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Sept. 11 lessons for a post-Oct. 7 America

Coordination, information-sharing and rapid response are essential to protecting the American Jewish community and all Americans.

An aerial view showing a small portion of where the World Trade Center collapsed six days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. Tilford.
An aerial view showing a small portion of where the World Trade Center collapsed six days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. Tilford.
Michael Masters
Michael Masters serves as the national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network (SCN).
Ken Corey
Ken Corey is a strategic advisor at the Secure Community Network (SCN) and former chief of department at the New York Police Department.

People often divide their lives into before and after significant events. As Americans, no date in modern times more clearly defines this phenomenon than Sept. 11. We vowed never to allow such an attack to happen again.

For the Jewish community, a new date has emerged: Oct. 7. With each passing day, we recognize that a new paradigm has taken shape.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre, a campaign of incitement to genocide, vandalism and pervasive violence has been unleashed against Jewish people around the world and here in the United States. This should shock the conscience of all Americans.

As two individuals who have spent their careers working in security and public safety, we believe that the threats and acts of physical violence that have erupted across America—in cities and towns that Jews have long called home and in which they once felt comfortable and safe—are not merely a concern; they are a fundamental threat to American security.

When any religious or ethnic group in the United States is targeted, all of us are targeted. No one is truly safe. This issue must be addressed. A targeted threat requires a targeted response with superior coordination and communication.

We know that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. On the eve of 9/11, our national security apparatus was fractured and dangerously uncoordinated. Individual ego triumphed over common purpose, obscuring our true mission: stopping a violent Islamist extremist group—credit be damned. Today, we know that information that could have saved thousands of lives went deliberately unshared between U.S. security agencies.

In the five years since targeted attacks on American Jews took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, Calif., we have seen increased investment in safety and a concerted effort to professionalize the security apparatus of the American Jewish community. These efforts involve information sharing, physical security planning, coordinated training and collaborative incident response with law enforcement. This network was built and is operated by men and women who have spent their careers protecting our nation in uniform, tying together local and national efforts.

Notwithstanding this progress, the pre-9/11 attitude of credit and credibility over constructive results still risks compromising the Jewish community’s response to Oct. 7.

We write this as a plea and a warning to the community: The safety of the people we are sworn to protect and serve must come before a desire for credit or control. Keeping information siloed or creating disparate, duplicate efforts only helps our enemies and emboldens foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas and antisemitic extremist groups in the United States. We cannot afford the same failures of intelligence, imagination and engagement that helped allow 9/11 to happen to befall us in the wake of Oct. 7.

Here is what we must do: Intelligence and information should be collected and then rapidly shared with Jewish institutions across the country. An incident that may seem insignificant in Miami Beach could be the key to identifying an offender in Manhattan Beach.

We can look at one of the most high-functioning law enforcement organizations in the world, the New York Police Department, as an example. In 2022, as a hostage crisis was taking place at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, the NYPD received notification of the incident. Counterterrorism and patrol personnel were quickly deployed to protect Jewish institutions in New York City. Why? Because it was too early to know if Colleyville was an isolated incident or the beginning of a series of coordinated attacks.

How was this coordination accomplished? Through networks that were created in the aftermath of 9/11 to share information. In October 2023, those networks again proved critical when information about a suspect threatening to attack the World Jewish Congress in New York City was rapidly shared with the FBI. The suspect was quickly apprehended in Sarasota, Fla.

Since Dec. 13, the Secure Community Network (SCN)—the official homeland security and safety initiative of the organized Jewish community in North America—has tracked more than 700 bomb threats against Jewish institutions across the country. In many instances, we are aware of these threats through direct reporting by institutions, security professionals or law-enforcement contacts. SCN works with local and regional partners to identify relevant indicators; from who sent the threat to how. SCN then promptly shares comprehensive reports on each identified threat with the FBI, whose ongoing investigation into these threats is actively supported by SCN.

Thanks to these coordinated efforts and working with partners such as local Federations and national partners like the ADL, we are able to track the location of the threats and how they are being made. We can then coordinate with safety and security partners as well as law enforcement.

We must work to prepare and protect our organizations through best-practice physical security solutions—training that involves all members of the community and strong partnerships with law enforcement, public-safety agencies and other communities. This must occur at all levels, from local to national.

We know security can be effective and we understand how it can quickly become ineffective. It is incumbent on us as professionals to work towards solutions we know will save lives. It is critical for the community to come together to implement these solutions. Our enemies seek to divide us as a Jewish community, a faith-based community and a country. For our part, we will not allow them to do that: We will continue to coordinate, communicate and unite to overcome hate and violence, emerging stronger through our collective efforts.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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