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THE STATE

State Joins U.S., N.Y. to Fight Terror

Intelligence: Agencies will be able to gather and analyze information to avert attacks in what could be a model for the nation, officials say.

October 01, 2002|WILLIAM OVEREND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Law enforcement officials in California have joined forces with two partners who add a national dimension to local efforts to block potential terrorist activities.

The partnership links the state's anti-terrorism information system with the New York Police Department's terrorism division and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

State officials say there is no other information system like it, but predict that it could become a model for an increasingly broad national intelligence-sharing program.

The new partnership was announced by Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and Gov. Gray Davis last week, but officials said New York City and California have been working together for more than two months on some anti-terror investigations.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is expected to play an important role in the partnership by providing analysts to help interpret intelligence gathered on both coasts and to provide additional intelligence available on identified suspects.

The federal agency is responsible for protecting military forces and bases against terrorist plots. The dozens of major military bases in California attracted the military to the state's anti-terror intelligence network, the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, known as CATIC.

Ed Manavian, chief of criminal investigations for the state Department of Justice, declined to discuss specific cases under investigation, but outlined some hypothetical ways the partnership could work.

California might have suspects under surveillance who are routinely in touch with New York City connections, for example. Officials could alert New York to that, and agents there could start their own surveillance or wiretapping operations, he said.

Or New York officials could alert California agents to suspects believed to be headed toward the state.

Manavian believes that potential funding sources for terrorists include Middle Eastern and East European drug rings operating in the United States. He said the partnership could include sharing of information on terrorist links to drug organizations.

"The relationship with New York City is like gold," Manavian said. "They have something like 500 cops in their terrorist unit, and they are completely committed to sharing information."

There are about 100 agents, investigators and analysts from the state Department of Justice and 28 local, state and federal agencies in California's CATIC system. They operate from offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Ana and Redding.

CATIC was established to track information from 100,000 law enforcement officers in California and to share it with agencies ranging from the smallest police departments to the FBI.

Officials say CATIC is working with law enforcement agencies on 443 open cases believed to be terrorist-related. There have been more than 3,400 inquiries to CATIC about working cases, and the network has caught overlapping investigations in almost 400 of those.

Manavian describes it as the grass-roots intelligence collection agency in California. Now, he said, it will be an even more effective, with a national dimension that draws on the resources of street cops on both coasts.

And the involvement of the federal intelligence agency will provide additional analysis capability to help detect patterns in random bits of information, he said.

"Better analysis of all the information we have been getting has been a major goal for us this year, and the defense department analysts will help enormously," he said.

Most of the communication will be on secure computer and telephone lines, Manavian said. Initially, four CATIC staffers will be assigned to the project and others will be added as needed, he said.

"This partnership will enable law enforcement officers to identify potential terrorists and share information coast-to-coast," Lockyer added in a statement. "This will help us prevent future attacks on American soil."

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