by Marilyn Silverstein, NJJN Staff Writer
July 9, 2004
[Reprinted with the permission of the New Jersey Jewish News. ]
Lessons written in the blood of fallen Israelis fueled an extraordinary one-day conference at Princeton University last month, as New Jersey hosted four high-ranking Israelis who are experts in counter-terrorism.
Approximately 425 of New Jersey's top law-enforcement officers attended the conference, as well as a number of officers from the New York and Pennsylvania State Police and personnel from the local branches of the FBI, the Secret Service, and the U.S. Marshall's office.
They came together to hear presentations by Brig. Gen. Simon Perry, attachÂŽ and liaison officer to the United States and Canada for the Israeli Police and Ministry of Public Security; Col. Shaike Horowitz, commander of the Bomb Disposal Division of the Israeli Police; Commander Shmuel Zoltak, a social psychologist with the Israeli Police; and Yoram Hessel, former director of the Global Operations, Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Division of the Mossad, Israel' s central intelligence agency.
"It was a whole day and it was to the point," Hessel said in a telephone interview. "The main purpose was to share our expertise in combating terrorism. I would say the most important issue is really elevating the level of awareness to the potentialities of intelligence-led policing. We shared as candidly and openly as we could.
"The lessons have been learned with blood," he said. "It's no joke. You pay in blood to perfect our expertise. If you can save this blood here, why not learn from others?"
The seeds for the conference were planted last January, when NJ State Police Superintendent Col. Richard Fuentes traveled to the Jewish state to study Israeli counter-terrorism techniques under the auspices of LEEP - the Law Enforcement Exchange Program - an initiative of JINSA, the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
In an attempt to build on what he learned there, Fuentes invited the Israeli officials here to share their expertise with the state's top law-enforcement officers. The June 24 conference marked the first such gathering in the United States in connection with LEEP.
Speaking through Capt. Al Della Fave, spokesperson for the NJ State Police, Fuentes asserted that New Jersey is committed to being proactive in the fight against terrorism, rather than simply being reactive to the color-coded terror-alert system of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"The Israelis helped us change the way we do business regarding homeland security in New Jersey," Fuentes stated through Della Fave. "From here on, the NJ State Police will keep a close eye on terror, nationally and internationally, and take measures accordingly."
Hessel said that he was quite impressed with the steps Fuentes has already taken to restructure the state police force and create a centralized command. " He has a commitment to make the force more professional," the Israeli said. "He 's looking beyond the horizon. My impression is that he has an enormous personal concern and commitment to preparedness. A state like New Jersey has huge ports, railways, chemical industries, refineries - everything under the sun. It' s very concentrated, and he's taking it very seriously."
One measure of that seriousness, Hessel noted, is the very fact that New Jersey reached across the Atlantic to bring him and his colleagues over for the conference. "The fact of the matter is, I am here, " he said, "so somebody is thinking about it and looking 10,000 miles away to find expertise and knowledge. "
At the conference, the Israelis used that expertise to brief the law-enforcement officers on such issues as the prevention of suicide bombings, bomb disposal, the psychology of terrorism, and the importance of police intelligence, according to Capt. Jack Oakley, chief of the State Police's Technical Response Bureau, who helped to coordinate the Israelis' visit.
"It was the most outstanding training - second to none - that we could ever get anywhere," said Oakley, who oversees the state's Hazardous Materials Response Unit, SWAT team, Bomb Squad, and bomb-sniffing canine team.
"We received firsthand, personal information from people who handle terrorist events on a regular basis, and are arguably the most up-to-date and knowledgeable individuals in the world when it comes to terrorism," Oakley said. "They not only gave us information that was new, but also reaffirmed some of the operational procedures we already have in place. It helped solidify our plans enormously."
JINSA hopes to build on the New Jersey conference by sponsoring similar conferences in September on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and in the South, according to Steven Pomerantz, a counter-terrorism expert who sits on the JINSA board.
"It was an outstanding success, " said Pomerantz, a former assistant director of the FBI who now serves as executive director of the Center for Criminal Justice Technology at Mitretek Systems in Falls Church, Va. "We packed as much into it as we could. The Israelis bring a level of expertise you just cannot find anywhere else, both in prevention and response.
"Our community should feel very proud that a Jewish organization - JINSA - in cooperation with Israelis, is bringing information to law-enforcement people in the United States that's making this country more secure," added Pomerantz, who is Jewish.
"Law-enforcement officials have stood up in front of non-Jewish audiences and acknowledged that the communities they serve are safer because of the experience they've had with the Israelis," he said. "It's something our community should be very proud of."
(c) 2004 New Jersey Jewish News. All rights reserved.