Acting on what US intelligence officials consider a "treasure
trove" of information, the US is once again hardening its terror
defenses - starting with Wall Street and the nation's financial
Yesterday that meant that when stock traders and investment
bankers arrived at their offices, police greeted them with automatic
weapons, new barricades, and bomb-sniffing dogs. Outside bridges and
tunnels, police searched trucks and vans for explosives before they
With an election less than four months away, it was a reminder of
the dark days of 9/11. But the speed with which officials reacted
showed that the nation's ability to respond quickly to new and
specific intelligence has improved. At the same time, however, the
security ramp-up illustrates that even with improved intelligence,
it's difficult to identify the potential terrorists, who police
believe have been doing surveillance long enough to get specific
information on everything from guard schedules to the blueprints of
"Americans will have to get used to the fact that these problems
will not go away," says Anthony Cordesman, a terrorism expert at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
And as threats of terrorism and security responses are expected
to become the norm, a major challenge facing officials is how long
they should maintain heightened vigilance. That question was tested
in October 2002 with the "silent vector" simulation, during which
current and former government leaders were given mock intelligence
pointing to a terrorist attack on energy facilities along the East
Coast, expected to occur within two days.
During the exercise, security measures were put in place, the
press coverage caused panic, even some "homes" were evacuated.
"[But] there was never an 'attack,' " says Randall Larsen, the CEO
of the consulting firm Homeland Security Associates and the former
director of the ANSER Institute of Homeland Security. "How do you
back down from this heightened alert once you have specific
information? To me that's one of the biggest challenges.... It puts
elected officials into very difficult positions."
Mr. Larsen says security measures disrupt the flow of cities and
leave certain sections less secure. "Sometimes our overreactions can
cause more damage to the economy than the actual attacks," he says.
This is a major conundrum for government and businesses alike.
"How do companies remain open to their customers but yet provide an
environment where you can shop or work safely? …