US Law Officers Learn About Israeli Counter-Terrorism Measures

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Beit Horon, West Bank ( - Living under the constant threat of terror has given Israeli security officials daily practice at fighting terrorism -- experience they are sharing with their U.S. counterparts who came here this week on a training mission.

"Even though we had a significant event -- a tragedy with the September 11 events -- we're five years from it," said Earl Cook, deputy police chief for the Alexandria, Va., police department. "There's a tendency for people not to have as sharp a focus as they maintain here, day in, day out."

The same vigilance should be exercised in the U.S.A., since the nation is still very much a terror target, he said. "To relax now is to be surprised again."

Cook is one of 12 senior U.S. law enforcement officials participating in a one-week training course on Israeli counter-terrorism and security measures.

Arranged by the Anti-Defamation League, the mission includes police chiefs from across the U.S., an FBI agent and a BATFE agent. It is funded by primarily by the individual agencies and donors.

The ADL has been involved in law enforcement in the U.S. for years, beginning with its efforts to identify "hate crimes," said Phyllis Gerably, managing director of ADL in Israel.

"Since 9/11 in particular, we started to bring in Israeli police officers to share their experience in the fight against terror," Gerably said. From that experience, many U.S. law enforcement agencies decided to bring law enforcement officials to Israel to learn first hand how Israel combats terror.

In the last four years, some 70 law enforcement officials have come through the ADL for counter-terrorism training in Israel, she said.

While seminars with Israeli law enforcement officials give great information, it's not the same as being here, said Cook.

Cybercast News Service caught up with the group at a Border Police training base in the West Bank town of Beit Horon, about 18 miles outside of Jerusalem, earlier this week.

"No matter how you look at it, just out of necessity, they've [Israelis] had to practically apply their principles on a daily basis that has resulted in an expertise that is probably unparalleled," said Dave Sobczyk, from the Chicago Police department.

"They're under intense pressure daily to prevent the next terror attack. From that perspective, I can't imagine who would be more proactive and innovative in their approaches, and there is a lot to learn from that," said Michael Tabman an FBI special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division

From a simulated terror attack on a coffee shop to an attack on a border patrol jeep, the border police trainees demonstrated some of their skills in three counter-terrorism scenarios. Gunfire echoed through the hills.

Jim McDonnell, chief of staff for the Los Angeles Police Department, said that some of the tactics employed by the Israeli forces are similar to those used by SWAT teams on his force to fight crime. But the reality is that his area could also be targeted for terrorist attacks.

"I'd like to be able to say we don't foresee any of that happening in Los Angeles, said McDonnell. "Certainly the reality is that we are a target, and we know we are, and we are preparing very diligently to address those issues when they arise."

Walt McNeil, police chief in Tallahassee, Fla., and a vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) said that Israeli airport security and border control were two areas that were of concern to him.

"We at the IACP have a big interest in immigration issues that we're facing in America and also border issues," said McNeil. "Our President [Bush] just indicated that we're going to secure our borders and one of those issues is how do we do that, how do we accomplish that in America."

Israel is considering putting a fence along its border with Egypt (to prevent smuggling and terrorist infiltrations) and is in the process of fencing off Jerusalem from the West Bank.

"Those discussions -- and how they're able to accomplish that -- that's what we're interested in," McNeil said.

Many of the participants said this was their first trip to Israel but some said they were looking forward to coming back and had no worries about the security situation.

Cook said some people warned him about the dangerous place he was coming to visit but he said he told them he was coming to the land of the experts and now he looks forward to returning.

"I would come here as a tourist. Having come here I feel doubly safe," said Cook. Some people are afraid to come here because of the security situation, he said, but "in actuality you're very protected."

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.