Tracking threats against Jewish organizations

June 7, 2010 2:46:36 PM PDT
Whenever tensions heat up in the Middle East, threats increase against Jewish organizations here in the U.S. You may not know it, but there is a secret center here in New York focused on preventing attacks against the Jewish community nationwide.

This is not a secret Jewish vigilante group. In fact, Secure Community Network works hand-in-hand with government agencies and law enforcement. The idea is to share information about threats around the country from a centralized clearinghouse.

The team at Secure Community Network, or SCAN, gets a call from a synagogue.

"It was just a malicious code they put up," Mark Genatempo said.

"We see that your website has been hacked," Paul Goldenberg told the synagogue.

An extremist group has hacked into the synagogue's website.

"It's a good level of sophistication. They used the graphics of a burning star of David and of course, included a Palestinian flag," Goldenberg explained.

Why is this important?

"There's information on these websites that's personal and confidential in nature. There's home addresses on these websites," Goldenberg said.

SCN as it's known operates out of a secret location in New York City. We were granted exclusive access to see this nationwide threat center in action.

"We are monitoring and tracking events around Jewish institutions," Goldenberg said.

SCAN immediately sends an alert about the cyber hacking to law enforcement agencies. There's close cooperation back and forth.

"We're not here to replace law enforcement," he said.

The same alert goes out to Security directors and leaders of Jewish organizations around the country.

Mitch Stein is in touch with SCN daily. He runs security for the global advocacy group, American Jewish Committee.

"We have 26 offices in the U.S. and 8 overseas. In the event anything or any threats happen in the Jewish committee, they (SCN) will give us information even before the media gets it," Stein said.

The idea for SCN, which is privately funded by Jewish organizations, began a few years ago with a threat to a New York area synagogue. There were few details.

"On a Friday afternoon, the NYPD advised us that an oil tanker truck may be targeting synagogues that weekend and they asked us to notify synagogues. So, on a Friday afternoon, we had to try to contact synagogues individually, an almost impossible task," Malcom Hoelein, Conference of Presidents, explained.

Now, critical information can be communicated instantaneously around the country, and just as important, rumors quashed. SCN's team is now sharing their security model with other faith-based groups.

"We've been in touch with Christian groups, with Muslim groups, with Hinde groups, to help them mitigate threats against their communities," Goldenberg said.

If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates

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