Wednesday, December 30, 2015

ATA - US State Department’s own army

By Sasha Uzunov

ATA - Office of the Antiterrorism Assistance Program is run by the United State’s State Department (it’s Foreign Ministry) and until recently when I stumbled upon this 1997 article from the Gainsville Sun in Florida, US, in a newspaper archive had no idea of its existence.

We all know of the CIA, the FBI, NSA, DEA and various other law-enforcement, espionage and para-military formations but this one, the ATA, was lunknown to me.

It was a secret counter terrorism unit set up by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and hidden until 1987.

An article from the Gainsville Sun newspaper, 28 January 1997 - US newspaper archives

PD Knowles, American secret counter-terrorist trainer sent to Columbia, Peru & Macedonia by the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program during the 1980s and 1990s.

He was obviously in Macedonia before the 1999 NATO war against Serbia for control of Kosovo and the 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising in Macedonia.

It is not known whether PD Knowles trained any potential Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) or its precursor elements during his stay in the Balkans.

You can read the 1997 full Gainsville Sun story at this link

The Official US State Department website:

The Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA), administers the Antiterrorism Assistance Program. The ATA program trains civilian security and law enforcement personnel from friendly governments in police procedures that deal with terrorism. DS officers work with the host country's government and a team from that country's U.S. mission to develop the most effective means of training for bomb detection, crime scene investigation, airport and building security, maritime protections, and VIP protection.

DS assesses the training needs, develops the curriculum, and provides the resources to conduct the training. The bureau uses its own training experts as well as those from other U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, police associations, and private security firms and consultants.

Most ATA program recipients are developing nations lacking human and other resources needed to maintain an effective antiterrorism program and infrastructure. ATA training seeks to address deficiencies noted in the ability to perform the following areas:

Protecting national borders
Protecting critical infrastructure
Protecting national leadership
Responding to and resolving terrorist incidents
Managing critical terrorists incidents having national-level implications

Since its inception in 1983, the program has trained and assisted over 84,000 foreign security and law enforcement officials from 154 countries. These foreign security and law enforcement personnel have received training in bomb detection, crime scene investigations, airport and building security, maritime security, dignitary protection, and numerous other disciplines to increase their counterterrorism capabilities and capacity. These officials are now better prepared to fight terrorism and protect Americans overseas in times of crisis. DS has received numerous stories from foreign police officers who have used their ATA training successfully to counter terrorist situations in their countries.

Marc A Celmer takes a critical look at the ATA in his book. He points out that there is an ulterior motive in setting up the ATA.  link here

The Los Angeles Times newspaper ran a 1987 story about PC Knowles and the ATA:

U.S. Wins a Few : Upping the Stakes on Terrorism -
October 11, 1987 by DAVID LAMB

"WASHINGTON — In basement offices where a hand-lettered sign says "The Bullet Stops Here" and conference rooms where government lawyers gather, in California think tanks and training facilities from Oklahoma to Georgia, the United States is shaping the course of its undeclared war on international terrorism.

"It is a shadowy war that perhaps no one can win. Advances are measured in inches and may not last. The ammunition is often only snippets of intelligence or pleas for international cooperation, and the soldiers are as often lawyers and bureaucrats as undercover agents or counter terrorism squads awaiting secret deployment orders at U.S. military bases.

"Disarming a Terrorist

"One anti-terrorism instructor, P. C. Knowles, a deputy sheriff from Alachua County, Florida, stood the other day among a group of 30 Bolivian policemen and security officers at one of those facilities, a Transportation Department complex in Oklahoma City. One of the Bolivians held a simulated pistol at Knowles' back and the others crowded around attentively.

"First thing to know is where the weapon is," Knowles said, his head turning toward the assailant. "You have to look. Now, from this position, it's hopeless . . . but from here," and his feet spun, his arm swung back and in a flash he had the gun and his student had been flipped gently onto the canvas mat, "from here, it's easy."

"These efforts may represent only a footnote in a larger campaign, but CIA statistics indicate that they are paying dividends. They also imply that the Reagan Administration's sale of arms to Iran--which the State Department lists along with Syria, South Yemen, Libya and Cuba as a state sponsor of political violence--may not have been as harmful to U.S. interests as many had believed.” link to full story

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