Counter terror tactics

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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that police and military worldwide are taking a renewed interest in counter terror tactics developed by the country with the most experience in dealing with suicide bombers: Israel.

(SEAMANS) The London subway bombings hit this observer with a particular sadness because, during the five years we called Lon- don home, we frequently rode the Hampstead tube from home to the ABC News Bureau near Portland Place. Also, the Seamans kids rode the Hampstead line to the American School with modu- lated parental concern for their safety because they traveled guard- ed by that very special British concern for other peoples’ children traveling alone. Not any more!

Now fear rides the London tubes because, as the experts say, except for weapons of mass destruction, no other type of attack is more effective than the suicide bomber who has evaded the most powerful armies and intelligence services. The terrorists strap a package of explosives to a human brain motivated to kill, thus cre- ating the smart bomb that has become the most common weapon of global terrorism. The only way to stop the suicide bomber is to penetrate his organization with a spy to pre-empt his deadly mis- sion or, if he already is on the way, to spot him before he reaches his target. How to detect the bomb-laden killer on the move is now our survivalist problem.

The New York Times reports that the New York City police and a growing number of other American police forces have turned to the country with more than 50 years of on-the-job counter terrorism experience – the place, according to the Times, that “many police officials consider the pinnacle of terrorism training.” They are send- ing their officers to Israel and bringing Israeli officers to the United States to train our police in what is called the “harrowing science of suicide bomber intelligence gathering and apprehension.”

This story, in effect, has let Israel out of the closet of confidential- ity where the Israeli training of American police has been played down because of what is called in Washington Arab sensitivities. The Israelis teach our police how to spot so-called suicide bomber “handlers” who do the advance work of scouting and photograph- ing bus stations and other crowded areas as possible targets.

Profiling is a key element of Israel’s Terrorism 101 course: is a suspect nervous, sweating profusely, carrying a suspicious back- pack or package, his ethnic physicality and so forth. “Aim for the head” is taught by the Israelis as the finite micro second decision an officer must make to save possibly hundreds of lives when he has a suspected suicide bomber cornered. A shot to the chest could set off the bomb, or might not prevent the killer from press- ing the button.

There is no room for second guessing. As one American police chief said, this is the front line in the global war against terrorism.

This is Bill Seamans.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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