Units follow money more than bombs

first_imgSince joining the department’s Terrorism Interdiction Unit, a team of four officers whose primary job is to educate fellow officers about terrorism trends, Kremling has interviewed several Santa Fe Springs residents suspected of providing money to terrorist groups, he said. On the home-front battle to prevent the next terror attack, local law-enforcement officials have increasingly focused on finding those who would supply terrorists with money and cutting off the supply before it reaches its intended benefactors. But as new funding sources are uncovered and broken up, would-be terror financiers adapt and change their tactics, Terrorism Interdiction Unit officials say. “It’s an evolving movement,” said Lt. Aviv Bar, who supervises the interdiction unit. “They change their tactics – the way they fund themselves, the types of materials they use. We have to adjust, based on the information we get. “None of our officers have found bomb-making materials,” Bar added. Increasingly, that information comes from a network of police, state and federal anti-terrorism units, who continually share information and tap into each others’ resources, Bar said. The local anti-terrorism unit also is in charge of making sure grant money from the Department of Homeland Security is used to purchase needed equipment and for emergency preparations. Unit members are available 24 hours a day. Kremling, who was born in Lebanon and speaks fluent Arabic, said his cultural background has been a boon in his job. When he was a teenager, Kremling’s home was bombed by U.S. forces. His family left Lebanon and moved to Orange County. Later, Kremling opened a camera and copier store. He decided to become an officer because of a desire to help others, he said. For the anti-terror unit, Kremling works with businesses in Santa Fe Springs, many of which manufacture or use toxic chemicals. One of his jobs is to harden these potential “soft targets” against attack, advising businesses about security precautions such as hiring armed guards and installing security fencing and surveillance equipment. “If they see these things, there’s a good chance they’re going to leave and go somewhere else,” he said. Often, regular patrol officers stop someone for a traffic violation, then get a suspicious feeling. When that happens, they call Kremling. “When I interview these people, I tell them my Lebanese name,” he said. “This culture is very tribal. A name tells what city you are from or who your father is.” Once he develops a trust, Kremling tries to get suspects to open up about their personal beliefs. If he is fortunate, he can often uncover any terrorist ties. When he finds any, Kremling will “feed the information up the chain to the FBI,” he said. Clues that the average person would overlook stick out like a sore thumb to Kremling. Someone who rants aggressively about government conspiracies or steals a truck load of cigarettes is worth interviewing, he said. A few years ago, Kremling interviewed a Palestinian man arrested by a patrol officer for a DUI in Santa Fe Springs. The man ranted anti-American sentiments. He even tried to recruit Kremling. The investigator contacted the FBI. Later, authorities discovered that the man and his family had wired about $130 million to a Palestinian terrorist group, he said. Since 9/11, when Whittier’s Terrorism Interdiction Unit was formed, the unit and the department in general has become much more knowledgeable about how to spot terrorist activity, Bar said. For example, before 9/11, if an officer stopped someone with two or three passports, they would not have paid much attention, he said. “Now, we know that passports are more dangerous than a bomb,” said Bar. “We’ve educated our officers to think like terrorism officers.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA FE SPRINGS – Whittier police Officer Ralph Kremling knows for certain that terrorists are working on the home front. In January, Kremling received a call from an investigator at another police agency who was suspicious of two Egyptian men in his custody. Kremling, the Whittier Police Department’s terrorism liaison, was brought in to interview the two. Both men had been arrested for stealing cigarettes – a common way terrorists raise money in the United States, he said. “We found out they were sending money” to a fundamentalist group in Egypt, said Kremling. last_img read more