Are we safer now than on Sept. 11, 2001?

Ohio’s top anti-terrorism official answers this and other questions in exclusive interview.

This is part of a series of reports we are doing this week in preparation for Sunday’s September 11 anniversary. We will post additional stories throughout the week and in our print edition on Sunday. For past stories go to

Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Last month we sat down with Richard L. Zwayer II, Ohio’s top counter-terrorism official, to see how the war on terror is fought in Ohio and whether the state is prepared if another terror attack occurs here.

Zwayer is a former Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper in Springfield who oversees the Statewide Terrorism Analysis and Crime Center in Columbus, Ohio’s primary fusion center and one of three so-called fusion centers across the state. There are 78 of these centers in the U.S. that coordinate with law enforcement in an effort to thwart terror activities to protect Americans.

Here are some of the highlights with our interview with Zwayer.

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1. How did 9/11 change the way law enforcement combats terrorism?

“Looking back to that date 15 years later, you ask yourself how far have we’ve come? How much better have we gotten? And I can say confidently that law enforcement — particularly the gaps that existed between even the local and state law enforcement — have gotten tremendously better in the way of sharing important information.

“When you look back to that day that it happened there were very few intelligence centers. There were very few analysts that worked at the local level, at the state level. And of course there were analysts that worked at the federal level but the sharing of the information is nowhere near what it is today.”

2. Have you ever gone into full activation for a terrorism threat?

“Fortunately no. And hopefully we don’t have to do that.”

3. Is there a heightened awareness because of the 9/11 anniversary?

“I can only tell you that there are certain times of the year that certainly cause additional follow up and additional work. The work here every day is important, so I don’t want to lead you to believe that somehow we find it more important, the security of the state and the country during 9/11. But we also recognize that there are certain things that have happened when it comes to terrorist threats and acts of terrorism in the month of September. Our center is very well aware of that.”

4. Is there a file kept here on every Ohioan?

“If you’re suggesting an overall database that just houses all this information, no, that doesn’t exist. If you’re looking at, are there places where we pull information from – third-party places – very much like any member of the public could open information that’s available to the public? We do that on a daily basis. So there are public entities that have a certain level of information on people that reside here, that come through our state. So we do try to access that information when it pertains to a legitimate law enforcement purpose. We do go in and look. To hold a database on people, we don’t do that. That’s not our role to just collect information on citizens within the state of Ohio. That’s not our role.”

5. Is the public safer now than on 9/11?

“I think certainly the public is safer in terms of our ability to share pertinent information and to muster the resources of law enforcement and agencies that are involved in homeland security to keep people safer than we were on 9/11 2001. But we live in a dynamic and changing world where terrorists adjust to what we’re doing and we have to readjust to what they’re doing. So currently I think it’s no surprise to people throughout the United States when you look at incidents like San Bernardino and Orlando, that the threat of terrorism remains very real for Americans. It’s why we have to continue with the efforts that local law enforcement, and the agencies like the FBI, secret Service, Homeland Security, and Ohio Homeland Security to on a daily basis to try to make sure to the best of our abilities those things don’t happen here in the United States.”

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