New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced on Thursday that the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing “spontaneously” decided to target New York’s Time Square on the evening of the Boston event.
According to information delivered to New York law enforcement officials by the FBI on Wednesday evening, surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has revealed that he and his brother made the decision to target New York City on the spur of the moment as they rode around in a hijacked Mercedes SUV on the night of April 15.
The pair had six more explosive devices in their possession to detonate—five pipe bombs and one pressure cooker bomb similar to the one used in the Boston attack, Kelly said during a press conference from New York’s City Hall, which was broadcast live on several local media channels.
Had the vehicle not been low on gas, they might have carried out their plans, the police commissioner added, reporting that when the brothers realized the fuel situation, they ordered the driver to stop a nearby gas station.
The driver used that opportunity to escape and call the police, Kelly reported.
Kelly discussed a prior account that had been shared with New York officials earlier in the week, which had indicated that the brothers were on route to New York that evening “to party,” saying that he has now been told that the suspect “was a lot more lucid” when he provided the details of the possible Times Square bombing in a second interview.
“We have an obligation to put that information out,” Kelly said, referring to the new account, when asked during the press conference if there was any reason to believe that the suspect was just making up stories.
“We’re going to take everything seriously. We don’t make light of anything. We have to assume the worst,” Bloomberg said.
“This is the information that we’re getting from the FBI and the local [Boston] police department,” which interrogated Tsarnaev, Bloomberg said, stressing that New York officials did not question the hospitalized suspect directly.
Kelly was asked about his level of confidence in the police presence, surveillance and camera systems to forestall an event has the brothers completed their journey to New York.”We have a lot of presence [in Times Square] and resources, but there are no guarantees” that New York police would have thwarted an attack, he said.
Bloomberg agreed. “We spend every dime we think we can to get a real value. We train our people continuously. We monitor what goes on around the world [to find out] what terrorists might be doing. [But] there are no guarantees.”
Asked how the city would secure a larger area than Times Square—like the course of a marathon running through all five boroughs—the mayor said it is done “with great difficulty.” Kelly went on to describe expanded police presence, special vehicles with 360-degree cameras traveling the route, and sky watches.
“You’re probably safer here than any place else,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
“Do I feel safe going out tonight? Yes. Do I feel safe that every area of this city is protected? Yes, I do, in the context [that] it’s a dangerous world,” he said, during the televised press conference.
“There is no evidence at this time to indicate that New York City is currently a target of another terrorist attack stemming from the Boston bombings,” Kelly said.
Federal Support Needed
During the press conference, Bloomberg stressed the need for more federal funding of cities like New York that are terror targets.
On the insurance front, executives of property/casualty insurance carriers have been fielding different questions about terrorism and the role of the federal government—before and after the Boston event. Those questions center on the possibility that the Terror Risk Insurance Act will expire without an extension.
In March, executives of three large commercial insurers predicted that the Act would indeed expire without extension, reasoning that federal lawmakers are busy with other matters.
Earlier this week, however, ACE Limited’s CEO Evan Greenberg took issue with that view.
“I haven’t subscribed to that [view that] it has long odds of renewal,” Greenberg said, during an earnings conference call. “From any rational point of view, TRIA is a really no-brainer to renew.”
“It provides a backstop of certainty. It allows businesses to continue on,” he continued.
“It’s not a benefit to the insurance industry, It’s a benefit to business overall,” Greenberg said, adding that “if there wasn’t TRIA, you wouldn’t see much terrorism insurance sold.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which was initially enacted in 2002, and amended by the Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act of 2005 and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (TRIPRA) (collectively, including both amendments, TRIA), is currently set to expire on Dec. 31, 2014.
Speculating further on what insurers will do if TRIA is not extended, Greenberg said, “The rational response would be you only take risks to the extent you’re comfortable with the net exposure on your balance sheet or the limited amount of reinsurance you can buy in the traditional reinsurance market. And that will be based on what they’re [the reinsurers are] comfortable holding on their balance sheets.”
“That tail grows very quickly when you think of concentrations of economic exposure in a geographic area,” he said.
In March, during the Advisen Casualty Insights Conference, executives of XL, AIG and Zurich said that unless private reinsurers or the capital markets provide some support, industry terrorism capacity will shrink and coverage prices will soar in the event TRIA is not renewed. (See related article, “TRIA Won’t Be Extended, P/C Carrier CEOs Say.”)
Even with TRIA in place today, there are policy-specific definitional questions for commercial insurance policyholders seeking coverage related to losses from the Boston event. For a detailed analysis of existing coverage questions, see related article, “Defining Terrorism for Policies Not a Simple Task After Boston Tragedy,” by Insurance Journal’s East Coast editor, Young Ha.