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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)

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.


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