State officials gather to learn more about terrorism

By Greg Gelpi

While a war with soldiers armed with guns and bombs rages in Iraq and other fronts on terrorism, a war with soldiers armed with books and knowledge is being waged locally.

Representatives from throughout Clayton County and the state returned to school this week to delve into Middle East and Islamic culture and ideologies.

An expert in Islamic extremism and the Middle East, Sam Kharoba is directing the two two-day training sessions at Clayton College and State University as the global war on terror took to the American streets in an information battle.

"He's going to give us an insight into terrorism," Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle said of Kharoba, a consultant on the Middle East, who lived and studied in the region himself.

Knowing your enemy enables you to defeat your enemy, Tuggle said, explaining that the seminar will answer the question of why Muslim extremists hate America, which in turn will better prepare officers and investigators on the street to detect terrorist activity.

"The emphasis for this training is to assist local officers and officials in their efforts to be better prepared to face possible attempts of terrorism that may occur in our state and, more particularly, in our own community," he said.

With Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest passenger airport, in the county's backyard, members of local law enforcement, Georgia Emergency Management, Social Security Administration, U.S. Attorney's Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, among others, gathered to learn the makeup of terrorists, what makes them tick and the ways in which they infiltrate security.

But, homeland security isn't confined to those who work for the government. Ordinary citizens out and about busy with their daily lives also play a part in shoring up security.

Although the streets of Clayton County may provide a stark contrast to the dusty caves of Afghanistan, the fight remains the same.

"Go to the library. Learn about the other cultures before you judge," Major Doug Massengale of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office said during a break from the training session. "The key to this may be the education."

And education is what government agencies are equipping themselves with.

"He brings a wealth of knowledge on the Middle East and Islam," Tuggle said. "Knowledge is what we need, and knowledge is how we fight terrorism."

Specifically, Kharoba is detailing the ways in which terrorists use names and change names to obtain false documents, which is of particular concern as international travelers zip in and out of Hartsfield.

"This is the first time the county has brought someone in of this caliber," Tuggle said.

Just more than two years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, one Clayton College & State University feels security has tightened.

"I'm not from the United States, but I feel safer here," Jackeline Nieto, a student from Venezuela who has been in the country for three years.

Police officers on patrol have made a point to introduce themselves and get to know her, Nieto said, adding that the personal touch provides comfort.

The goal of terrorism is fear, Massengale said, but homeland security is employing education as a means to extinguish that fear, one more step in America's continuing global war on terrorism.

Training will conclude today for the first session with the second session running Wednesday and Thursday.

Also attending the workshop are representatives from U.S. Customs, Department of Transportation, Hartsfield, Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles and other sheriffs' offices.