Who Trains the Watchmen?


Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze have a fascinating feature in The Washington Monthly about the alleged experts in counterterrorism who have been training the country's cops. Turns out that many of them "have limited background in U.S. counterterrorism and domestic law enforcement, and little patience for the rules and conventions that govern both fields," and that they often see the war on terror as "a conflict against Islam that involves everyone, without distinction between combatant and noncombatant, law enforcement and military."

Some of them are also prone to getting their facts wrong:

That afternoon, [Sam] Kharoba offered more tips on how to detect violent Muslims. "You remember the Alligator Alley incident?" he asked.

He was referring to the events of September 13, 2002, when three Middle Eastern men at a Shoney's restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia—one Jordanian, one Pakistani, and one Egyptian—were overheard talking about "bringing it down" to Miami. A nearby diner, one Eunice Stone, became alarmed and contacted the Georgia highway patrol. In what became a terrorist scare with national coverage, the police pulled the three men over on Alligator Alley, the long section of Interstate 75 that cuts west across Florida. For thirteen hours, the police combed the vehicle for explosives.

Kharoba projected a picture of Ayman Gheith, one of the arrested men, onto the screen. "The first thing is facial hair," Kharoba said. "Do you see how the moustache is trimmed, and the beard is in a cone shape? It is very common to have this beard, and the moustache will always be the same, just like Muhammad."

There is only one problem with the Alligator Alley case—a problem Kharoba never mentioned to the class. The incident was a false alarm. The "terrorists" turned out to be medical students on their way to a conference in Miami. They were innocent. After thirteen hours of interrogation, the police released them. Kharoba, however, taught the class that Ayman Gheith was a "textbook case" of Islamic fanaticism.

Another choice moment:

[John] Giduck recounts giving a presentation on the 2002 hostage crisis at the Nord-Ost Theater in Moscow. After most of the terrorists were knocked unconscious by the gas that security forces pumped into the building, Spetsnaz, the Russian special forces, came through, methodically shooting each of the terrorists once in the back of the head. Giduck is convinced that as Americans we could do better: we could shoot them twice. Giduck writes of being alarmed when a policeman came up to him after the talk and said that not one of the cops in the room would ever have considered doing this. "I think the first thing we need to do is pass federal legislation exempting law enforcement from any civil or criminal prosecution, any liability at all, for what they do if there is a terrorist attack on U.S. soil," Giduck writes.

Read the whole thing here.