Reassuring Drill For a Dangerous Time

A multiagency exercise conducted in Gardiner’s Bay and several other East End waterways over two weeks this month had a sobering premise, but it had at least one important benefit, too. 

Dubbed Operation Blue Trident, the practice involved a simulated search for “dirty bombs,” or radiological devices, that terrorists could bring into New York City by sea. Aside from the clear need to keep an eye on Long Island’s hundreds of miles of coastline, the exercise tested communications among many law enforcement entities, including the Department of Environmental Conservation Police, Coast Guard, local town marine patrols, and the Department of Homeland Security. The coordination that was tested during the drill could serve as a model in the event of a major hurricane or a disaster in which the region’s many official agencies would have to work together under difficult circumstances. 

Long Island’s deeply crenulated bays and harbors have had a long history of use by smugglers. As long ago as the American Revolution, boats delivered vital munitions, food, and other supplies to both the rebels and the redcoats. During Prohibition, contraband liquor from Canada and elsewhere was brought to within a few miles of shore to be landed under cover of darkness by swift small craft, much of it destined for sale in New York City. As recently as the 1970s, pot smugglers did much the same thing, hauling bales of Mexican weed ashore from speedboats. 

With air and road approaches to New York generally well monitored for radiological traces, it is not unthinkable that terrorists might turn to the waters right offshore as a means to deliver their deadly cargo. As disturbing as that thought may be, it is at least somewhat reassuring that so many local, state, and federal agencies are taking this seriously. Such are the times we live in.