Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, was invited to join a panel of experts at the Potomac Institute in the Washington, DC, area on Wednesday. An audience that included current and former security officers, retired heads of State Department counter-terrorism, and journalists heard presentations — including Raviv’s.
Raviv put together a list of basics that almost surely would be included in any Israeli advice to security planners at the Summer Olympic Games getting underway this weekend in London:
What’s the Israeli role in Olympic security?
Israeli experts are often consulted, because Israelis have acquired a lot of experience. Sadly, that’s because Israelis have frequently been attacked by terrorists. Also, Israel’s security and espionage agencies have developed strong counter-terrorism strategies.
Most dramatically and sadly, of course, is the fact that 40 years ago — at the Summer Olympics in Munich — 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. (The terrorists called themselves Black September, but that was really just a disguise for Yasser Arafat’s P.L.O.)
What would Israel’s advice of expertise be?
There are the basics: Observe people arriving in the UK at ports and airports. Be alert for anything unusual, anything amiss.
Observe the crowds arriving at Olympic venues.
(It is not fashionable to admit, but Israel does use “profiling” : where people who look like Middle East terrorists might be subject to more interrogation or surveillance — but above all what the Israelis are looking for is someone acting in a suspicious way. They are “profiling” people’s actions : their travel patterns, for instance, and whether they seem evasive when answering a few simple questions. That’s why security guards at Israel’s airports — and before you board any flight to Israel — do question every passenger.)
Prepare good perimeter security, including CCTV and other observation systems. Have armed officers in the crowds, many of the officers in plainclothes.
Be aware of how to “shoot back.” Carefully choose your weapons, and have well-trained officers who know to shoot accurately.
Have a plan for crowd control, in case something terrible does happen.
Have a place prepared to bring any criminals or terrorists: every Olympic venue ought to have a place prepared as a jail or brig, to hold someone until the police can take them away to more secure locations.
Does Israel expect an attack at the London Olympics? Do you?
One of the Sunday newspapers had a big headline saying there’s a danger of an attack by Iranians or the Hezbollah radicals from Lebanon who are financed by Iran. That report said Israelis could be the targets.
But I don’t think Iran or Hezbollah have any strong reason to carry-out an attack on the Olympics. Hezbollah would prefer to hit a “softer” target — without so much security. They also prefer to be somewhere with a lot less police and military presence: thus leaving what experts call “a low signature,” trying — as in the suicide bombing in Bulgaria this month that killed 5 Israelis and a local bus driver — to leave very few clues.
I’m afraid that Hezbollah and Iran probably will keep trying to attack Israeli targets, and those usually would be civilians. Attacks were foiled recently in Thailand, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and even in Bulgaria early this year. That was a result of good intelligence — Israel’s “Mossad” working with the C.I.A. and other Western agencies.
But intelligence agencies cannot be perfect. They cannot pretend to be a kind of “insurance company” protecting every tourist who travels in the world.
Israel is determined to use covert action to stop — or slow down — Iran’s nuclear program. So a pattern of tit-for-tat violence may well continue.
But I don’t expect it to happen at the Olympics.
The danger, in London, is more likely from a lone wolf. Think, for instance, about the attacker in the cinema in Colorado last week (who killed 12 people). At the Olympic venues themselves, of course, we don’t expect anyone to approach with heavy guns and body armor.
But authorities, during a high-profile time in London, should keep their eyes open — everywhere in the British capital, and perhaps everywhere in Europe.