The focus of Homeland Security is not just to protect the nation against new terrorist attacks by gathering intelligence from various sources and thwarting plots. It also involves directing federal funding into the equipment and programs necessary to prepare states and cities for sudden, unexpected crises. To do that, money must be allocated so that long-term, anti-terrorism barriers are put firmly and permanently into place.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has taken exception to the Homeland Security Department's reduction of funding to New York City by $83 million. That represents a decrease of 40 percent.

He bases his challenge on a reported 2003 plot by al-Qaida to release poison gas in the city's subways. "This is just more evidence that what Homeland Security did to us was terribly misguided and just wrong," said Schumer. "It shows that New York is the prime target, and shows the importance of prior intelligence and of manpower."

We agree with Schumer that the Big Apple has been and will remain a tempting target for terrorists. New York City represents everything that al-Qaida sees as reprehensible in the United States: neon proclaiming gaudy cultural excess, the riches of Wall Street, broad personal freedoms and, well, an unacceptable level of secular prosperity galling to an envious fanatic.

Furthermore, New York already has suffered through the unmitigated horror of a deadly terrorist attack. More than 2,700 people, including men, women and children as well as scores of emergency personnel, died on Sept. 11, 2001. Rubble from the collapse of the World Trade Center remains in landfills as a silent reminder of that day.

But just because a frightening plot directed at New York has been reported doesn't mean that other cities, states and infrastructures have not been painted with bull's-eyes on al-Qaida maps. Indeed, one could question whether poison gas in a subway could rival, say, an explosion that releases torrents of water from the Hoover Dam or triggers a killer epidemic in Atlanta.

Terrorists are intent on a strategy of demoralizing and eventually destroying this nation, not just New York City. The truth is that security is never truly secure. A determined terrorist may slip beneath the intelligence radar and create havoc virtually anywhere. The emergency personnel of all cities and states, not just New York City, must be prepared through training, equipment and planning to deal with disasters such as 9/11.

We are all potential targets.

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