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During the Bush administration, officials repeatedly pointed to the years without a successful terrorist attack to justify the most contentious programs from the war on terrorism. Vice President Dick Cheney used the years without an attack to defend the secret National Security Agency wiretapping program. Gonzales credited the USA Patriot Act and military actions abroad. And President George W. Bush said the years without an attack validated his polices.

“While there’s room for honest and healthy debate about the decisions I’ve made — and there’s plenty of debate,” Bush said in the final days of his presidency, “there can be no debate about the results in keeping America safe.”

When questioned about its own programs, the NYPD has made the same arguments.

During the 2005 deposition over the subway searches, lawyers pressed Cohen to explain how the NYPD could be so sure its programs really worked.

“They haven’t attacked us,” he said.