Intelligence Sharing Credited with Quick Capture of Terror Suspect

By Briana Vannozzi

The swift take-down of Ahmad Khan Rahami is being credited to vigilant civilians, brave law enforcement and the keen intelligence sharing that’s come about in the post 9/11 era.

“It’s hard to imagine the case being made any more quickly than it was. The events from the weekend led to an arrest on Monday. It’s extraordinary. And when you think about the flow of information and the level of cooperation that is necessary to get that done it really is inspiring,” said New Jersey State Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

The Seaside Park bomb plot along a military 5K run, followed by the explosion in Chelsea set off a chain of events between law enforcement agencies. Today the state’s top officer, Porrino, said part of that involves the ROIC — or State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center.

“I can’t get into the specifics but I’ll say that the sharing and cooperation is completely seamless. There are no state lines when it comes to tracking down terrorism,” Porrino said.

Authorities are reluctant to share just how the information trickles down. Though Linden Mayor Derek Armstead says his team relies on a digital alert system to communicate internally and with outside towns.

“We have something called Nixle. We had gotten alerts over our phones as to who the individual was prior to him being involved or engaged with our officers in town. So we knew who he was and we were on the lookout for him and I think that contributed a tremendous amount. When Officer [Angel] Padilla first approached the individual, he knew right off who he was dealing with,” Armstead said.

“Fifteen years ago unfortunately different intelligence agencies — the Secret Service, the FBI, Defense Intelligence, NSA and other entities of federal and state governments, like the State Police and others — they developed intelligence, but they kept it to themselves as their own proprietary information. And they were reluctant to share it because they wanted to have that edge,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

The 9/11 commission changed that.

“And they called for a massive integrated sharing of intelligence, so all agencies — federal, state and local — would have simultaneously critical information to avoid that,” Menendez said.

But in a video captured by NJ Advance Media, Rahami’s father tells reporters he twice reported his son to federal authorities.

“There’s an awful lot of people in our law enforcement and our citizens who would want to know if that’s real and if that’s true. That information should have been shared with us or at least the FBI should have monitored this place more closely if that’s true,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage.

The FBI did not respond to questions about the father’s claim. Though a New York Times article says officers opened what’s known as an assessment — a basic investigation that was inconclusive and did not warrant putting Rahami on a watch list.

In this case, authorities also credit the way information was released to the public, who through a series of deeds led officials to make the capture, emphasizing the biggest weapon in fighting terrorism or any crime still lies with us.