2004-07-28 / Features

NYS Anti-Terrorism Bill Passes; Law Enforcement Gets New Tools To Act

by john toscano

NYS Anti-Terrorism Bill Passes; Law Enforcement Gets New Tools To Act


Gianaris explained that the bill establishes the state Office of Homeland Security to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts, expands the availability of hazardous materials training to first responders, requires a review of security in and around chemical plants and makes public and private use airports more secure.Gianaris explained that the bill establishes the state Office of Homeland Security to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts, expands the availability of hazardous materials training to first responders, requires a review of security in and around chemical plants and makes public and private use airports more secure.

by john toscano

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris last Wednesday hailed the passage of a bill designed to improve the New York state response to terrorism, saying it will give law enforcement "the tools it needs to properly protect and defend" this state.

The measure, which failed to get approvals from both houses for some three years, is expected to be signed into law by Governor George Pataki.

Gianaris (D–Astoria), who co-sponsored the bill, said much of it was modeled after his Chemical Security Act of 2003, which provides for the defense of chemical plants in New York state from terrorist groups.

He said the bill takes a complete view of disaster readiness whether in response to a terrorist act, a natural disaster or other sort of mass emergency. Also, he explained, it "gives New York’s front line defenders the training and skills they need to effectively and efficiently respond" to terrorist acts and improves security in some of New York’s most vulnerable areas.

Pataki, commenting on passage of the bill, stated, "We made this anti-terrorism legislation a top priority and have been fighting to make it law in New York for more than two and a half years because we know that New York was a target for terrorism on September 11, [2001] and remains a target today."

The anti-terror bill was one of the few issues Pataki and Albany leaders Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno could agree upon during last week’s special session of the legislature.

The approved anti-terror bill will provide the state’s law enforcement agencies with additional tools to detect and prevent acts of terrorism, toughen penalties for individuals and groups providing support for terrorists and enact new preparedness measures to prevent a terrorist act from occurring.

Gianaris explained that the bill establishes the state Office of Homeland Security to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts, expands the availability of hazardous materials training to first responders, requires a review of security in and around chemical plants and makes public and private use airports more secure.

Gianaris said the measure also deals severely with captured terrorists, toughening sentences to ensure that those convicted of terrorism-related crimes will not be free to target New York again.

Specifically, he said, it creates the crimes of criminal possession and criminal use of a chemical or biological weapon, eliminates the statute of limitations on dangerous terrorism crimes and dramatically increases the penalties, including mandatory sentences of life without parole for Cass A1 offenders such as for terrorism-related money laundering. It also amends the state’s wiretapping and eavesdropping laws to give law enforcement agencies authority to listen in on terrorism suspects in order to intercept and contravene their plots.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who was listed along with Pataki, Silver and Bruno as being in on the agreement on the legislation, said he always felt the state should do everything it can to combat terrorism and not simply rely on the federal government for protection. He said he was convinced the bill will make New York safer.

Bruno said the bill "represents a tremendous step forward in our continuing efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks," and Silver stated that the new package would crack down hard on anyone who commits a terrorist act and take important steps to help prevent anti-terrorist acts from occurring in the future.

Silver said, "With more federal anti-terror resources for our state, we can greatly improve the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers."

The bill was first proposed in November 2001, two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Pataki also announced that with the release of $2.6 million to Suffolk County in Long Island, 100 percent of Fiscal Year 2004 federal Department of Homeland Security grants had been distributed to local governments in New York state.

Pataki described the distribution as a milestone, with 100 percent of obligated funds "now in the hands of local governments to give our first responders the tools and training they need to safeguard New Yorkers."

The governor did not say how much of the more than $103 million of State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) funds went to New York City. But he did say that the New York City urban area had additionally received almost $16.1 million in federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UAST) funds.

Among the measurers left undone was one complying with a court order to address New York City’s educational needs. The deadline to do so is Friday. If Pataki and the legislature fail to act, a person appointed by the courts will see that the order’s stipulations are followed.


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