Israeli Experts Teach Police On Terrorism

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.
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)

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By Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 12, 2005

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.

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.

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