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U.S., N.J. Homeland Security officials discuss combating terrorism at Jersey City conference

(The following story by Chris Megerian appeared on the Star-Ledger website on September 10, 2009.)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. ó Federal, state and local officials gathered at a hotel here today to discuss strategies for combating terrorism and increasing disaster readiness in urban New Jersey.

Richard Canas, the state's director of Homeland Security and Preparedness, described the region as the "most at risk area in the entire country" because of the population density and concentration of infrastructure like airports, highways and mass transit.

"This is the epicenter, along with Newark, of our urban security initiatives," Canas said.

Rand Beers, under secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, praised New Jersey as a role model for its efforts, but warned that dangers still existed.

"There are still bad guys out there," he said. "They are still very deadly."

The government is relying more on technology to thwart potential terrorism and trying to better prepare for the threat of cyberterrorism -- one of the country's "real vulnerabilities," Beers said.

He said hackers, from common criminals looking to steal intellectual property to other nations looking for state secrets or counterintelligence "could represent real vulnerabilities should we be in a state of war."

The windows behind the podium offered a panoramic view of lower Manhattan, where the World Trade Center's twin towers once stood, just two days before the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Officials stressed the need for cooperation between multiple levels of law enforcement.

"Many activities that are related to potential terrorist threats start off as simple crimes," state Attorney General Anne Milgram said. "It is not uncommon for the officer on the street to be the first person to come in contact with potential terrorists."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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