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Giuliani: Alerts needed for public safety network

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

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SECURITY MEASURES

New York: Checkpoints at bridges and tunnels.

Los Angeles: Extra patrols at 600 critical locations.

Washington: Airspace restrictions.
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Soledad O'Brien
Acts of terror

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Americans are beginning the holidays with the nation again at a heightened terror alert level, with officials saying security concerns are greater than when previous warnings were issued in the two years since the 9/11 attacks.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke Tuesday with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the impact of alerts on Americans, his recent trip to Israel and a World Trade Center memorial.

O'BRIEN: We've been reporting [about] numerous persons on the terrorist watch list who have been stopped from entering the country. When you hear something like that, do you say, "Wow, that's a great sign that all of the security is working," or do you say, "Wow, that's incredibly concerning because clearly there are many people, and maybe with so many attempts eventually one's going to get through"?

GIULIANI: Rationally you say both, right. The reality is that there is a lot more security than existed on or before September 11, 2001, because we're more aware of it now. So the level of security and the way in which we do it is much better than when those attacks happened.

But then as a realist, you understand that terrorists look for the unanticipated, they try to look for the weak link. And no matter how good the system is it's impossible to make it perfect. So that's why I think it creates this anxiety. But for people at home, they should just go about their lives.

O'BRIEN: I find it so difficult when officials sort of give you that advice. On one hand, you say the word anxiety, but then you say go about your daily life.

GIULIANI: Life is living with risk. Walk across the street, you get hit by a car, right? Life is living with risk. So this is another risk that we now have to deal with. That's the risk of terrorism.

So you want to explain it to people, then they have to try to put it into their lives in a reasonable way. It's something that the government should be concerned about, large businesses, large institutions, colleges, schools. They should do more to be ready for a possible terrorist attack. And then people have to go about their lives because there's nothing they can really do about it other than, you know, if they're in a position where they can -- like they're a police officer or a firefighter -- then they have to be more on alert.

The purpose of these warnings is much more for public safety than for citizens in general. It's impossible -- our public safety network is so large -- it's impossible just to communicate quietly. It's going to get out anyway; you might as well put out the alert.

O'BRIEN: Does it surprise you at all when you hear reports about al Qaeda recruits possibly being used as flight crews in foreign airlines? Does it surprise you?

GIULIANI: Nothing surprises me after September 11, 2001. I think I took that word out of my vocabulary with that incident. No, it would not surprise me, but I'm also -- I also think flight security is the one area in which the most emphasis was put.

I just flew back and forth to Israel. You see the heaviest level of security on those flights, and I'm very comfortable with the kind of security that's being provided at this point. Again, it's not foolproof. [In] any system a person can try to figure out how to crack [security]. A great deal's being done now in the United States and internationally that used to be done in Israel for the last 20 years.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about your trip to Israel. What did you take away as far as seeing people who live with terror attacks and suicide bombings virtually daily?

GIULIANI: They've gone about integrating it into their lives about as well as you can. But there is much more security in Israel than there is just about anywhere else.

Going into a shopping center in Israel is like going into an airport in the United States. You go through a magnetometer. There are security people there. If there's anything wrong with the magnetometer, they have a wand, they search you. I'm pretty sure they have a list of people who are on the watch lists ... who might be possible terrorists.

When I was there, they hadn't had an attack in a couple of weeks. I said to the prime minister [Ariel Sharon] there [that] I hope you feel some relief that a couple weeks went by. He looked at me and he said, "We do, we thank God, but the fact is we foiled about 16 of these in the last two weeks. We had about" -- I think he said 16, it might have been 12 or 16 possible attacks -- "that we found out about and we were able to stop it before it actually happened." So they have to be on alert all the time.

O'BRIEN: Let's turn the corner and talk about the Ground Zero memorial. You have said publicly that you're not crazy about what you've seen so far. What don't you like? What would you like to see?

GIULIANI: What I would like to see is for the memorial to dominate. The most important thing about the design has to be the significance of the place. It's the place where the worst attack in American history took place. One of the bravest responses that people have ever had. It's a place people will want to be interested in 50 and 100 years from now the way they are [in] Gettysburg or the Vietnam [Veterans] Memorial.

O'BRIEN: So you just think it doesn't do enough?

GIULIANI: It doesn't capture it. It's really just more an attempt to replace office space. You can feel the office space dominating and not the significance of the place -- the library, the museum, the grand design that's going to capture this the way the Vietnam [Veterans] Memorial captured the Vietnam War in such a brilliant way. The idea that the Vietnam War, people who fought that war weren't given the honor they deserve. Now every name of every person lost was going to be there right in Washington like Thomas Jefferson's name is there.

So there was a significance to that that's missing here, and I think I know the reason -- because there's such an imperative to replace the office space. Well, the office space isn't going to count 50 years from now. Doing the memorial right will count.

O'BRIEN: Think it's going happen -- it will be done "the right way"?

GIULIANI: I think we've got to think about how future generations are [going to] think about us, not just how we feel today.


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