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Column 112706 Brewer

Monday, November 27, 2006

Police Work and Counterterrorism in the Americas

By Jerry Brewer

Guarding and patrolling to maintain order and enforce
laws, according to the definition of “policing,” is quite a
disparate philosophy to counterterrorism. Generally,
policing is a dynamic initiative in performing the
implacable basic fundamentals of crime prevention,
enforcement of laws and ordinances, keeping the
peace, and other acts of public service.

Terrorism in the new millennium is more narrowly
defined as the political use of threat and intimidation to
create intense fear through death and extreme violence
to achieve religious, cultural or ethnic ideologies. This
vague but prolific threat surpasses and never just fits
one piece of real estate. It is worldwide and
jurisdictional, and a coordination effort in interdicting
terrorism plays into the terrorist’s hands, thoughts and
planning process.

Counterterrorism requires a more flexible response due
to the proper context of terrorism that must consider
geopolitical, cultural and historical settings. The
enemy, small shadowy and operating in small cells and
in secret, are known for their thorough planning,
intensive training, repetition of successful tactics,
expertise and genuine hatred for Western culture.

The terrorist’s preference is for symbolic targets and
spectacular attacks. These attacks tactically
sophisticated, ruthless and certainly ambitious.
As well, defeating the United States from within as a
primary goal, with the use of world media tools to
control and manipulate opinion.

Although much of the hatred towards the West is
directed at the United States, the Americas as a
hemisphere is particularly vulnerable. All should be
concerned about the proliferation of arms, weapons of
mass destruction and their delivery systems, political,
ethnic, religious and social mayhem, and other acts of
mass violence and strife within their own borders.

The southwestern hemisphere, from a threat
assessment standpoint, has generally been immune
from Middle Eastern terrorism and similar terror
ideologies. However, world events currently force
Canada, the U.S., and democratic nations to the south
to embrace a necessary foundation of policy, diplomacy
and commitment to a firm, proactive stance required to
ameliorate the political circumstances and social
conditions that foster terrorism.

Of a particular circumstance are those nations
throughout Latin America that have experienced terror
in their own right from political, ethnic-indigenous,
military, and paramilitary guerrillas in Guatemala, El
Salvador, Nicaragua, and other South American
countries. Furthermore, many of the perpetrators from
the trouble spots have been recruited and trained in
Mexico to support drug cartels.

Police in the United States over the last three decades
are no strangers to the infiltration of Latin American
gangs and the associated violence they have brought to
U.S. cities. This, as well as other elements of culturally
based street and drug dealing gangs, fueled by internal
prison gangs and recidivists intrinsically entrenched in
crime, gangster mentality and fascination, and drug and
gun violence.

The fight against terrorism, in contrast to traditional
policing strategies, requires specialization analogous to
strategic autonomous organizations within the
intelligence community, focused primarily on
counterterrorism tasks and a united mission. Much of
the sophisticated training of terrorists within groups
such as al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah,
has come from countries that have been identified as
state sponsors of terrorism. And their clandestine
security forces have trained the terrorists as agents of
espionage, as well as in tactics and strategies of
psychology, organizational structure (small cell),
surveillance and analytical skills, and other areas of
technological expertise that form their curriculum.

All nations throughout the Americas, moving to
undertake counterterrorism initiatives to protect their
homelands, must enhance public understanding and
gain support. Military and law enforcement agencies
also need to intricately understand how the small
shadowy and secretive enemy cells work, with no
visible armies, operating and maneuvering beyond the
traditional view of police. Too, these counterterrorism
initiatives must pass the test of facing public criticism,
especially when government processes call for

Overhauling the existing mindset with a better
understanding of modern intelligence methods, through
approved and declassified disclosures, serves to
eliminate overt media inquiries that expose critical tools
such as many outlined in the Patriot Act, and the
interception of calls to and from suspected international
terrorists or their proxies.

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe, who’s government
recently boasted that guerrilla kidnappings and killings
were “down sharply,” said it best: “Under no
circumstances will our government weaken its policy on
democratic security.”

And all of this will take much more strategy than just
adding more police officers to the payroll and spending
billions of dollars on fences and walls.

Jerry Brewer, the Vice President of Criminal Justice
International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm
headquartered in Miami, Florida, is a guest columnist with He can be reached via e-mail at