer certificates like bilal, they have changed their approach to combatting terror. and they continue to evolve. investigations are now guided, not by cultural background, but by hard evidence. >> what was it found in? >> when situations unfold in real time, it's up to the n.y.p.d.'s intelligence gathering machine to act quickly. >> this one sounds like a pretty concerning one. >> i've never encountered anything like that. at verizon, we're building the most powerful 5g experience for america. that's why the nfl chose verizon. because they need the massive capacity of 5g with ultra wideband, so more screaming, streaming, posting fans... can experience 5g all at once. this is happening in 13 stadiums all across the country.
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the new york city transit system is a massive labyrinth of concrete and steel. the 840 miles of tunnels that connect new yorkers to each other are also a vulnerability. so even with 4,000 cameras watching what comes in and out, counterterrorism officials appeal to the public for help. >> don't assume it was left by accident. if you see something, say something. >> for everyone who sees something and says something
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calls are routed to a quiet cubicle office building in the financial district. it's here where a handful of detectives process all terrorism-related tips across the boroughs. sergeant, your office fields hundreds of calls from week to week. can you give me an example of what warrants investigation? >> suspicious packages, something that warrants a phone call. we have to determine if it requires an investigation. >> most tips on the hot line and without incident. and today the city appears quiet. >> now, this substance, what was it in that it was found in? it was just thrown into the garbage bag? thank you. >> but when the call comes in,
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the mood changes. >> do you have a call to operations? >> sanitation, please call we have plutonium. is it containers or do you know what it's stored in? >> he said a radiation storage facility. >> it's in a radiation facility. >> they scanned radiation and found plutonium 39. >> this one sounds like a pretty concerning one, does at any time? >> i've never encountered anything like that. >> the nightmare terrorism is a dirty bomb, explosives with radioactive waste. >> any time somebody says the word plutonium, it's going to set off bells. >> notify locations. >> it requires all nexus researchers. like a 911 dispatcher on
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steroids. >> you can set the call over there as well. >> they send local patrol units, a hazardous material team and even bring in the fbi. >> i'll give you the address. >> new information is coming in. a marked letter found alongside the plutonium. >> do you know how they identified it? >> it's in that garbage bag. that piece of mail was also in the garbage bag. >> it was a letter attached inside the garbage bag, so we have an address. >> they hope the address on the letter could lead them to the plutonium's origin. and now all they can do is wait. >> what's up? okay. thank you. >> it turns out this time
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there's no insidious plot. >> everything's fine. >> just a mistake. medical waste accidently discarded along with the trash. the plutonium is contained and everyone can briefly breathe a sigh of relief. >> all right. >> but the call center is just one piece of a massive intelligence machine and it's up to deputy commissioner john miller to steer it. >> there are things that we need as a police department that are unique to policing. the information we need, we need it yesterday. >> a former abc news anchor, he's both covered and led major terrorism investigations, and even interviewed osama bin lauden. n.y.p.d. gets a call that there is plutonium in a trash dumpster site. what is going through your mind? >> when we get a threat, it's like flicking a giant switch
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that turns on a big machine. if all of those things start turning at once, and all of that happened today. and as it turned out, it was low-grade medical waste, but i have to say when that big switch turns on between the time all those people are rolling and the time you have that answer, it will get your head going. >> in a very short period of time, times square here is going to be filled with about a million people. that's got to be a lot of pressure on you. >> you have to, as the leader of the intelligence and counterterrorism machine within the n.y.p.d., be willing to morph and change on a daily basis with the shape of a thread. terrorism has evolved. it's always evolving. that's why you have to be agile in this business. >> before 9/11, the number of n.y.p.d. officers assigned to counterterrorism was less than two dozen.
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now it's over a thousand. even with an overwhelming show of force, what worries officials today isn't a large-scale attack coordinated from overseas, but the damage a sole individual can inflict on their own. every day, about 4 million people use the subway system in new york city, and just over a year ago, one man came down here to this very location with the intention of harming a lot of people by detonating the first suicide vest ever in the u.s. >> monday, december 11, 6:00 here in new york, the national spotlight is on ♪
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[ siren ]. >> it was pretty early in the morning. a call came over. a bombing in the subway. i immediately rushed up to the scene and ran up to him, and he had burns across his chest. i started asking him if there were any other bombs, were we looking for any other people, who did you come with here? how did you come here. where did you make the bomb? as he started speaking more and more he indicated he did the attack for isis. >> breaking news today, a tear ror attack in new york city, a 27-year-old man living in brooklyn has told police he made the crude device at his workplace. >> had he been in contact with isis? >> he did it on behalf of isis, the first suicide bomber we had
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in the united states, self-inspired, looking at propaganda, following bomb-making instructions online. if it wasn't for mistakes he made in the construction i think people would have died in that subway tunnel. >> since 9/11, the city of new york has been the target of over 25 plots by extremists. >> his plan was to strap on explosives and blow up the subway. >> the bomb squad diffused the car bomb. police said it was packed with fuel and fireworks. >> investigators believe the preliminary cause of the explosion is an ied. >> the two most recent explosions, the subway bombing. >> there has been a horrible truck attack. >> and one that took the lives of people.
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>> we're talking about people often loners, of don't confide in anybody else, just themselves, it's very difficult for us to find. >> tomorrow, i'm hitting the streets with a unit of detectives. >> just received an anonymous tip there would be an act of violence. >> as a new threat emerges. >> ordinary citizens, white supremists, we need to know when they're coming into new york city. (paul) wireless network claims are so confusing. america's most reliable network. the nation's largest and most reliable network. the best network is even better? best, fastest, best. enough. sprint's doing things differently. they're offering a new 100% total satisfaction guarantee. try it out and decide for yourself. now you can switch to sprint and get both an unlimited plan
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in the weeks leading up to new year's eve, the nypd responds to an uptick in calls to their terrorism hotline. and today, i'm riding with the leads unit, a network of street detectives to follow those tips wherever it takes them. whether a serious threat or forgotten backpack, it's up to this officer to chase them down. >> how many cases do you investigate per year? >> about 800 this year alone. >> that sounds like a pretty high number. >> more than last year and growing each year. >> we're headed uptown where leads are following a threat
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posted on a reddit. >> they posted an act of violence on 125th street and lexington. >> it is a rant from a white supremacist saying today they're targeting harlem with loaded weapons. >> how recently did this come into your office? >> this just came in today. >> this is a fresh one? >> this is as fresh as you can get. visit some establishments and encourage them to call if they see anything that's out of place. >> at this early stage in the investigation, the unit has little to go on besides the online threat. so their goal today is a show of force. their presence on the streets could help deter a possible attack. >> today is more preventative, trying to prevent any violence. that's why we're out here now and be there for the public. >> after today, if nothing
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happens, do you close the case? >> no. it doesn't stop here. we will try to absolutely identify and apprehend the individual who made the threat. >> for the intelligence bureau, hateful threats like these signal what might lie ahead. >> when we say terrorism we think of it as 9/11, but extremism has really changed and we find it in many forms. it could be white supremacy, it could be anti-semitism. we've looked at militias, sovereign citizens. >> within the past two years, federal arrests for national terrorism were outpaced by diabetic extremists. >> i know in the last couple of months you've evacuated numerous buildings in new york city because of threats by extremists. >> yes. the individual who was mailing bom bombs throughout the country many ended up here and had one
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from baltimore who came here, a white supremacist and killed a black man right in manhattan. new york city is a very diverse community. i think carrying out an attack in new york city for some groups is significant and we have to be prepared for that. >> the factors that drive extremist violence are complex and could be open for misinterpretation, which is why some american police departments are seeking outside perspectives. courtney lebeau is a policy advisor, expert in countering violence extremism whether far right nationalists or groups like isis, she's advised homeland security and local police agencies on the shifting level of the threat. >> for many years we were trying to root out these terror cells around the world. in recent years we've been hearing so much more about these individual attacks.
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where did that evolution start to happen and when? >> long gone are those days of the coordinated plotted cell-based attacks like 9/11 from groups like isis. al shabaab, al qaeda. what we've seen more now is lone wolf homegrown violent extremism individuals inspired by but not specifically affiliated with one particular organization. whether we're talking about a white supremacist organization or a group like isis, that can be a young kid who has some sort of grievance in their basement, or that can be a racist in a van that wants to carry out some attack. >> which is harder to combat? the terrorist cells or lone wolves conspireing to commit violence? >> it's much harder for law enforcement to detect one individual that's radicalizing on their own and mobilizing potentially to violence than it is to monitor and look at what's
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going on with a group of people. so law enforcement is definitely be challenged in ways that they haven't before. >> local police departments have turned to experts like courtney to learn what motivates extremists before they commit and act of violence. >> recruiters know exactly what they're doing. they prey on those grievances and make it seem like it's imperative for this individual to go down this road. >> courtney understands how extremists think because she's spoken with them and tomorrow she won't have to travel far because the person she's seeking is a born and raised new yorker. >> you felt okay with planning attacks that could kill your fellow americans? >> yes. [ "turn around, look at me" -the vogues ] ♪ there is someone ♪ walking behind you ♪ turn around ♪ look at me
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i grew up in long island, small town, lower middle class family. it was never my original plan to end up in the situation i'm in now but eventually i found my way into al qaeda. >> he may look like any other new yorker but bryant is a
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homegrown teenager. from a south american family, he made his way overseas and even joined the ranks of al qaeda. when he was caught in pakistan he was convicted of conspiracy and served eight years in federal prison. in a controversial plea deal with u.s. authorities, bryant gave up everything he knew about al qaeda, even plans to attack infrastructure in his home city. >> the mid- level al qaeda leader was picking my brain, asking me questions about long island railroad. i helped give information on how to attack, specifically the tunnel that leads into manhattan. >> what would inspire someone to want to become an extremist? >> there's no one profile but
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what i think are factors that drive people, we see various things in common. >> today, bryant is meeting courtney in the outer boroughs. he's agreed to answer her questions about what motivated him to not against his own country. >> bryant, first of all, i'm here not as a journalist but an expert in this field. my goal really is to learn about your story and learn some insights. that's my goal. >> okay. >> after cooperating as a witness with the u.s. government, bryant is under strict parole conditions. he's cautious, and for good reason. despite unprecedented testimony against al qaeda he's received no witness protection. >> that's always in the back of my mind, even the slight chance somebody from overseas might want to come and get me. i try not to let that take over. >> growing up, would you say you
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were a good kid? >> i think think so. i'm from a small town called medford. i wasn't too big into sports. when i was little i had asthma. you're kind of stuck where you are so i didn't go too far out of my neighborhood. i was struggling to get a decent job, i was working on a car wash. >> it usually starts with a grievance, something may happen in their family, maybe they lost a job, maybe it's an issue with someone at a house of worship, whatever it might be. >> growing up in long island, bryant's family was catholic, but he wasn't religious until he stumbled upon a book he began to read on his own. >> why islam? if you didn't really grow up associated with any religion at all, what attracted you to islam in the beginning?
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>> a lot of it was taking care of yourself, your body, staying away from intoxicants, five daily prayers, it appealed to me. >> you were kind of learning about your faith sort of on your own? >> yeah. >> many people convert to muslim. there are 1.6 billion muslims out there who are peaceful. at what point did you develop those kind of extreme views? >> when you're that young you try to figure things out. i had seen a lot of documentaries on palestine and conspiracy theories around the world. >> conspiracy theories about? >> real intentions of occupation and muslim land in the middle east and supporting dictators and that leads to anwar al awlaki, and he talks about some of that. >> to the muslims in america i have this to say. jihad against america is binding on every able muslim.
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>> i would listen to mp3 recordings of his sermons. >> anwar al awlaki is well-known to terrorist experts. he delivered violent sermons in english aimed at young impressionable audiences, people like bryant. >>al ar -- al awarky was very chancell charismatic. >> american as a whole is a resignation of evil. >> is resonated with you? >> i said a lot of people talk and don't do anything. i don't want to do anything like
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that. >> would you say religion is used to justify grievances. >> i think if you don't have a depth of knowledge about theology or have some sort of perceived grievance or real grievance, oftentimes they get intertwined. >> you knew you were participating in a planning attack on your hometown that could kill your fellow americans? >> i was aware of that, yes. >> was there a moment where you feel like people around you could have stopped you? >> that's difficult to say. i did some horrible stuff. you don't realized until you get out of that environment. there was a lot of things that could have been said to a younger version of me that maybe i wouldn't have been that person. >> for some individuals, it's the use of violence to achieve an ideology objective.
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if you don't have that open communication with people and sexy propaganda is ready at your fingertips, then it's an easy road to go down. >> as a muslim, do you feel like you did it sort of a disservice to your faith? >> only god knows that. and i will find out in the next life. >> what courtney learns from sources like bryant could give law enforcement agencies like the nypd intelligence they can use to track online propaganda. >> another image, the brooklyn bridge, landmark in new york city. >> eddie, a sergeant with the nypd cyber division, is on the hunt for anything that might inspire a lone wolf attack. >> there's a very fine line you're working with. people are allowed to speak as
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they want to speak. it's their right. but when someone's calling for action, if we believe that there is an actual call to violence, we're going to jump on it. for example, this image, right? it's manhattan. >> time square. >> yeah. the biggest party in the u.s. hit them with the explosive belts and harvest them with silencers and snipers. this is concerning to us. they made comments about snipers and so on. this is information we break down and will share with our emergency service units. >> this is certainly inciting horrific violence? >> 100%. >> we have to slowly dissect it and see where it came from. >> as a muslim police officer, how do you feel when you come across this kind of stuff? >> it's a personal war for me to go up against people depicting
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the faith in such a horrible way. i don't want them catching us so i take it personally. >> mess with new york city -- >> mess with the biggest police department in the world. we take care of our own city. >> tonight, as final preparations are made in time square, all bureaus of the nypd are mobilizing. tomorrow, their counter-terrorism machine will take on the ultimate stress test, securing the largest new year's gathering in the country. i want my customers to look at that meat and say wow like real meat is something that you can taste the difference in raised without antibiotics. all that stuff. it's good it's quality food.
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for about a million people, tonight's the night. new year's eve in time square. th throngs of travelers, some who crossed oceans to celebrate. for those who dreamt of the iconic ball drop, it's a key item on their bucket list. behind it all, there are over 10,000 officers from the nypd and the burden of responsibility
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to keep everyone safe. starting early in the morning, revelers begin to arrive and go through a series of checkpoints. >> no chairs. no tripods for the cameras. the earlier you show up, the better chance of scoring a good spot. what time did you get out here today? >> 8:00 a.m. >> come on. >> 7:00. >> you've been out here since 7:00? >> yeah. >> everybody has to go to the right. >> once you reach times square, the police corral everyone in steel pins where they have to stay until after the ball drops. what do you have to do if you have to go to the bathroom? >> nothing. >> some people wear diapers. >> that and a forecast of heavy rain isn't stopping them.
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>> at least it's not cold. a little rain maybe. >> how are you doing? it's raining. it's cold and there is still hours before midnight. and they can't get out of these pins. with hundreds of thousands of lives on the line, how do you secure the area? in times square alone, the nypd security detail is the size of the third largest police force in the country. their secret are about numbers but there are command posts, barrier trucks, k-9 units and a dozen federal agencies covering 50 square blocks. a massive force on high alert. do you feel safe out here? >> yeah, the security is pretty
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heavy. as the sun set, the intelligence burro has eyes and ears overseas. if there is an attack in one city, it could trigger alarm bells for officials in new york. starting in australia at each stroke of midnight they breathe another sigh of relief. the chief isn't resting yet. >> from the intel perspective, we're following a couple things we have to report earlier in manchester tonight there was an incident on a train where an individual stabbed three people, including a peace officer. rodd rotterdam had a plot that was foiled and an ied went off at a mall in the philippines. >> when you hear about these things overseas, what are you looking for? >> these are things we're following all around to get an idea of what possibly could happen here.
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>> five, four, three, two, one! >> according to the department, for every officer you can see, many are out of view tucked in the shadows. >> we've always had a counter sniper capability because times square, it's kind of at the bottom of a very famous canyon, if you will, a concrete and glass canyon but a canyon nonetheless. after the las vegas sniper show, the kind of damage that can be done in a large crowd did some technical things with help prom the secret service with buildings to mark zones and sectors of windows so that if something happened, we'd be able to zero in on that building, that floor, that corner equals that room, that office and so on. >> using the vegas attack as a blueprint for the worst-case
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scenario, the counter snipers need a clear line of sight and tonight for that reason, there is a full ban on all umbrellas in times square. all the measures are in place and as the crowd reaches full capacity, spirits are high. we have an hour until midnight. what is that like for you to be monitoring so many different sources at one time and have a million people in times square? >> the times when i get worried is really not when the traffic is coming in and the threat stream is moving. when i feel at ease is when nothing is coming over because it means everything is really quiet or you're missing something. (paul) wireless network claims are so confusing.
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i'm in times square with the nypd just before midnight. people enjoyed sheets of rain for over 11 hours. they are cold and tired but ridiculously excited. for the small army assigned to protect them, with all the surveillance and all the barricades, everything is in place. it's time to hold their breath. the moment is finally here. ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!
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>> we're wet. we're happy but thanks to the nypd and a little bit of luck, we're safe. ♪ ♪ >> as we're pelted by rain, confetti and frank sa sen thai o think this crazy night marries our hopes for future with our worst fears. >> from an intelligence standpoint you think what is next? are all the bases covered? >> we should not be detoured by threats. we should live our lives. >> realistically, we'll never be 100% safe in a free society.
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but new york doesn't scare easy happy new years.ld we. tonight the information super highway. an online network called internet. >> back in the early 2000s, the internet was the wild, wild west. nothing had happened that says you better be aware what you're doing on the internet. >> we saw the emerging of these websites where individuals could g to commit credit card theft. identity documents. this is the 21st century's version of burglary. >> you can buy anything that is stolen at bottom dollar prices and that mon


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