Dozens trained in Colorado to spot possible terrorism dangers
The Denver Post
CENTENNIAL – While anti-terrorism agents in a secured intelligence hub supported FBI operations, state supervisors this week are training a new cadre of 65 “terrorism liaison officers” to serve as their eyes and ears around the state.
The new TLOs, as they are called, will bring the total deployed statewide to 370 – more than five times the initial target when the program began in 2007 – in one of the more robust state efforts to develop a federally guided grassroots network of intelligence agents.
The TLOs include police officers in Aurora and Denver, suburban firefighters, state health officials and prison guards. And the targets they watch range from financial institutions to luxury hotels. All are looped into national information-sharing systems.
“You will be the experts in your agencies on terrorism. It’s a big responsibility,” West Metro Fire Rescue Capt. Mike Kirkpatrick, a TLO for two years, told the group.
“What does it take to get some of these chemicals that may be used as a weapon? . . . Do the bomb makers injure themselves when they are making bombs? Absolutely,” Kirkpatrick said, urging paramedics to keep in mind what burn marks or lost fingers that they see might mean.
FBI and U.S. Homeland Security Department agents help run the secure fusion center that funnels intelligence to and fields tips from TLOs, data relayed by phone and secure e-mail. The agents in the room follow up every TLO tip, coordinating responses with local police or the FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Force.
TLOs in Colorado and at least nine other states “are the people who will stop an attack. . . . They will see the gathering of supplies. They are the people who, through their everyday activities, will be able to witness things that may be that small piece of a larger puzzle,” said State Patrol Capt. Steve Garcia, director of the Colorado Information Analysis Center.
The FBI’s current investigation of what agents describe as a plot to detonate homemade bombs in the United States motivated many at Wednesday’s session, the second held over three days.
“Obviously, we’re not involved in the Zazi case, but I’m a firm believer – those in my department are, too – in being prepared in the very unlikely event that something does happen,” said police officer Larry Kiefer of the mountain town of Alma (population 400).
As the TLO network in Colorado and other states expands, so does the number of terrorism tips reaching fusion center analysts.
The number reaching the local center has increased to 406 in 2008, up from 381 in 2007, 166 in 2006 and 45 in 2005, according to an annual report.
Among tips fielded last year, 155 involved “suspicious activity,” 21 involved suspected “surveillance” of critical infrastructure, 81 involved suspicious thefts, and one involved terrorist group activity, according to the report.
Bruce Finley: 303-954-1700 or email@example.com