How NYC Police Learn Cultural Aspects Of Terror Suspects


Mitchell Silber leads a little-known counterterrorism team in the New York Police Department, says the New York Times. Formally known as the Analytic Unit of the department's Intelligence Division, the team was created in 2002 as part of the city's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It stands as a unique experiment in breaking traditional law-enforcement boundaries, comprising two dozen civilian experts – lawyers, academics, corporate consultants, investment bankers, alumni of the World Bank and the Council on Foreign Relations and even a former employee of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan.

The team serves as the Police Department's terrorism reference arm: available on demand to explain Islamic law or Pakistani politics to detectives in the field. “We have found that conducting terrorism investigations is more art than science and requires a breadth of complementary skill sets,” Silber said. The team helps police officers translate their skills to new terrain, people with a firm cultural grasp of the suspects they were meant to be pursuing. Over the years, a gang detective in the Bronx will probably have developed a radar able to determine at a glance the meaning of a hand gesture or a prison tattoo. But, as one former intelligence detective said of potential Islamic extremists, “when we first started, we didn't even know they prayed on Fridays.” Silber's analysts earn $55,000 to $95,000 a year working daily shiftsl, but are available to put things into context around the clock, at the ring of a cellphone.

Comments are closed.