THE MAGAZINE

Training in Israel for Terrorism in the U.S.

By Marta Roberts

When it comes to defending against suicide bombers and other terrorist tactics, the United States has much to learn from other countries that have developed effective measures through years of painful experience. With that in mind, a group of private security professionals and state and local law enforcement officials recently traveled to Israel and took part in an intensive seven-day training program hosted by Security Solutions International (SSI), a security training company located in Miami, Florida.

It was clear from the sessions that American security can learn a lot from the Israelis, including better methods of communication and intelligence sharing, says Joe Beirly, an attendee and national director for justice and public safety at Oracle.

“They’re very tightly integrated” in Israel, he notes. “They don’t have stovepipes. The police, the Army, the security management, they all work together to defeat or prevent the attack.”

Moreover, Beirly adds, “The Israeli approach is a threat-driven approach that we can take advantage of here in every area, not just law enforcement.”

Israeli security relies on redundant levels of protection, says Tom Dempsey, another attendee and director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute. The level of cooperation between private security and law enforcement impressed Dempsey, who says that such partnerships in the United States are not always as effective.

Trainees heard presentations by Israeli security personnel on various methods and techniques, such as for protecting critical assets. For example, participants toured the Ashdod Power Plant to learn about critical infrastructure protection and cooperation between the military and industry. The power plant, which is located near the Palestinian border, is regularly under attack from missiles, launched by insurgents across the border. 

In one session the attendees were taken to an Israeli mall and were instructed in the methods that the facility’s security staff uses to protect the stores and patrons. Dempsey says it was obvious that there was a profound amount of intelligence sharing between the private security officers patrolling the mall and the police. They worked together seamlessly, he says.

Students were also given training in Israeli instinctive shooting methods, which focus on rapid and accurate discharge of concealed weapons, and Israeli martial arts aimed at taking down a suicide bomber.

Those techniques have helped Israeli forces disrupt and foil many planned terrorist attacks. The effort has led to a 41 percent decrease in the number of people wounded in such attacks in Israel this year, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One of the greatest differences between the United States’s approach to terrorism and the Israeli approach, says Beirly, is that in Israel, security is geared toward identifying and stopping the perpetrators long before they can act. That approach requires more reliance on intelligence and targeted profiling. “They go after the bomber and not the bomb,” he says.

Security in the United States must identify specific threats, rather than work toward a general sense of safety, says Beirly. He notes that Israeli security has been successful because “these guys have defined a protected environment. They have thoroughly studied how the bad guys would operate and attack that environment, and they position their security accordingly.” 

Beirly admits that many of the Israeli methods are not practical in the United States because privacy legislation and other laws prohibit the type of invasive searches that are a hallmark of Israeli security. But, he says, some methods can be adopted without jeopardizing civil liberties.

One such method, Beirly says, is to encourage airline personnel to ask more questions, especially of travelers who arouse suspicions. While identifying suspect travelers involves a profiling methodology, it’s important to understand that the profiling is based on a suspect’s actions, not his or her race, Beirly says. He says this type of questioning would simply require better training for airline employees to help them identify key signs and to know what questions to ask.

There were approximately 20 participants in the first training session, which was held in July, and Morgenstern says they anticipate at least 30 participants in a session to take place this month.

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