by Dave Bender
JERUSALEM, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- An al-Qaeda mail terror-bombing plot out of Yemen, American warnings about potential bombings in Europe, and ramped-up security measures at air and sea ports worldwide brought together security officials from dozens of countries for Israel's first-ever homeland security conference this week.
"What happened over the weekend is a reminder that we need to be vigilant 24/7," Israel's Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said at the opening session in Tel Aviv Sunday night, a sentiment shared by the country's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Monday.
Israeli security officials, according to Katz, were aware on Thursday of the plan to send bombs to Jewish synagogues in America over the weekend via freight air carriers, although British security officials believe the devices were planned to detonate en route.
"Since Thursday Israeli representatives have been on location in sensitive airports around the world, securing shipments to Israel," he told reporters at an annual jet crash mass-casualty drill held at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday.
GETTING SMART WITH BAD GUYS, TOGETHER
"Israel is known around the world as a country which develops advanced technology for dealing with terror threats to airports, train systems and other means of transportation," Ben-Eliezer told more than 1,400 delegates.
And those shiny, cutting-edge tools and latest information on the threats out there were shared by several dozen high-level speakers, and on display by vendors showing off their anti- terrorism and homeland security wares at the three-day event.
"Israel's security forces have succeeded in dealing with two main waves of terrorism, and prevented 120 suicide bombing attacks, " Israel Security Agency (ISA) chief Yuval Diskin told the security and government professionals gathered from countries as far apart as Brazil and Chile in South American, the U.S. and Panama, the U.K., India, and Thailand.
Diskin, however, said that the real-world successes were now matched by the threats developing in a cyberspace.
"The new technological developments give everyone instant availability. Most unfortunately, the same technologies that enable astonishing jumps in communications, world economics, and social networks also enable the terrorist organizations to upgrade their capabilities," Diskin said.
"We can fight these capabilities, and even win -- but to do so, there must be a new, globally-integrated international strategy," Diskin said. "We must share the great amounts of knowledge that the various countries have amassed, and we must cooperate in intelligence, developing technologies, high-level operations, and a legal framework that will allow the democratic countries the means to fight terrorism."
VIEWING SECURITY, INNOVATION HOLISTICALLY
"The idea of this conference is very important, because Israel is leading in many dimensions of counter-terrorism, both in technology and in intelligence," Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland told Xinhua. "Those who come here have a very good chance to hear Israeli lessons, and to be exposed to very advanced Israeli technology."
Eiland is the former national security adviser, and worked with the prime minister's office on security and foreign affairs issues.
Wolf Tombe, Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Customs & Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, said he was keen to learn some of the lessons. Tombe said his office was dealing with "systems that were never designed to be up 24/7," due to multiplying terror threats.
"They were never designed to handle the workload we're handling today. We've had to constantly adapt to the evolving threat of terrorism; the systems are completely overstressed. So again, another reason to look for innovation," Tombe said.
Brazil, which will have its hands full hosting the World Military Games next year, the 2014 World Cup, is particularly interested in Israeli security innovations, notably, systems integration. "That's the key word for us being successful in this major event," according to Luiz Krau, a Rio de Janeiro-based security consultant for the Military Games.
Krau made his comments before a flashy multimedia display by a major Israeli vendor that touted a turnkey system that used artificial intelligence to automatically sift through and " understand" terabytes of data, including text, images, audio and databases to foil terror plots.
Scott Alswang, a former Secret Service agent in the Bush Administration, and who is now a senior vice-president of a New Jersey-based physical security firm, found that, as the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention," as far as Israeli ability to meet security needs.
"Judging by the past, the wars, the conflict, the suicide bombings, [the Israelis] have had to develop technology to counteract what's gone on with suicide bombers," Alswang said, adding that he'd like to keep in touch with some of the vendors and experts he met with at the conference, in order to "expand our capabilities in a number of fields, whether it's my old outfit, the U.S. Secret Service or my current company."