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Op-Ed Columnist NY Times

Walking the Terror Beat

Published: September 10, 2006
THE most important counterterrorism activity since the fall of the Taliban has been the close cooperation of the C.I.A. with foreign intelligence services.

Powerful American technologies identify names, locations, phone numbers and computer addresses of suspicious people. Local intelligence services operate informant networks. The C.I.A. station chief works with intelligence officials to follow up and coordinate hundreds of leads generated by these joint collection efforts. The connections often cross national boundaries, and periodically they “connect the dots,” identify a key terrorist and have the local services execute a nighttime raid against a terrorist safe house.

Such coordinated efforts have led to the captures of key Qaeda operatives including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind; Hambali, the planner of the Bali bombings; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who oversaw the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole. With midlevel leaders like these out of commission, terrorist operations have been left to less capable local operatives. As a result, the Qaeda movement has been limited to only two successful operations in the West in the past five years, in Madrid and London.

To prevent the next attack in the United States we need a similar coordinated intelligence effort at home. In New York City, the F.B.I. and Police Department share this responsibility. And although they do not always love each other, they find ways to work together. The Police Department brings grit, creativity and street smarts to the investigative programs. The F.B.I. connects local efforts with information from national and international intelligence databases. Other cities should emulate their example. — MICHAEL A. SHEEHAN, former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism for the New York City Police Department.