- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

MIAMI (AP) — Miami police announced plans yesterday to thwart terrorists by staging random, “in-your-face” security operations at so-called “soft” targets, such as city buses and sports arenas.

The idea behind the “Miami Shield” program is to make such targets less attractive to terrorists and improve vigilance among citizens. Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said al Qaeda and other terror groups carefully plot their attacks based in part on surveillance that identifies flaws and patterns in security.

Random, high-profile security operations will keep terrorists guessing about where police might be next, he said. For example, a group of officers might surround a downtown bank building, checking the identification of each person going in and out and handing out leaflets about terror threats.

“This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It’s letting the terrorists know we are out there,” he said.

Some soft targets identified yesterday are the AmericanAirlines Arena, where the Miami Heat basketball team plays; buildings in the Brickell Avenue financial corridor; prominent hotels; city buses and rail lines; and the downtown Bayside entertainment complex. Rail and bus lines in London and Madrid as well as hotels in Jordan have been the scene of terror attacks.

Police Chief John Timoney, a member of the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami, but that the city has been mentioned repeatedly in previous terrorism intelligence reports as a potential target — possibly in the top 10 among major U.S. cities.

Chief Timoney noted that 14 of the 19 hijackers who staged the September 11, 2001, terror attacks lived in South Florida at various times and that other terror support cells are suspected to have operated in the area.

“It’s an easy place to hide and go unnoticed for a variety of reasons,” he said.

Under the plan, officers will mount these security operations randomly and at various times of night and day. In addition to checking identification, officers will hand out “Miami Shield” cards with police phone numbers and other anti-terrorism information. They’ll even hand out pens bearing the e-mail address of a police homeland security site.

Uniformed and plainclothes police will ride city buses and rail lines, while others will conduct longer-term surveillance operations at potential targets. Miami officials said they weren’t sure whether similar programs were being used elsewhere and that cities have tailored their anti-terrorism programs to their abilities and needs.

The deputy police chief said Miami officials want people to take notice of the beefed-up security so they are reminded that the threat from al Qaeda and its sympathizers has not disappeared.

“People are definitely going to notice it,” he said. “We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don’t want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears.”

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