It's been generally understood in the United States since before there were
any united states that New York is the economic wheelhouse of the nation and perhaps, the world. It's always been all about those Benjamins
, especially in Manhattan. And now we can add a new chapter to the city's cutthroat reputation: selling out for the fun of a football game after copping out on the responsibility
of a terror trial
Lost in the uproar over the National Football League's announcement early this week
that the 2014 Super Bowl will be played in East Rutherford, N.J. -- just on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel from Manhattan -- was the cynical political turnaround it marked over the issue of "inviting" terror targets to the area. The choice that New York-New Jersey has just made -- with hardly any meaningful public discussion of what it means to the region -- says a lot about its willingness to embrace the profitable at the expense of the noble.
A Super Bowl just across the Hudson will bring perhaps hundreds of thousands of additional people into the New York metro area. With the game held on a Sunday evening, many of them will be in and around Manhattan for part of that weekend and perhaps longer. Surely every reasonable national security expert would agree that such an event would generate additional attention on the part of our enemies who still seek to do us harm, and would potentially create a "rich" target for a terror attack. Indeed, Hollywood itself already has contemplated terrorism at a Super Bowl in the otherwise forgettable
1970s movie, "Black Sunday."
On the other hand, a trial at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan for al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed would bring only a 1,000 or so journalists and perhaps an occasional demonstration or two. The untelevised trial
would have been held in a courtroom in a secure federal courthouse in an even more secure, cordoned-off area downtown. The defendant, who already has confessed publicly to his crime and has shown no propensity for violence since he was water-boarded in 2003, would be secured by our most efficient federal marshals. Al Qaeda bandits have successfully been put on trial before in New York -- during the African Embassy bombing trials. And so have henchmen around the country since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Yet look how differently these two events were treated by local officials. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the tabloids, the talk shows, the cable channels, and faceless state bureaucrats in New Jersey and New York -- they all rubbed their budget-impoverished hands with glee this past week and rushed to embrace the idea of inviting a few hundred thousand partying people into the tri-state area for a football game. There was precious little talk of the increased terror threat
a Super Bowl just a few miles from Ground Zero would necessarily create. There was even less talk of the price of security for such an event. Four days after the announcement, a Google search with the words "New York" and "Super bowl" and "terror threat" did not match
When, on the other hand, a federal civilian trial for Mohammed was pitched by Attorney General Eric Holder back in November, these very same tribunes, in and out of office, quickly rushed to adopt a "not-In-my-back-yard" approach to bringing justice to this man. After initially agreeing to host the trial, these rootless leaders copped out. As Jane Mayer reported
in The New Yorker:
The death blow was struck by New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who had previously pledged his support to Holder. On Jan. 27th, Bloomberg distanced himself from the Justice Department, saying that a trial in New York would be too expensive. For months, companies with downtown real-estate interests had been lobbying to stop the trial. Raymond Kelly, the commissioner of the New York Police Department, had fortified their arguments by providing upwardly spiralling estimates of the costs, which the federal government had promised to cover. In a matter of weeks, in what an Obama Administration official called a "classic City Hall jam job," the police department's projection of the trial costs went from a few hundred million dollars to a billion dollars.
ow can the people responsible for the public safety of New York and New Jersey countenance the luxury of a Super Bowl -- and the peril it surely brings -- without being willing to endure the responsibility of judging Mohammed? There is a reason that the federal rules of procedure require prosecutors to bring criminal cases in the districts where the crimes have occurred. Most jurisdictions fight like hellcats to keep
criminal trials close to where most of the victims are. Usually it's the defendant who seeks a venue change
and not the bereaved government or townspeople.
Both the Super Bowl and a Mohammed trial would increase New York's terror threat matrix, I suppose. But how much higher can it really go? And it's true that a terror trial would last months while the Super Bowl festivities these days are actually about two weeks long. Is traffic congestion in Lower Manhattan really enough of a reason to refuse to accept both the burden and the privilege
of seeing Mohammed tried, convicted and sentenced?
Alas, the Super Bowl's date with New York teaches us that it's not really
protecting the city better from terror attacks. If it were all about security, municipal leaders in good conscience never
would have tried to host such an international event. It's about money
. Some experts predict the 2014 Super Bowl will bring hundreds of millions
of dollars to the tri-state area. Even though the federal government promised to pay the costs of a Mohammed trial there, New Yorkers couldn't figure out how to make a profit
off a federal terror trial. But everyone knows how to make money off a Super Bowl, right?