Staying a step ahead of terrorism is a skill that Israel has acquired the hard way, but it has always been willing to share its expertise with other nations battling the phenomenon.
Terror is no longer just about the Middle East: it has become the world’s problem. And in their efforts to stay one step ahead of the game, many countries are trying to learn as much as they can from Israel.
Last month, some of the world’s largest companies and most powerful governments sent representatives to Israel to learn from the country’s counter-terrorism experts. About half of the special delegation was from the US, with eleven additional countries participating, including the Netherlands, Australia, Bahamas, Greece, Singapore, and Canada.
For seven days, the delegation of 34, which included participants from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and companies like Microsoft and Oracle, got an insider’s tour of Israel’s mass transit hubs and high-security locations such as the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the Ashdod Port, Ben Gurion International Airport, and the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The group also attended a conference that showcased some of the country’s most innovative and relevant security technologies companies. Chameleon Associates and Shafran Consulting, who organized the trip, touted the visit as the most important foreign mission to ever visit Israel for security and counter-terrorism purposes.
Chief Sandra Hutchence who attended the mission representing the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said that her city’s Sheriff, Lee Baca, is constantly studying ways to combat terror and sent his security people to London last year after the London subway bombings.
In a Tel Aviv hotel, Hutchence and her colleague Captain Eric Parra were eyeing Israeli technological innovations at an eight-company symposium; many of them from Israeli companies traded on the NASDAQ.
MagShoe is one of the latest inventions made by the company IDO2000 and was designed to catch when suspicious objects are afoot. It works by using metal and weight differential detectors turned on when a person stands on the platform. Targeted against terrorists like the would-be Paris shoe bomber in 2002, the system helps cut down waiting time in security lines – passengers are not required to remove their shoes – and ensures tighter security checks. MagShoe is sensitive enough to detect concealed computer chips and metals that are not normally found in footwear. Ideal for airports, prisons and the parliament, IDO2000 says it is a simple concept ideal for security in high traffic areas.
The Verint company presented tools best put to use by intelligence units looking to intercept terrorists in the planning stages. The company says it is the largest provider of interception equipment around the world; their tools locate and identify voices in conversation and can determine when communications systems may be used for illegal purposes, by singling out key words in a conversation. What’s more: Verint assigns digital codes to the intercepted communication which allows material to be admissible in court, so would-be terrorists won’t be let off the hook.
Shoe bomb detectors, voice interceptors and perimeter security systems of Magal were among some of the best new Israeli technology handpicked for the showcase; other companies included voice analyzer Nemesysco, Rabintex’s helmet, 3D ACT simulation systems, NICE’s monitoring technology and Orad’s image processor and graphics enhancements which promises to make CSI effects on TV into real technology for criminal catching.
When asked what she was looking to get out of the trip, Hutchence replied, “I am focusing on intelligence and looking for a threat before it happens. We are looking to invest in Israeli technology and are here to see what is available.”
In particular, she explained, she was studying Israeli creativity in getting behind the mind of a terrorist. Although Israeli solutions may not exactly be applied to Los Angeles, the way Israelis are adaptive to new threats was particularly interesting to her.
Hutchence says she works for the Homeland Security Bureau, which since 2001 has been working on the federal level to protect Americans from harm and damage. In contrast, Israel’s homeland security has been a national priority for the country since the state was established in 1948.
Over 600 Israeli companies have focused on developing security technologies through integrating multiple technologies for defense and civilian purposes. Some companies have been in business for more than 30 years and can be found in locations around the world in quiet partnerships with airports, seaports, government offices, and financial institutions to secure jails, stadiums, nuclear sites and trains. Non-defense related exports last year were $1 billion.
Besides looking to state-of-the-art technology, the delegation got a behind-the-scenes look at how Israeli civilians comply with nation-wide security efforts, such as bag checking at bus stations and malls.
A unique aspect of the trip was the way in which it illustrated the increasing importance of Israeli know-how in global security efforts. In the past, Israel’s size and remoteness forced Israeli companies and experts to travel abroad to “show off” new advances or to do business – or offer visitors free trips to Israel in order to show off their wares. These high profile visitors made the trip to Israel on their own dime to visit several of these companies at one time and to observe the technology at work on the ground.
“They came to Israel to see our superior technology,” says Shai Aizin from the Israel Consul for Economic Affairs, Los Angeles. “And they were willing to pay to come here.”
Why? “In Israel, due to the circumstances we live in, we have unique experiences and know how to combat terror,” comments Aizin. “We have more experience than any other country, and for that we are trying to solve security issues effectively.”
During the event, the group wore nametags, but most of the participants sought anonymity due to their high-profile positions and asked not to be quoted by name. Some were working for government, police, security and private organizations. “Many don’t want to reveal their identities because they are also traveling to Arab countries as part of their work and it could be dangerous for them if people found out they were in Israel,” says Aizin.
Attendees included an official from the FBI’s anti-terrorist monitoring unit official, Microsoft’s information and physical security officer for the Middle East and Africa, Oracle, the Singapore Internal Security Department, the VP of the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit System, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Australian Parliament, management consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, the CEO of Mall of America, the force commander of the Bloomington Police, and the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO-TAM).
Before the week wrapped up, participants, most of whom were non-Jewish, were also able to get insight on the historic roots of the reason that Israel has become leaders in protecting its people.
“We went to the Yad Vashem museum to show them the Israeli state of mind; that we are standing for our rights, and will never again let something like a Holocaust happen,” says Aizin, who believes that such atrocities have contributed in a great way to how Israelis view security. “We are showing them how we the Jewish people and the Jewish state defend itself.”