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Law enforcement group combats local terrorism

May 3, 2010 7:13:44 PM PDT
A group of counter-terrorism agents are working to stop potential threats before they're carried out close to home.From the outside, it looks like a nondescript commercial building that sits in downtown Norwalk. However, inside it houses something called JRIC, the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, where law enforcement agencies from all levels work together to keep the residents of Los Angeles County and beyond safe from terrorism.

"There are so many bits of information that are coming through this center, and those bits of information are analyzed and when you pull that all together it creates a bigger, richer picture," said FBI special agent Steve Gomez.

Gomez is in charge of counter terrorism for the FBI. He says after 9/11, intelligence sharing became a number one priority, and the Internet became a primary tool for both sides. It is on the Internet where would-be terrorists can become even more radicalized, where they can spread their anti-American propaganda and where they can recruit others. Also, they can do it in the privacy of their own homes no matter what part of the world they may be living.

"There's information that enables people to learn how to create improvised explosive devices and how to get more training and how to just become more extreme in their views and to act out," said Gomez.

The Los Angeles area is home to one of the largest ports in the world and one of the busiest international airports. L.A. is the largest entertainment venue around the globe. With events like the Oscars as well as world class sporting events, it's no question that L.A. is a target for terrorists.

"We're into identifying networks and cells that want to do harm to our communities and neighborhoods, and we're defeating them and disrupting them before they can get traction and attack us," said LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing.

"We're doing things that we never did before. We don't have job classifications for the kinds of things we do and getting personnel to do the kind of job we do is difficult," described Michael Grossman of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

For law enforcement, attacking terrorism is a balancing act. While they are constantly looking for individuals and tracking those who may be plotting against us, their hands are tied until there is a crime committed.

"We have to protect the American civil rights, but at the same time we have to make sure that we don't have another potential terrorist attack," said Gomez.


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