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FBI chief lauds terror facility

Robert S. Mueller III says the L.A. area's new intelligence center is a model for federal and local cooperation in combating plots.

January 20, 2007|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles area's new counter-terrorism center drew high marks Friday from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who toured the high-tech facility in Norwalk and pronounced it a model for federal and local cooperation.

The Joint Regional Intelligence Center opened six months ago as a co-venture of the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and other local law enforcement agencies as a hub for information gathering, analysis and sharing.

With 30 similar centers having opened or in the works in other parts of the country, Mueller said the use of cutting-edge technology and intelligence sharing by police officers on the streets of Southern California sets a good example and gives him confidence about efforts to head off terrorism here.

"It's a model for the rest of the country," Mueller said. "With the contribution of first responders and the law enforcement intelligence component, it's the type of fusion you need to prevent terrorist attacks and to follow up on any threats of any terrorist attacks."

Mueller said the center is tangible proof of improved cooperation among agencies in the post-9/11 era. "It enhances our partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles [County] Sheriff's Department," he said. "They are doing a great job."

Mueller was accompanied on the tour and briefing by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton, who are lobbying federal officials to expand sharing of federal crime databases with agencies in Southern California.

The mayor called the center "the crown jewel of our effort to address counter-terrorism and homeland security here in Los Angeles."

About 30 analysts from federal and local law enforcement agencies work at the center, which has received about 500 tips from the public and other sources since opening in July.

Asked whether the center has foiled any terrorist plots since opening, Bratton said, "I can't speak to the terrorism issue with specificity other than the fact that since it's been up and running, there have been no major or significant incidents of concern."

Bratton said the effort to combat terrorism is part of a larger cooperative venture to have agencies share crime data. Officials from the LAPD and Sheriff's Department met Thursday with representatives of dozens of police departments in the county about pooling data through a computer system called CopLink. The system is already in use by the LAPD and Sheriff's Department.

That system would link all the disparate law enforcement databases to allow analysts at the center and police investigators to call up information from anywhere in the county, including the names of people arrested, cited or interviewed by officers or thought to be involved in crimes.

"It will be helpful to deal with not only terrorism concerns, but also crime concerns," Bratton said. "It will be a cornerstone of the local gang initiative we just announced. We will have the ability for the first time for agencies throughout the county to put information into the same file."

The police chief said he talked to Mueller on Friday about the desire of local law enforcement to connect CopLink to a federal crime database called Links.

"It would give us access to federal intelligence files, criminal and terrorism-related, so we would then have the most comprehensive set of intelligence files in the country," Bratton said.

The chief said he plans a trip to Washington, D.C., to follow up his talks with Mueller on gaining access to the federal database.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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