CounterterrorismTraining mission showcases Israeli counterterrorism techniques

Published 9 November 2011

A group of U.S. law enforcement officials recently concluded a weeklong training seminar on the methods Israel uses to prevent and respond to terrorism

In late October members of a U.S. delegation of police chiefs and FBI agents from the Northeast, traveled to Israel as part of the annual National Counterterrorism Seminar. Organized by the Anti-Defamation League, the National Counterterrorism Seminar is now in its eighth year.

According to ADL’s website,the group has brought more than 115 law enforcement officials to Israel for training since its inception.ADL is an organization devoted to combating anti-Semitism and extremism and has worked extensively with law enforcement, training over 10,500 officers in 2010 alone.

Sessions were conducted by senior commanders in the Israeli National Police,along with a number of experts from the Israeli intelligence community and the Israeli Defense Forces.The group also received specialized briefings from the chief of security at the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem, police along the Lebanese border, and officials at Hadassah EinKarem Hospital to learn about emergency preparedness. The group also visited a number of holy sites and had the opportunity to learn about the region’s history.

Members of the mission were particularly impressed by the swiftness with which Israeli medical and law enforcement personnel are able to respond to an attack. “It’s unbelievable that you can deploy resources within fifteen minutes to evacuate people from a scene of terror. It’s unheard of, because of the distances, because of the problems … of getting people to the scene in the United States.”said Bonnie Michelman, chief of police at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.“It’s quite fascinating here that it can be done so fast and so efficiently and so well.”

The trip highlights areas where Israeli methods have found their way into the American sphere. In early August, Boston’s Logan Airport began employing specially trained Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) to provide an additional layer of security.Utilizing behavior analysis techniques pioneered at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, BDOs will engage passengers in “casual greeting” conversations, while looking for any suspicious behavior. A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, which sent a representative on the trip, said that airport security procedures were “developed after a review of practices in other nations that have dealt with terrorism, specifically Israel.’’ 

Israel operates in a vastly different security environment and participants were quick to point out that complacency is the number one enemy and that speaking with first responders is crucial. Speaking with the Boston Globe, Newton, Massachusetts police chief Matthew Cummings emphasized, “It’s kind of like a doctor that doesn’t go back to school to learn the new techniques… You don’t want him working on you.’’

Ultimately, members of the trip believed the value of the trip lay in the simple exchange of ideas. AsBoston Police Department superintendent Paul Fitzgerald said, “The U.S. has been facing it [terrorism] for the past ten years. We have learned that sharing information and coming together on the law enforcement side is critical and when we work together we are stronger.”