International law enforcement officials came to New York Wednesday to help the state develop a strategy to prevent future terrorist attacks. The gathering is focusing on police training and communication in spotting potential terrorists.
On September 9, police stopped one of the September 11 hijackers for speeding on a highway in the U.S. State of Maryland. The state trooper issued the Saudi-born militant, Ziad Jarrah, a speeding ticket and let him go. Two days later Ziad Jarrah helped take control of the flight that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly fifty people.
Officials attending a counter-terrorism meeting in New York say they are implementing new measures to give police officers, like the one in Maryland, access to better data and train them so that they would not let potential terrorists go.
Former FBI assistant director and counter-terrorism advisor in New York State, James Kallstrom, pointed out that the idea is to help law enforcement identify potential terrorists.
"For them to have a better appreciation of who these people are, who would kill us and why they would," he said. "And how they operate and what they look like, not necessarily how we normally think of how people look, but what is their body language and what is going on in their brains. So that they can get the seriousness of what we face down to the troops, the people patrolling our streets. But they can get the information down in a better fashion so that in the final analysis people make better decisions."
The day-long session, held mostly behind closed doors and attended by hundreds of law enforcement officials, was coordinated by the New York State Office of Public Security. Among the speakers were specialists from the FBI, police chiefs from across the country and experts from abroad, including a commissioner at Britain's New Scotland Yard.
An assistant to President Bush in the Office of Homeland Security, Mark Holman, addressed the summit on the importance of information sharing within the government and on ways to make identification cards harder to falsify. He said one way the government is thinking of upgrading drivers' licenses is including the holder's citizenship and legal status.
"Our intelligence agencies have found drivers' licenses overseas," explained Mr. Holman. "They have been used time and time again as ways to obtain more illegal documentation over here. So we are not talking about a national drivers' license, but we are talking about best practices, and I think there is pretty collective support among state and local police."
State and local police were taken out of the business of intelligence-gathering three decades ago. Now, Mr. Kallstrom said, it is time to bring them back in to help root out the terrorists already living in the United States.