INTELLIGENCE IN ACTION
A New Day in New York, Part 3
tanks at J.F.K. International Airport,
of intelligence as a way to understand the
worldin this case, the world and underworld
of terrorist threats and actors.
consider what you'd do if you learnedas
our New York Joint Terrorism Task Force did
last Januarythat there was a plot germinating
to attack J.F.K. airport.
you'd want to gather enough information to
stop the attack and enough evidence to mount
an eventual case in a court of law. But you'd
also want to keep an eye open, to see where
this initial bit of intelligence might take
you. Because the point is not just to prevent
this particular attack, but to stop the next
bomb from going off and the next, and ultimately
to take down the larger worldwide terrorist
so our New York anti-terror task force took
that first morsel of intelligence and began
to mine it. Within six months, we had
a source working to get information first-hand
from the suspects. We watched as the plot
unfoldedwho got involved, what their
strategies and capabilities were, how they
scoped out the target and reached out overseas
for potential money and support. For 18 months
we learned as much as we could about the players
and their connections before four suspects
were arrested in New York, Trinidad, and Guyana
in early June.
drove this investigation, no question,"
says Amy Lopes, supervisory intelligence analyst
in New York. "We did a tremendous amount
of intelligence work before we made the arrests.
We wanted to see who and what these guys knew."
diversity of expertise in the task force made
the operation much more successful than it
would have been otherwise, says Lopes.
"We called on whoever was in the best
position to fill in a particular gap in our
understanding or to run down a certain piece
end result was not only a prevention of a
potentially serious terrorist strike on the
airport and its fueling systems, but big picture
insights into the ever morphing terrorist
threat, especially as it plays out in our
wasn't a plot hatched by some discontented
Middle Easterners," Lopes points out.
"The alleged mastermind was an American
citizen who became radicalized around religion.
When he did reach out for money, support,
and equipment he didn't go farhe turned
to contacts on our side of the pond, in the
Caribbean and in South America." That
included an extremist organization called
Jamaat Al Muslimeen, which had plotted a deadly
coup in Trinidad in 1990.
threat is forever changing," Lopes continues.
"Intelligence is what gives us our edge,
our crystal ball if you will. We've seen terrorism
become more localized, more homegrown since
9/11. What shape will it take tomorrow? That's
what we have to be continually on the look
so the nation's longest-running joint terrorism
task force has refashioned itself anew, marrying
up investigative and intelligence disciplines.
"There's a saying here, "Intelligence
drive intelligence,'" Lopes says. "That's
so true. The two feed off each other. It's
creating a synergy that's making New York
and America safer."
1 of the Series
2 of the Series
York investigation press release