The Joint Terrorism Task Force
A Concept That Works
By ROBERT A. MARTIN
Since its inception, the FBI-New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force (FBI-NYPD JTTF) has remained on the forefront of the war against terrorism. The World Trade Center bombing proved that Americans could not view terrorism as a malady that affected only other countries.
That attack, as well as the Oklahoma City bombing and the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics, awakened Americans to the fact that terrorism had come to the United States.
" the JTTF remains on the forefront of the war against terrorism"
Today, 16 JTTFs stand ready to deter, counter, and respond to acts of terrorism. The FBI-NYPD JTTF, as well as the others throughout the country, remain dedicated to fighting terrorism and eliminating the fear and panic that terrorists rely on to advance their causes. The combining of federal, state, and local law enforcement resources has resulted in effective maximization of resources, the provision of sophisticated investigative and technological resources, and linkage to all federal government resources in the United States and worldwide. The participating law enforcement agencies, working as one, provide the needed knowledge, skills, and resources essential for law enforcement agencies to succeed in fighting the menace of terrorism.
A Case History
0n February 23, 1997, a 70-year-old Palestinian visited the
observation deck of the Empire State Building. Shortly after arriving, he opened
fire with a handgun that he had legally purchased just 1 month after arriving in
this country. He killed 1 person and wounded 7 others before killing
himself. A search of his clothing revealed a long rambling letter that expressed
anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sentiments, along with a Florida nondriver's license
identification card and a receipt for the weapon.
Immediately upon receiving notification of this crime, the
FBI-New York City Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) responded.
Task force investigators rushed to the scene to assist the local investigators.
The task force command center opened, and the numerous agencies that comprise
the task force immediately began working to ascertain the shooter's identity,
his origin, and whether he had any ties to organized terrorist groups.
Within hours, the command center had answers to these
questions. The FBI dispatched its Legal Attaché in Israel to the Gaza Strip to
interview the subject's family. The FBI and local police in Florida interviewed
several people who could help track the subject's movements while he lived in
that state, fulfilling the residency requirements he needed to purchase the
weapon. This information, together with the information supplied by the task
force command center, allowed investigators to quickly identify the shooter and,
more important, determine if the incident was an act of international terrorism.
The task force concluded that the individual seemed mentally
unstable, expressed hatred of Israel and the United States, had no connection to
any organized international terrorist group, and had committed the attack alone.
The speed with which the JTTF arrived at this conclusion remains a testament to
the effectiveness of a joint task force concept. Had the JTTF not been in place,
the investigation may have taken days or weeks, rather than hours, to conclude.