Sep 10, 2021
Sec. Mayorkas, New York Officials Hold 9/11 Security Briefing Transcript
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and New York officials held a press conference on September 10, 2021 to discuss security ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Read the full briefing here.
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Secretary Mayorkas: (00:06)
Good afternoon. I am honored to be here in New York city on the threshold of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is deeply meaningful to all of us who are here today, and Commissioner Shea, thank you very much for hosting us. We, in the Department of Homeland Security, 250,000 individuals across the country and around the world, work to honor the individuals whose lives were lost on 9/11 and thereafter, as a result of the tragic and terrible terrorist attacks of that day.
Secretary Mayorkas: (00:46)
I want to thank the mayor as well and Governor Hochul for being here. Their presence, and all of our presence together, from Commissioner Shea of the New York City Police Department to state and city leadership, as well as the federal government, we send together a very important message and it is an important message of partnership. As we stand here today, 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, we stand stronger and safer as a country, and we do so because of the partnership that we have built over those many years. We share information, we share and provide equipment, expertise and talent, and dedication towards a common goal, the safety and security of the American people. I’m very proud to be a part of that partnership and to stand with all of the tremendous leaders here who share that mission and who share that goal.
Secretary Mayorkas: (01:47)
It is my privilege to introduce to all of you Governor Hochul.
Governor Hochul: (01:54)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for traveling here for this weekend to share with us this occasion. The weather here today just reminds us of what it was like exactly 20 years ago, a spectacular day of bright blue skies, a day of great possibilities. We all know what happened when the terrorists decided to threaten New York City because we are the beacon of freedom, we are the place that has the Statue of Liberty in our Harbor. We continue to be a threat to all freedom-hating individuals around the world, and we’re aware of that. That is why your presence here today signals the cooperation, which has been ongoing for years and years. I thank you for your leadership, as well as the leadership of the entire Obama administration.
Governor Hochul: (02:42)
I’m also here to lend support to our mayor’s efforts and the incredible NYPD, and to let them know that we are ushering in a new era of collaboration. I believe that that is going to give our mutual constituents, the City of New York and throughout the State of New York, a sense of confidence that we will leave no stone unturned to protect the individuals we have pledged to represent. It was important that I come here in person to thank the leadership, to thank commissioners, the individuals who are working around the clock to identify and potentially thwart any threats that could be perhaps because we’re in a vulnerable weekend. We have identified this as a vulnerable weekend. But I stand here after having a very detailed briefing, and I thank the analysts and the individuals, again, they work unseen heroes. They’re in buildings like these all over in cooperation with our state police and our state resources to make sure that people can sleep better tonight and the next night and the next night. That’s what this is all about.
Governor Hochul: (03:52)
I just want to alert New Yorkers, you will see increased presence. We’ve deployed more resources for the Port Authority, the MTA. You’ll see more people. You’ll see individuals with long arms, you’ll see them looking a little bit militarized, but the idea is to let anyone know that you mess with New York, there’ll be consequences. I want to let them know that we feel very confident at this very moment, after assessing our threats, that we’ll be able to handle the events of this weekend and welcome people from around the world who come to this place of reflection to think about what it means and how New York came back after that horrific day, those horrific events. 20 years later, we never forget, but we go forth into the future, steeled in the conviction that, yes, we were knocked down, but we are never out. Whether it’s a terrorist attack, whether it’s the pandemic, don’t bet against New Yorkers.
Governor Hochul: (04:48)
Mayor de Blasio, I thank you for the leadership you continue to show, the partnership, the hand you’ve reached out to me since the infancy of my administration, which is now two and a half weeks old. I know there’s much more we can do together. Thank you and to your incredible team.
Mayor de Blasio: (05:05)
Thank you so much, Governor. Governor, you’re right that this time of year, all of us who lived through this, we see a beautiful September morning and we feel that pull at our hearts. We all remember that morning, you’re right, it started with promise, and then our worlds changed and so many were lost. At this moment, I’m feeling those who were lost. I remember the hours and days after.
Mayor de Blasio: (05:39)
Every neighborhood, my neighborhood in Brooklyn, a firefighter lived just walking distance from me, who I knew, lost that day, who had gone back into work even though his shift was over because he wanted to save lives. We lost the daughter of my son’s pre-K teacher at a school in our neighborhood. We lost the son of one of the union leaders who I worked with closely in the fire department. We lost so many people, it’s personal for us. 20 years later, we feel it justice sharply, which is why we are resolved, we say never again. We’re resolved to ensure a terrorist never can perpetrate such an act in this city again, which is why in the months and years after 9/11, this city took it upon ourselves to protect ourselves and build up an extraordinary counter-terrorism capacity.
Mayor de Blasio: (06:37)
But what was really necessary was the partnership the governor talks about, and that also developed, especially in recent years, with our federal and state partners, and that has made a profound difference. Mr. Secretary, thank you. Your partnership and the partnership of all federal agencies is one of the reasons we are safe. Governor, thank you, your leadership and your agencies working seamlessly with NYPD.
Mayor de Blasio: (07:00)
I want to affirm at this hour, the most important thing I can say to all New Yorkers, there are no specific and credible threats directed against New York city at this time. The NYPD is watching, not daily, not hourly, minute by minute, with extraordinary intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism capacity, which we have built up in recent years, because even though it’s 20 years later, we see threats all over this world directed at us and we see challenges that are homegrown as well. We are watching, the NYPD is watching constantly. I would say to anyone who’s concerned about striking the right balance, we all want to strike that balance in our society to make sure our rights, our liberties are protected at all times, but we also have a mission to protect the lives of every single New Yorker and the threats are real. They are real and they are consistent, which is why we have to be vigilant.
Mayor de Blasio: (07:57)
I’ll turn it to Commissioner Shea in a moment, but just I want everyone to understand. You will see, the governor is exactly right, you’re going to see a lot of presence, but not just at Ground Zero. I want to emphasize this to everyone who is listening. You’re going to see presence all over the city. We do not regard Ground Zero as the only potential target tomorrow, we are going to protect the entire city. Again, no specific and credible threats directed against New York city at this time. Massive resources will be deployed to protect all New Yorkers and our visitors, and we are watching constantly.
Mayor de Blasio: (08:35)
We’ve learned some powerful and painful lessons, but one thing I want to say as I introduce Commissioner Shea is the NYPD has shown us time and time again its amazing ability to protect New Yorkers, to sense where the danger is, to get there first, to stop the threats before they happen. I want to thank all the men and women of the NYPD for what they have done for all of us. This is a day to remember their immense contributions. With that, Commissioner Shea.
Commissioner Shea: (09:05)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, My. Mayor. You took my opening line a couple of times, and that is correct, there are no specific and credible threats to New York City, but we also understand the time that we’re living in and I join the mayor in thanking the governor and thanking the secretary for coming here and lending support and to stand united, that we will do everything possible to protect New Yorkers. That’s really the most important message of the day.
Commissioner Shea: (09:28)
Men and women of the police department will be out there not just this weekend, but every day. That goes from the analysts, such as the brilliant analysts that just gave us a presentation upstairs, but to the civilian members of this department, to the police officer on the beat, whether it’s at Ground Zero or Brownsville, Brooklyn, and certainly our counter-terrorism assets. We will be out there not just today, not just this weekend, but every day, to make sure that New Yorkers are safe.
Commissioner Shea: (09:55)
The messages is it’s a beautiful weekend, come out, enjoy. I’ll leave you with this. We have a saying in the police department to never forget. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years from that day. I can tell you that it would be impossible to forget. We’re reminded of every time we walk out the front door of this building, when we see a plaque on the wall, we’re reminded of it every single day when we think about 23 heroes that passed away that day and the hundreds that have passed away since. If anything, that strengthens our resolve. Please keep them and their families and your thoughts and prayers. God bless America.
Mayor de Blasio: (10:34)
Commissioner Shea: (10:34)
Mayor de Blasio: (10:34)
We’re going to take a few questions, Bill Neidhardt’s going to call on folks.
Bll Neidhardt: (10:38)
[inaudible 00:10:38], you’re up first. Nicole.
Mayor de Blasio: (10:42)
We got to be able to see you, Nicole.
Commissioner, can you tell us about some of the changes within [inaudible 00:10:50] as far as security [inaudible 00:10:52]?
Commissioner Shea: (10:54)
Well, there’s certainly a lot of events going on, Nicole, as you know. We have the Mets are going to beat the Yankees tonight at City Field, first and foremost. We have a little tennis tournament going on named the US Open. We have the sacred ceremonies that are going to take place not just the Ground Zero, but all over. We have a very resilient and strong counter-terrorism overlay that is … I’m not going to get into the numbers, but I think we all know, it is thousands of uniformed and civilian members, overlaid with bomb detection, overlaid with long guns, as the governor said. That should reassure people, not alarm people. We are going to have bomb detection and vapor wake dogs and many, many other things. The message is clear. New York is safe, come out and enjoy the sites.
Commissioner Shea: (11:42)
But as always, this is a shared responsibility, and we’ve said that a hundred times, whether it’s about counter-terrorism or whether it’s about just general quality of life or crime. If you see something, this is a team effort, and it’s been touched on many times today. This isn’t about the NYPD. It’s the New York City Police Department, it’s the New York State Police, it’s our federal partners, it’s our local partners, but most importantly, it’s about you, anyone watching this. We need anyone that has any information or see something out of the ordinary, you’re right, it probably is nothing, but call us and let the experts verify and vet that.
Bll Neidhardt: (12:17)
Bernice, [inaudible 00:12:18].
Thank you. Can you guarantee the security of the city tomorrow?
Commissioner Shea: (12:22)
Mayor de Blasio: (12:23)
Can you guarantee?
Can you guarantee the security?
Commissioner Shea: (12:25)
I absolutely guarantee the safety of the city tomorrow. Come out and enjoy New York. It’s the greatest city in the world.
Bll Neidhardt: (12:31)
Any areas people should avoid? Also, the Department of Homeland Security was talking about sharing equipment, what equipment, if you can get into that?
Commissioner Shea: (12:39)
I’m not going to get into specifics, but we can not do this alone. Whether it’s support and grants from the federal government, whether it’s communications and the information that flows. It’s not just about the federal government, if you think of all the incredible task forces and men and women that we have, uniform and civilian, our joint terrorism task force, which is comprised of multiple, multiple local, state and federal partners. It’s that collaboration that goes on behind the scenes. We don’t gear up for September 11, the week of September 1 and on, this goes on literally every day, not just in this city, but in cities across America and across the globe.
Mayor de Blasio: (13:19)
And are there any places to avoid?
Commissioner Shea: (13:21)
Are there any places to avoid? Well, it’s New York City, so there’s going to be the normal traffic, et cetera. We’ll be posting any advisories on NYPD News.
Bll Neidhardt: (13:30)
Two more, [inaudible 00:13:30].
Speaker 10: (13:37)
Secretary Mayorkas, [inaudible 00:13:37] specific threats, and certainly the events overseas appear to have raised the specter of inspirational lone actor attacks, here and elsewhere. Could you give us your assessment of the nature of threat that we’re now facing and has it increased [inaudible 00:13:51]?
Secretary Mayorkas: (13:54)
Allow me to echo what the commissioner articulated very, very clearly, there is no specific credible threat to the homeland arising from any terrorist organization or terrorist individual. We work together to ensure that we are watching the flow of information very carefully, not just domestically, but around the world.
Secretary Mayorkas: (14:16)
In response to the question with respect to equipment, let me say, because the commissioner spoke about the partnership of so aptly, we have an Urban Area Security Initiative grant program that is administered by FEMA, that distributes money to equip and empower local police departments, to ensure the safety and security of the people of their respective states. New York is a significant beneficiary of that UASI, as it’s known, grant program, and we’re proud of the partnership that we enjoy.
Bll Neidhardt: (14:49)
All right, last one.
Speaker 11: (14:51)
Has the nature of the threat increased as a result of events overseas?
Secretary Mayorkas: (14:56)
In actuality, the threat landscape has evolved over the last 20 years. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our focus was on the foreign terrorist fighter, the individual who sought to penetrate our defenses and enter the United States and do us harm. Over the ensuing decade or so, the threat evolved and it became the homegrown violent extremists, the individual already resident in the United States who was radicalized by an ideology of a foreign terrorist organization. Over the last few years, that threat again has evolved and we are focused on the domestic violent extremist, the individual who is radicalized by an ideology of hate or false narratives spread on social media or other online platforms and is drawn to violence because of that. As the threat evolves, that doesn’t mean that the prior iteration of that threat has disappeared, but rather we see a rise in prominence of a new threat and we keep our eye and our focus, our energies, and the extraordinary talent of the people in uniform who dedicate their lives to the safety and security of American residents. It is because of them that we watch all of the threats.
Bll Neidhardt: (16:14)
All right, good.
Mayor de Blasio: (16:16)
We’re good? Okay, thank you everybody.