Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing told The Washington Times that his police force is using a combination of community cooperation and aggressive monitoring of jihadists, to counter the threat of a Mumbai-style terror attack. The dual strategy is meant to isolate would-be terrorists and extremists badgering mainstream mosques, and to build a better sense of cooperation between nervous community leaders and law enforcement.
"You need good intelligence. Do we have an idea of all the cells here? Do we know all the players? Do we know their associates? Does al Qaeda have good access to [weapons of mass destruction]? And how sophisticated can they get? That worries me," Downing told the Times, as he expounded on the "very real" threat of terror in American cities. One likely scenario is a "multitarget, synchronized assault by teams armed with smaller weapons," similar to the attacks that killed 174 in Mumbai, India. "The biggest fear I have is just what I don't know."
Real-time intelligence work has been aided by the police department's outreach to local Muslims. Officers observe prayer, show up at community events, and explain to Muslims that they have key constitutional rights that American is interested in protecting. It's about "supporting our Constitution and creating a bigger gap between the hard-core radicals and the critical mass of people," Chief Downing said. "And then we can weed out the hard-core radicals through our hunt-and-pursue model."
There is "a type of [al-Qaida] in the United States," Downing said. American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has "a lot of cyberconnections" to help recruit homegrown radicals. And there have been efforts to bribe mosques into replacing their imams with extremists. When that doesn't work, some mosque leaders report being shaken-down by threats targeting relatives overseas.
One mosque official was told "we know where your niece is, how she walks to school in Pakistan, you want her to get to school, don't you?' That's the kind of stuff that we're dealing with here," Downing told the Times.