How FBI technology led to breakthrough in final weeks of JCC investigation

The FBI brought sophisticated technology to the investigation that the Israel Police did not have access to previously, which turned out to be essential in locating the suspect.

March 26, 2017 23:29
2 minute read.
FBI investigator

An FBI investigator . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The FBI’s top attaché to Israel, Cary Gleicher, met with FBI Director James Comey in Washington on March 6 to discuss an ongoing investigation into a series of bomb threats that shook Jewish community centers across the United States.

Comey, who was having a busy week in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the US elections and a tweet by President Donald Trump the day before alleging unsubstantiated wiretapping accusations, made time to speak with Gleicher about the bomb threats investigation.

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“My director is a very busy man... he said to me, ‘Let’s get this done,’” Gleicher told the The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Trump decries antisemitism after long silence (credit: REUTERS)

“He had a personal interest. We were going to do this anyway, but his personal interest was motivating.”

Eight days later, 14 FBI agents and technical experts arrived in Israel and held a series of meetings at the Lod headquarters of Lahav 433, Israel’s elite police investigative unit, where they discussed the gaps in locating the suspect.

Moreover, the FBI brought sophisticated technology to the investigation that the Israel Police did not have access to previously, which turned out to be essential in locating the suspect.

It was a successful “collaboration between subject matters experts,” said Gleicher, who did not divulge specifics of the collaboration that resulted in the apprehension of the suspect in Ashkelon.

The 18-year-old Israeli-American teenager, whose name remains under gag order, is suspected of perpetrating more than 100 bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world. He was arrested by police on Thursday and remanded until March 30 in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. The suspect’s father was also arrested and remanded until March 30 on suspicion that he knew about his son’s activities.

“[Israel Police] were at the goal line and needed some help to punch it across,” said Gleicher.

“We always talk about the ‘needle in the haystack,’ how do you find that person, it really takes a tremendous effort.”

Yigal Habshor, spokesman for the police Intelligence and Investigations division that oversees Lahav 433, mirrored Gleicher’s comments on cooperation between the FBI and Lahav 433. “We had full cooperation with the FBI – professional cooperation on all levels,” Habshor said.

The teenager reportedly used technologies including Google Voice, a call-forwarding service and Bitcoin, a digital currency, to make the threats. The teenager is also suspected of threatening a Delta Airlines flight in February 2015, which caused the plane to make an emergency landing.

His lawyer, Galit Besh, told the press her client has an inoperable brain tumor that has led to behavioral issues.

To hide his identity, the suspect allegedly used a technology called SpoofCard, which masks a number’s caller ID, according to the Daily Beast.

When police subpoenaed SpoofCard’s parent company to trace the call’s real number, they learned that he had called from a disposable Google Voice number.

JTA contributed to this report.

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