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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel Police may receive a leg up from the US Marshals Service in fighting organized crime as a result of Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's whirlwind tour of the US. On Tuesday, the former Shin Bet head received an emotional response from FBI Director Robert Mueller and law enforcement officials attending the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Late Tuesday morning, Dichter, who is on his first official trip to the US, took the podium at the IACP's second plenum in Boston alongside FBI chief Robert Mueller and US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales to address the conference's 10,000 attendees. Drawing on his previous experience as Shin Bet head and his current position, the main focus of Dichter's address was what the minister described as "the intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists," dubbing the phenomenon "fighting crimiterrorists."
Dichter said that "crime and terror are two sides of the same coin", and used several examples of recent cases in Israel in which terror attacks were aided, abetted, and sometimes even carried out by criminals.
"The lineup of ideologically motivated terrorists is a short one. When a series of attacks is launched by the terrorists, this line shortens even more, leaving the arch-terrorists only one available alternative: to dip into the pool of criminals in order to enlist new terrorists," he summarized, saying that "they decorate their shallow criminal values with those of nationalism, religion and pseudo-fanaticism."
He also touched on the efficacy of the security fence, drawing comparisons between it and the projected security fence along 700 miles of the US-Mexico border. "I don't know if high walls create good neighbors," Dichter joked, "but I can assure you that a high and long fence creates good security."
But it was his reference to the terror attacks of September 11 that drew the most emotional response from the gathered law enforcement chiefs. After concluding that only air marshals - a role that Dichter held during his Shin Bet service - could have prevented the attack, he wished good luck to all present. His comments were greeted by a hail of applause, as he was hugged by Mueller, who described Dichter as his mentor in antiterror tactics.
Earlier Tuesday, Dichter also met with John Clark, the director of the US Marshals Service, and Drug Enforcement Administration head Karen Tandy. During his meeting with Clark, the two discussed the topic of cooperation in witness protection programs. This has been a sensitive issue for Israeli law enforcement, as the geographical limitations of Israel have made it very difficult to offer witnesses - particularly those testifying against organized crime syndicates - protection.
"Both Jewish and Arab crime syndicates are running wild and all they want to do is to make more money without any concern how they do it," said Dichter during the meeting. "This is a phenomenon that must be eliminated. Police invest effort in this, days and nights, but in order to [deliver] a death blow to this phenomenon we must be armed with the necessary tools to really enable them to be stronger than the families. One of the central tools is a program to protect witnesses."
Ministry officials described the conversation as a breakthrough in the relations between Israeli law enforcement and the US Marshals Service on the issue of witness protection.
During his meeting with Tandy, Dichter emphasized the use of drugs by terror organizations, asserting that "drug abuse is a strategic threat against countries and societies." He highlighted Hizbullah's smuggling of drugs into Israel through the country's northern border, saying that "Iran is continuously attempting to flood Israel with drugs on an ideological basis. The war against drug abuse is a global war involving all countries."
"Similar to the war against terrorism," Dichter pushed, "all means and methods must be used in the war against drugs, including intelligence cooperation between countries and agencies such as the United States and the DEA."
Dichter also thanked Tandy for the working relations and cooperation between the Israel Police and the DEA. During the discussion, the two decided to send an Israel Police forensic science team to the DEA laboratories for further cooperation and study, and Dichter suggested a joint briefing of the arrest and extradition process of Zeev Rosenstein in order to further improve cooperation on similar operations in the future.
Dichter also suggested increasing the level of cooperation with the DEA in the research and development field of drug enforcement, and Tandy invited the Israel Police to visit the DEA headquarters in the United States.