The U.N. is Secure and We Still Move Around

When the United Nations General Assembly convenes every year and heads of state come to speak and meet, security around the U.N. is remarkably skillful. Maybe a dozen or maybe a hundred and fifty of the world’s heads of state are safe at the U.N. While they do their thing, we New Yorkers who walk can step around without much delay. Drivers do have delays but mainly just in a few dozen streets nearby.

The security problem is vast and complicated. Probably, almost every head of state is a target for some potential assassin who already is motivated and can get a weapon. The exact dates are widely publicized in many nations and no appointment is needed. The address is well-known and can be found on a cheap globe. To come to New York City, plenty of transportation is available, by plenty of routes, with space for a couple of trunks, and getting here without raising suspicions is, for most people, not hard. The highly-visible potential assassin who’s on every major security watchlist could send someone else, who’s smart and dedicated to their mission, to sneak in. The city has a diverse and welcoming population, so it’s easier to blend. They can disguise themself as a new tourist who needs directions and local people will be glad to help. Upon completing the mission, the smart perp who planned ahead and moves quickly can blend, find transportation going out, with lots of transportation to choose from, and by lots of routes, and, if not trapped, caught, or killed yet, be out of the U.S. the same day or the next day. And the assassin who has very few helpers nearby, maybe just one or none, will have an easier time.

It’s probably hard enough for assassins to try doing dirty deeds in their own nations, where at least they know the terrain, never mind coming to a foreign nation to try it against forces they don’t know: New York City police, who know the local resources, the U.S. Secret Service, which is a world leader in V.I.P. protection, and maybe a hundred foreign national security forces under a hundred commanders that swarm into the city, which are likely authorized by the law where they come from to exercise diplomatic immunity, shoot first, and ask questions later. Still, some assassins have succeeded in territory foreign to them and successfully escaped, even successfully remained unidentified.

If you ever want a security challenge, that’s a security challenge.

Yet, to my knowledge, no head of state has lost their life in Manhattan in centuries, and maybe never since downtown was a European colony. I can’t speak to the safety of indigenous Indian tribal heads of state before colonization or on Manhattan’s island outside of the colony; we likely have no records for that, maybe not even folklore; and that’s centuries ago anyway.

Every year, the security services do a remarkable job.