Saturday, May 28, 2011
Public Security: A fond salute to a top Israeli attaché
In Washington, Uri Bar-Lev concludes a prosperous chapter in the North American-Israeli security relationship.
Recent days have seen diplomatic tensions between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, but cooperation between Israel and the US on domestic security and counter-terrorism has only grown closer over the past two years.
Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, the outgoing Israel Police and public security attaché to the US and Canada, is in Washington this week to bid farewell to a host of senior American colleagues with whom he has worked closely for the past year and a half on counterterrorism issues, including intelligence, planning first responses to incidents, hostage situations, and inter-organizational cooperation.
Bar-Lev’s relationship with American security and law enforcement professionals began long before his current posting as attaché. In 2001, he received a citation from the FBI for assistance provided as head of an Israeli counter-terrorism delegation, which was sent to the US after the 9/11 atrocities.
“Israeli-American cooperation has prevented many terrorist attacks, and not just in Israel,” a senior colleague of Bar-Lev told The Jerusalem Post.
“He has built up close relationships with senior North American law enforcement and counter- terrorism officials,” the colleague added, naming, among others, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly, his deputy David Cohen, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Janet Napolitano, her deputy Jane Holl Lut, head of the US Marshals Service John F. Clark, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) Administrator Michelle M.
Leonheart and Toronto Police Chief William Blair.
Throughout his long career, Bar-Lev has become one of the country’s top experts in counter-terrorism, and brought with him a plethora of lessons from decades on the front lines. In 1977, he joined the elite IDF Sayeret Shaked unit, where he underwent an officer’s course in combat engineering.
Three years later, he lost his leg from the knee down during a military operation in Lebanon. Despite the injury, he went on to found the elite undercover Duvdevan unit, and was awarded the Chief of Staff’s Merit of Commendation and the IDF Central Command Officer’s Merit of Commendation.
In 1989, former police chief Ya’acov Turner asked Bar-Lev to bring his counter-terrorism experience to the Israel Police, where he formed the undercover Gideonites unit, a secretive counter-terrorism police force tasked with carrying out operational missions based on intelligence. He was awarded a police citation for his role in special operations.
Bar-Lev rose through the ranks, serving as police commander of the Yarkon and Ayalon Tel Aviv sub-districts before becoming Southern District chief in 2004. During his four-and-a-half years in that post, Bar- Lev brought crime levels down by up to 70 percent, and was awarded a prime minister’s citation from Ariel Sharon for contributing to the South’s economic fortitude.
However, noted one of Bar-Lev’s associates, “his charismatic personality and leadership style placed him on a direct collision course with former police chief Insp.-Gen.
(ret.) David Cohen, who was dissatisfied with the media limelight placed on his subordinate.”
Six months ago, Bar- Lev was a leading candidate to become the next chief of police, but his candidacy was derailed in April by a sexual harassment complaint from a Public Security Ministry employee.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and investigators closed the case without an indictment or a reprimand; instead, Bar-Lev issued a personal apology to the employee.
IN 2009, he was appointed to the post of police attaché and traveled to Washington, where he began working with colleagues from the FBI, the DHS, US Marshalls, NYPD, LAPD, various sheriff departments, the DEA and firefighters. Since then, Bar-Lev has shared with his colleagues Israel’s extensive experience in dealing with jihadi terrorism, and discussed the ideology of radical Islamist groups committed to violence.
Bar-Lev has placed an emphasis on the vital need for intelligence agencies to work closely with operational forces, and told the Americans of Israel’s long-standing and ultimately successful efforts to eliminate internal organizational rivalry. The efforts resulted in a transparent communications system that allows security forces to be quickly informed by intelligence agencies of looming terrorist plots, and to coordinate responses in time.
The police attaché believes a neighborhood patrol officer can play a vital role in identifying local suspicious terrorism-related activities, and has discussed ways of creating communication channels that would allow officers’ reports to find their way quickly to national counter-terrorism chiefs.
“Israel came to understand that the longer terrorists spend dodging security forces, the less time and resources they will have to plot attacks, and this was a message Bar-Lev passed on in America,” a colleague said.
Another key issue that soared to the top of America’s agenda following the 9/11 attacks was the coordination of emergency first responses to terrorism incidents. Here, too, Bar-Lev has shared Israel’s broad experience, highlighting the need for police, firefighters and paramedics to work together on the scene and to ensure that the area is secure against secondary strikes aimed at emergency responders. Other measures, like disconnecting water mains, gas pipes and electricity, have also been jointly examined.
During working meetings in the US, Bar- Lev has stressed Israel’s focus on getting scenes of terrorist attacks back to normal as quickly as possible, so terrorists won’t be able to cause lengthy disruptions to whole areas.
As part of those preparations, he has worked with the Americans on planned responses to the threat of unconventional terrorism, including chemical and radiological attacks.
Throughout these contacts, delegations of US security and law enforcement professionals have routinely visited Israel. The DHS, which is supported by a budget of over $50 billion, is seeking to house all American counter-terrorism arms under its roof, unlike Israel’s security model, in which a number of ministries oversee counter-terrorism forces. Bar-Lev has held many meetings with DHS representatives as part of ongoing cooperation between the US body and the Public Security Ministry. Once a year, the two organize meetings, alternating between Israel and the US.
Throughout the cooperation, the two sides have examined the constant tension between the need to ensure national security and the obligation to safeguard individual freedoms.
Bar-Lev has also worked with the US’s Transportation Security Administration on securing international airports, biometric identification, and threat identification techniques. He has told his colleagues he is greatly encouraged by the level of Israeli- American cooperation on these issues, and by the recognition on both sides that terrorism remains a global threat that no country should face alone.