Today the CIAC relies on a network of 614 CIAC-trained TLOs statewide to help the center receive and push out terrorism- and criminal-related intelligence. About two-thirds of those TLOs are in law enforcement; the rest come from (in descending order) fire/EMT personnel, emergency managers, and security directors from large infrastructure businesses, like Xcel and Qwest, explains Garcia.
Those serving as TLOs have to go through training. CIAC TLO training is more robust than similar programs in other states: three 8-hour days, compared to one in many other states.
CIAC’s TLOs are trained in situational recognition, information analysis and dissemination, threat vulnerabilities, domestic and international terrorism, civil rights and civil liberties, and privacy policies. The instruction includes specifics about when it is appropriate to add information to a police database.
Davis, the former FBI special-agent-in-charge in Denver, considers CIAC TLOs some of the best trained in the country. “They’re a little more dialed in now than your normal first responders as to what the warning signs of terrorism are,” he says. He adds that Colorado residents may be more likely to report suspicious activity to the CIAC TLOs than directly to the FBI through the FBI’s tripwire program (see the February 2012 issue of Security Management). That’s because locals may already know the people serving as TLOs. “In my opinion, it’s going to be much more likely to get a call to a local TLO than to have somebody in remote Colorado call the FBI.”
TLOs have played critical roles in many CIAC success stories. The most notable came in September 2009 when the FBI learned from the U.S. intelligence community that Denver airport shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi, a legal permanent resident from Afghanistan, was planning to attack the New York City subway system around the anniversary of 9-11. During the Zazi investigation, the FBI had the CIAC use its TLOs to reach out to beauty supply stores all across the state to see if Zazi or possibly unknown accomplices purchased large quantities of hydrogen peroxide. At that time, the FBI’s resources were focused on Zazi and making sure he didn’t go operational ahead of schedule. The FBI was relying on the TLOs to ferret out any co-conspirators. “From the FBI’s perspective during Zazi, [TLOs] could support our investigation by doing things in remote areas of the state that we were unable to get to in short order,” says Davis. “It’s a tremendous force multiplier.”
Two additional but less well-known incidents that occurred more recently in Colorado demonstrate the reach and power of the TLO program, according to CIAC and CDPS staff.
In June of last year, a string of bombings occurred in the CIAC’s hometown of Lakewood as well as just across its boundary line with Denver. One attack targeted a local Borders bookstore just a few miles from the CIAC. The perpetrator broke into the store and left three homemade bombs that failed to detonate. Surveillance cameras, however, caught the attacker’s truck leaving the scene of the crime, which proved to be his undoing. While the video only caught a distorted image of the truck’s license plate, analysts were able to identify the make and model of the truck. With just that information, the CIAC created a “be on the look out,” or BOLO, report that they sent to their network of TLOs. It immediately paid off.