Skip to main content


   •  SHARE

Israeli Experts Teach Police On Terrorism

Training Programs Prompt Policy Shifts

Ed. Note: The Washington Post article displayed below discusses a variety of cooperative ventures between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement agencies and individual law enforcement executives. The vast majority of the initiatives, conferences, meetings and events detailed in the article took place under the auspices of JINSA's 2004 and 2005 Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP).

Larry Thompson, Michael Mason, Cathy Lanier and Sterling Owen, all of whom are quoted in the article) are "graduates" of LEEP trips to Israel. The night patrols and the meeting with Ronit and Shlomi Tubel took place in Israel during the LEEP program.

Ralph Morten's activities are also sponsored by JINSA.

The conferences held in New Jersey, California, Minnesota and Florida, all described in the article, are part of the LEEP program.

by Washington Post Staff Writer Sari Horwitz

Sunday, June 12, 2005; C01 On the wall in Mickey Levy's office at the Israeli Embassy is a photograph of him standing in Jerusalem over the remains of a suicide bomber. His hands are flailing and his face is contorted as he screams for help for the bloodied victims.

Ten minutes after the picture was shot, Levy had a heart attack.

Michael A. Mason, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, holds the suicide vest of an unsuccessful bomber at a briefing in Israel on suicide bombings. (Jewish Institute For National Security Affairs)Michael A. Mason, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, holds the suicide vest of an unsuccessful bomber at a briefing in Israel on suicide bombings. (Jewish Institute For National Security Affairs)

He would survive and, as commander of the Jerusalem police, respond to scores more suicide attacks and attempted bombings - 42 in all over four years .

Now, he wants to share those lessons.

Levy has been traveling across the United States with other Israeli security experts to share counterterrorism tactics with American law enforcement officials. They are briefing not only big-city cops but county sheriffs and police chiefs from such diverse locations as Gaithersburg and Knoxville, Tenn. In addition, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with police officials, sheriffs and bomb technicians have been traveling to Israel for week-long lessons on terrorism.

Classes include the history of Islamic fundamentalism and how to spot a suicide bomber. Seminars teach the Americans how to gather deeper intelligence, interrupt bomb supply lines and discover where terrorists might hide explosives. Levy said the Israelis are trying to share the lessons they have learned the hard way.

"We are a little nation that has paid with blood for our experience," Levy said. "We don't want the American people or the American police to pay as we have."

Over the years, U.S. law enforcement authorities have exchanged information with counterterrorism officials in Northern Ireland and London's Scotland Yard. Since 2001, the FBI also has sent more agents to work on counterterrorism with law enforcement authorities in Arab capitals, including Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Abu Dhabi, according to Gary Bald, the FBI executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence.

But state and local police officials across the country say the Israeli exchange is unique for them - and invaluable for the quantity and quality of information.

"Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer.

"No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel," said D.C. police Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, who heads the District's special operations division and oversees the bomb squad and the emergency response team.

Gainer traveled to Israel with D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey on a trip organized by Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. Israeli bomb experts have, in turn, come to meet with Gainer's officers.

After returning from Israel, Gainer retrained his officers to shoot a potential suicide bomber in the head rather than aim for the chest, as they were originally taught, because shooting the chest could detonate a suicide vest. Ramsey ordered his officers to keep their red and blue roof lights flashing all the time to be more visible - something he picked up when he, Gainer and Wexler went on a ride-along with the Jerusalem police two years ago.

Ralph Morten, a Los Angeles police detective on the bomb squad and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, has conducted more than 1,000 training sessions for more than 25,000 police, fire and military personnel based on what he learned in Israel.

Several of the Israel trips have been organized by the research forum, a Washington-based organization that works with police nationwide. Others are planned by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington think tank that focuses on defense and national security issues and promotes cooperation with Israel as vital to U.S. security interests.

Since the summer of 2002, the institute has sent 40 senior law enforcement officials to Israel, including the Los Angeles assistant police chief, the security chief of New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and the police chiefs of Gaithersburg and Prince William County, at a cost of $5,000 to $7,000 a person.

The police officials went out on midnight police patrols, met with bomb technicians and learned how terrorists disguise explosives.

Assistant FBI Director Michael A. Mason, who heads the Washington Field Office, just returned from an Israeli trip where he visited border guard operations and observed how the Israelis gathered intelligence. Mason and other officials went to the sites of bombings and studied the mindset and tactics of suicide bombers.

"Unfortunately for the Israelis, they have this down better than we do," said former assistant FBI director Steven L. Pomerantz, now the institute's director of counterterrorism programs.

Making Quick Work of an Attack

A key lesson came during a class in Tel Aviv on Islamic fundamentalism.

An Israeli security official rushed in to report an attack on Gaza Street in Jerusalem. A Palestinian policeman on a bus detonated a bomb packed with shrapnel, killing himself and 10 others and wounding 45.

The Americans wanted to go to the site. But Israeli Brig. Gen. Simon Perry told them there was little point. While a bombing in America might be roped off for days, by the time the officials got to Jerusalem, the scene would be cleared.

"It's very important to them to clear a crime scene quickly and get back to business as usual," said Sterling P. Owen IV, the Knoxville chief of police. "They do not want their lives and businesses to be disrupted. Their philosophy is, we're going to reopen just as though it never happened."

Lanier also was taken aback by the speed and efficiency with which the Israeli police notified the public, assisted the victims, rushed them to hospitals and cleaned their blood-spattered bombing scenes.

"They told us that the longer the scene is left there, the more traumatizing it becomes," Lanier said. "They clean and clear as quickly as they can. The suicide bomber is dead. There's not this meticulous combing for evidence in every case."

The American police were particularly moved by the candor and openness of the Israeli police. U.S. Capitol Police Deputy Chief Larry D. Thompson recounted the story of a young Israeli couple, Shlomi and Ronit Tubel, who met with the group and spoke of their experience as police officers.

About two years ago, Shlomi called his wife at home to warn her that Israeli intelligence indicated a suicide bomber was headed toward Jerusalem. His wife, Ronit, then took their baby to day care and boarded a bus to her police station.

The suicide bomber was on her bus.

Standing behind her, he detonated, and Ronit was blown through the roof.

Shlomi ended up working the bombing with Levy but had no idea Ronit was on the bus. He began to worry when he had not heard from her. Levy told him that officers found her police identification card at the scene and that she might be dead.

Shlomi found her at the hospital, suffering from massive injuries. He recognized her only by her wedding band.

Ronit eventually recovered and returned to her police duties. She suffers some hearing loss, and pieces of shrapnel remain in her body.

"There was not a police chief in the room not in tears," Lanier said. "She had to learn how to walk, how to feed herself, how to talk all over again."

Ronit told the group that she has made one change in her life: She doesn't ride the bus anymore.

A Counterterrorism Road Show

For the thousands of law enforcement officials who cannot go to Israel, Levy and other Israelis are meeting with them here. At conferences in Minnesota, California and Florida, Israeli counterterrorism experts have made presentations on gathering intelligence, biological threats, the psychology of terrorism, understanding the enemy and suicide bombers.

Last year, Perry, the Israeli commander of the bomb disposal unit and a former member of the Mossad, Israel's central intelligence agency, briefed more than 425 top federal and local law enforcement officials from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania at a conference at Princeton University. This month, Levy and Perry will be in Chicago.

At the conferences, the Israelis describe how they work in three circles of security. First, they have prevented many attacks by gathering accurate intelligence before terrorists begin their operations.

"They talked about how you have to disrupt the supply chain of what terrorists use to make suicide vests and explosives and electronics," said Morten, the Los Angeles detective.

Second, they set up checkpoints or other ways to delay attackers.

"It only takes suicide bombers in Israel 20 minutes to get to any major city," Perry said. The Israelis shared confidential information about how they spotted and intercepted 12 bombers on their way to Jerusalem last year.

If a bomber gets through the checkpoints, the Israelis have "hardened" their restaurants and malls, where shoppers are searched with a magnetometer.

A final lesson from the Israelis: If the intelligence, checkpoints and hardened security fail and a suicide bomber detonates, have a response plan ready. Emotion takes over and even the most experienced police officer is shaken by the chaos.

One particular bombing haunts Levy. After a Palestinian exploded on a bus in Jerusalem and the survivors were rushed to the hospital, Levy boarded the blackened and gutted bus.

Out of the devastation, he suddenly heard a tiny voice: Can you help me?

Underneath a lifeless body, he found a 7-year-old girl, bloody, with her backpack still on. She had been on the way to school.

"I stayed strong," Levy said.

"But afterwards I drove to my house alone without a driver. I went to my room and I remembered the picture of what I had seen. So many people, so many children died.

"Alone in my bed, I cried and cried," said Levy, who has four children of his own. "The next morning I came back to my office, where I must be strong because my officers were looking at me. And a new day started."
(c) 2005 The Washington Post Company

To view the original article, please click HERE.

Jewish Institute for National Security of America
1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1030

Washington, D.C. 20005

(202) 667-3900 Office •