Los Angeles Anti-Terror hub as model

Briefly, GovExec.com has a very good article by Shane Harris on LA’s Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC).

amid a warren of stout office buildings in the industrial L.A. suburb of Norwalk, is a sand-colored 525,000-square-foot edifice. JRIC is on the seventh floor, next to the corporate headquarters of Bally Total Fitness. This is homeland security’s next frontier.

JRIC is L.A.’s terrorism “listening post,” says Stephen Tidwell, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. Tidwell, LAPD’s Bratton, and L.A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca are among JRIC’s most enthusiastic supporters. The three men are friends and self-professed true believers in chasing terrorists down at the local level. Their comradeship has caught Washington’s attention. When JRIC opened last summer, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff came out for the ribbon-cutting. Federal officials call JRIC a “model fusion center,” one for others to emulate.

JRIC’s roster is a bureaucratic potpourri. It contains FBI agents, LAPD officers, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies, public health experts, contract analysts who study radical Islam, a liaison from the Homeland Security Department, and officers detailed from other local law enforcement agencies across the Los Angeles region.

The “region” is a seven-county, 44,000-square-mile sprawl that, historically, has never much cared for jurisdictional spats. As any L.A. cop, firefighter, or paramedic will attest, during an earthquake, fire, or a flood — all of which the region suffers every year — you don’t much care what color uniform the person coming to your rescue wears. The region adheres to a pact of “mutual aid,” which all but eliminates turf tensions. Cooperatively fighting terrorism fits right in with that culture.

It’s a good article worthy of a complete reading.

In the summer of 2005, police officers in Torrance, south of downtown L.A., investigated an armed robbery at a gas station. It was the latest in a string of heists, and each time the bandits had fled without a trace. But this time one of them dropped his cellphone, giving police a rare lead.

Officers traced the phone to Gregory Vernon Patterson, a 21-year-old local man with no criminal record. They placed him under surveillance. According to a criminal complaint, on the evening of July 5, Patterson and Levar Haney Washington, who, later investigations showed, was an L.A. gang member, drove to a gas station in Fullerton, east of Torrance in Orange County.

Washington, dressed in a dark hooded sweatshirt and carrying a shotgun, robbed the clerk, according to the complaint. Police arrested the two men and then searched Washington’s apartment in South Los Angeles.

That search, authorities say, ultimately enabled them to disrupt a major terrorist plot aimed at local military recruiting stations, the Israeli consulate, and other targets across L.A. Torrance police officers found documents outlining an imminent attack, possibly timed for the anniversary of September 11, as well as knives, bulletproof vests, and “jihadist” material that wasn’t available from the usual sources on the Internet, investigators said.

Almost immediately, one of the officers involved in the search, who had been trained to spot terrorist warning signs in the course of his normal duties, called local counter-terrorism officials. The entire L.A. terrorist hunting apparatus was on alert again.

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