Friday, December 19, 2008

New York police in Mumbai for anti-terror tips

Published on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 17:52 , Updated at Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 18:02
Source : Forbes-Network18

Elizabeth Flock/Forbes-Network18

In July 2006, after the train blasts, the New York Police Department (NYPD) had sent one intelligence officer to Mumbai to get an in-depth account of the attack and brief security chiefs back home.

This time, November 2008, NYPD has sent three officers from its counter-terrorism squad to Mumbai to study the attacks in detail. Their objective is to pick up lessons from the way the attack was carried out here in order to put better preventive measures in place back home, and to consider if New York is prepared to respond to this kind of attack.

NYPD Commissioner Paul Browne says the three officers in Mumbai have already collected much valuable information. By studying the attack sites, the officers have gained a better understanding of how well-trained and disciplined the terrorists were.

“The officers went to each of the sites and photographed the battle damage, and looked at the impact made by grenades and bullets,” says Browne. “One of our captains noticed that the ballistics all went head level or down. If someone is inexperienced, the spray of bullets would be much higher than head level. But the bullets were all below. This shows how trained these people were.”

Browne says the officers are also studying Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to understand how the terrorists entered and attacked the railway station and what the evacuation procedures in place were.

“They are looking at what happened and the thought processes, techniques, and style of warfare of the terrorists,” says Dov Ben Zwerling, Director of Tactical Operations and Training for the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response in Israel, who is here in Mumbai to similarly study the attacks. “Then they think about how to fight that.”

The focus of these visits is always to improve intelligence back home. The scope of the attack on Mumbai is something the NYPD has been worried about for some time now. “We have considered this kind of attack,” says Browne. “So we have created scenarios with multiple simultaneous attacks by the same terrorist, and thought about how this would stretch resources thin, especially if it continued for a period of time and our people got tired. Mumbai was a situation where it actually happened, so we have to look at it.”

Post-9/11, NYPD has used counter-terrorism measures such as these visits to thwart terrorist attacks. David Cohen, a former CIA officer who transferred to NYPD to head their intelligence division after 9/11, said the department has spotted more than a dozen planned terrorist attacks on the city as a result of these new counter-terrorist measures. Several of these foiled attacks were planned for train stations, demonstrating the value for the NYPD in studying the 2006 and now, the more recent, Mumbai attacks.

The NYPD officers are also interested in learning if there is anything new or distinctive about this attack. Browne says the chief departure in the Mumbai attack from previous similar ones elsewhere was the use of electronic devices by the terrorists.

“The explosion of technology worked as a tool for their attack, allowing them to have real time info on the police and military response and modify their attack. It is not the first time hostage takers have used technology and media in an attack, but it is the first time you saw it to this extent. It is the first time that [the terrorists] were continually directed by the technology, and communicating with people that could help them to ensure success.”

According to the Associated Press, the counterterrorism effort by the NYPD is unequaled by any city in the United States, and even perhaps the world. And while, the NYPD is taking its lessons from Mumbai, perhaps Mumbai should also take a few lessons from them. NYPD, the largest police department in the United States with 37,000 officers, has been sending detectives and officers to terror-hit locations since 9/11, when the counter-terrorism task force was created. Officers have visited Moscow, London, Madrid, and Mumbai.

The measure is a part of a massive overhaul that took place in the NYPD post-9/11, in its homeland security, counter-terrorism and surveillance duties. Since 2001, NYPD has assigned 1000 officers to counter-terrorism duty, including 10 detectives posted around the globe to gather and share intelligence. It has also spent tens of millions of dollars on new technology for security measures.

Elizabeth Flock is a Reporter Associate with the new business magazine to be launched by Network 18 in alliance with Forbes of USA

No comments:

Post a Comment