Terrorism Awareness: Vigilance, It Will Take America Banding Together to Minimize the Terrorist Threat! | Law Enforcement & Security Consulting

I wrote this back in 2007 along with my partner at the time Maria Gonzalez. As we are coming up on 8 years since 9-11 I am putting it on the Blog as a reminder to be alert and aware. Stay Oriented!  Fred

By Fred Leland and Maria Gonzalez

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin

Terrorism remains a global threat from which no nation is immune. Despite deepening counterterrorism cooperation among the nations of the world, international terrorism posed a significant threat in 2004, 2005, 2006 and continues in 2009. The slaughter of hundreds of innocents in the Beslan school, in the commuter trains of Madrid, on a Philippines ferry, and in a Sinai resort in Egypt proved again that the struggle against terrorism is far from over. The threat showed no signs of abating in 2005, with two major attacks occurring within weeks of one another during the month of July. Fifty-six people died in the first attack—near simultaneous bombings on London’s mass transit system. A little over two weeks later, at least 83 people were killed in near-simultaneous bombings at the Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm-el Sheikh.

The quote above says it best, the most responsive to change is the survivor. The threat of terrorism to the homeland is real; it’s not in the past although the last significant attack here at home was 9/11. The threat is as real today as it was pre-9/11, pre- 1993 World Trade Center, international terrorists, pre-1996 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph at the Atlanta Olympics. The question is who is doing the most to adapt, to change based on the threats we face? Is it us or is it the terrorists? Have we in the United States made the significant adjustments to adapt to new threats? I know there are a million layers to conflict and terrorism is one tactic employed by an adversary to scare, people into doing what it is they want since fear is a great motivator, whether it is political or social, or religious objectives they desire.

The focus of this article is about an inexpensive yet very productive way to help curtail the terrorist threat to the homeland. A vigilant society paying attention to our surroundings through observations, if it looks or feels wrong the individual reports it to the proper authorities.

The threat of terror still looms on America and after August 10th 2006 attempt to yet again attack the USA with either blowing planes up over the ocean or flying them into buildings and other critical infrastructure which was thwarted by the British. It brings me back to a rather obvious question; how do we stop terrorist? What tools can we use as a country working together as a cohesive unit in an all out effort to stop these extremist from all out warfare on the United States of America?

Defining Terrorism

Many will argue the definition of terrorism; all agree that acts of terrorism make the terrorist a criminal.

Some see terrorism as a form of warfare. Others believe that referring to terrorism as a form of warfare rather than criminal activity lends legitimacy to terrorists and places their acts within the context of accepted international behavior. I do not think the politics of it really matters at our level we just need to prevent or at least make it very difficult for terrorist to act in this country.

The U.S. Government has adopted the following terrorism-related definitions:

· The term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience (usually the legitimate government).

· The term international terrorism means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.

· The term domestic terrorism means extreme force and violence perpetrated by residents of a country, within that country, for the purpose of coercing its government and population into modifying their behavior

· The term terrorist group means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, terrorism.

An act can be defined as an incident of terrorism if:
  • The act is unlawful.
  • It involves the use or threatened use of violence or force.
  • That violence or force is directed against individuals or property.
  • It is designed to coerce a government or society.
  • It supports political, ideological, or religious objectives

U.S. Policy Regarding Terrorism

The U.S. position on terrorism is based on four basic principles.

  • Make no concessions to terrorists; make no deals with terrorists nor submit to their blackmail.
  • Treat terrorists as criminals, pursue them aggressively, bring them to justice for their crimes, and apply the rule of law.
  • Isolate states that sponsor and support terrorists by imposing economic, diplomatic, and political sanctions and by urging other states to do likewise.
  • Bolster the counterterrorism capabilities of those countries that work with the United States and require assistance.

The United States emphasizes the rule of law when dealing with terrorists. Practical police work and intelligence sharing play strong roles in combating terrorism. The United States facilitates intelligence sharing and the circulation of “lookout” lists with any cooperative government. We encourage governments to identify terrorists by name, learn their goals, ideologies, sponsors, and plans of impending operations. Law enforcement officials are encouraged to apprehend and prosecute terrorists. Laws governing prosecution, exchange of evidence, and extradition must be applied more frequently in order to punish the terrorists. Continued international cooperation and practical police work are the keys to success in combating the terrorist threat.

A Critical link to this policy is the citizens of this country who must also be involved in routing out terrorist and terrorist threats. It is obvious that the citizens need to be involved; however we beg to ask the questions, what is the reason for the lack of information from the government agencies of the threats, or of the definition, trends and methods of terrorism? Why aren’t we involving the citizens of this Great Nation as a form of counter terrorism? I submit this article because it is not seriously being considered as an option in some jurisdictions. In my view we must destroy our old ways of thinking and create new ways of working together if we are to stop these threats. Every citizen must be involved if we are to succeed.

Plan an advantage by listening. Adjust to the situation. Get assistance from the outside. Influence events. Then planning can find opportunities and give you control. ~Sun Tzu

Defending Against the Threat

Plan and advantage by listening and adjust to the situation. This advice from Sun Tzu is over 2,500 years old and holds true today in the face of the terror threat. We must look at our adversary and must make every attempt to understand how they operate. What are their strengths such as planning and organizing successful operations, and networking internationally? What are there weaknesses such as narrow minded, extremist views and their inability to give in to the hatred? What about their lack of honor in their choices of targets; including woman, children and innocent civilians?

What are Terrorist Trends?

Analysis of the general trends indicates that terrorists are more willing to conduct ruthless attacks against mass civilian targets. These “soft targets” are other than the more protected military and government buildings. Apartment buildings, modes of transportation, movie theaters, places of employment, hotels, banks, schools, places of recreation, and even places of worship—churches, synagogues, and mosques—that have been targeted by terrorists guarantee a significant number of casualties and a strong symbolic value.

What Methods of Attack Do They Prefer?

“Our enemies are opportunistic, exploiting vulnerabilities and seeking alternatives to those targets with increased security measures. The targeting trend since at least September 11 has been away from hardened sites, such as official government facilities with formidable security, and toward softer targets”~ National Strategy on Combating Terrorism 2006

The most common acts of terrorism are bombings, assassinations, kidnapping, hostage taking, hijackings, skyjacking, armed attacks, maiming, and arson. Favored among these acts are kidnappings, armed assault, and bombings.

Terrorist Indicators

What do we look for? What activities could be construed as indications of terrorist activities? If we stay alert and aware of our surroundings we will see precursors to a terrorist incident. The actions, behaviors and the materials purchased by the terrorist could lead to the early detection and prevention of an attack. Keep in mind these indicators could be seen anywhere there is a potential target and the targets are only limited by the imagination of the individual terrorist. The efforts we make as alert citizens can greatly improve our chances of prevention. Here are some of the indicators to look for.

  • Individual(s) will be parking, loitering, standing in same area over multiple days using video cameras, observation equipment—binoculars, night vision goggles for surveillance of potential target are.
  • Maps, photos, diagrams, sketches, blueprints may be in their possession or simply left out on the seat of the car or the dining room table.
  • Boundary probing is an attempt by an individual to see how far they can get into or penetrate the target location. If you are at work and the target is your employer you may experience this technique in the following manner. The subject walks in to the location and pretends to belong or pretends to be looking for someone. Or he may ask for a certain location in the facility like “where is the bathroom?” Any, method that may work to deceive security or anyone questioning his or her being there they will use. Be attentive and when your observations and instincts tell you something does not seem right call authorities.
  • The terrorist’s live amongst us and you may overhear or be told directly or indirectly in a discussion the issue of being a martyr. You may hear a discussion of suicide or see a suicide note or see the individual terrorist making a video stating his intentions. The individual when getting close to committing the actual act of terror may give possessions away. They may show no regard for the future indulge in activities that were always against there religion or you may note complete isolation of the terrorist. If it seems strange or out of the normal character of the individual you know from the neighborhood pick up the phone and dial authorities.
  • Chemical odors, stains, or burns on individuals themselves or there homes apartments vehicles are worth noting.
  • Inappropriate attire such as overly baggy or heavy clothing to disguise the device the terrorist may be carrying is another common indication. If in route to the target you may notice Sweating, mumbling, tunnel vision and walking with a purpose towards the target.

Let’s take a look at an example of what we are trying to get at here when it comes to observing and terrorist indicators. On September 1-3 2004 in Beslan, Russia, the school was attacked and over 300 people were killed including almost two hundred children. There were indications of terrorist activity that may have lead to the prevention of the attack, such as trees around school had been cut down basically clearing the fields to improve observation. Vehicles were stolen and not reported military and police uniforms were stolen. Local residents recalled suspicious people, around the school; basically boundary probing and conducting preoperational surveillance. There were weapons stolen from police. It has been reported that explosives may have been placed at school before the day of the attack. The government had received threats without an exact location but that there was a threat to the area.

All these indicators and still this attack was not prevented. We get so use to our lives being what they are, the human mind has a hard time staying alert to these indicators especially when the indicators stand alone individually, they could be explained away, however when put together they paint a very scary picture to which we now know the end results. We could analyze many more incidents with the same type of pre incident indicators to crimes and terror attacks that may have been prevented if alert citizens and authorities paid closer attention to the signs.

“Know yourself and know your enemy. You will be safe in every battle. You may know yourself but not know the enemy. You will then lose one battle for every one you win. You may not know yourself or the enemy. You will then lose every battle.” ~ Sun Tzu

We must also look at ourselves what are our strengths and weaknesses? Freedom is our greatest strength, is what Americans have fought and died for throughout our history. It is what we pride ourselves on the crux of what we are about. Yet at the same time freedom is our greatest weakness when it comes to the terrorist threats. Our open borders and an open minded society have allowed us to become a nation of accepting immigrants who are willing to live and let live. As a country we have worked hard and continue to work to instill these values at home. To the terrorist it has been and continues to be an easy place to take advantage of.

Why have we not again been hit by the terrorist since 9-11 I am asked often? There is no easy answer to the question, but I will respond by saying that the terrorist do their homework and study their enemies. They understand that we will be lulled back to sleep and they have the patience to wait till the timing is right. Just look at the 1993 World Trade Center Attack and 9-11, 8 years from first attack to the second attack. I hope I am wrong in my assessment and that we never have to deal with this again, however, the reality is that we will be, and we all must band together as a country 600 million eyes being open and ever vigilant.

The distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be nonlinear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. The distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘military’ may disappear. ~William Lind, The Changing Face of war: Into the Fourth Generation (Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989)

What Strategy Should We Use to Defeat the Terrorist Threat?

“In the War on Terror, there is also a need for all elements of our Nation – from Federal, State, and local governments to the private sector to local communities and individual citizens – to help create and share responsibilities in a Culture of Preparedness. This Culture of Preparedness, which applies to all catastrophes and all hazards, natural or man-made, rests on four principles: a shared acknowledgement of the certainty of future catastrophes and that creating a prepared Nation will be a continuing challenge; the importance of initiative and accountability at all levels of society; the role of citizen and community preparedness; and finally, the roles of each level of government and the private sector in creating a prepared Nation. Built upon a foundation of partnerships, common goals, and shared responsibility, the creation of a Culture of Preparedness will be among our most profound and enduring transformations in the broader effort to protect and defend the Homeland.” ~National Strategy on Combating Terrorism

Obviously a multi faceted and flexible approach is critical to winning. In winning we must insure that it does not cost us too much i.e. freedom, human life etc. One thing that is very clear to me is that we need every able citizen to be vigilant, simply watching your individual neighborhoods and communities while going through your day. We work as a team of citizens, law enforcement, security in the homeland and the military fighting the war as they have been abroad. This does not in my view interfere with any civil liberties and in my view is a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism.

The reality is with 800,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers across this country and another 1.2 million professional security officers all making a fine consorted effort to prevent terrorist attacks inside the USA, it looks to the untrained individual at first glance that we have enough resources to curtail every attack on the homeland. Wrong assessment!

As one of those officers it is apparent to me that we do not have enough man power to get the job done unless we as a country work together. In “we” I mean law enforcement, security, and the citizens of this great country. The citizens of this country, those same citizens by the way we are sworn to protect and serve have been kept in the dark for too long or even worse treated as those who do not need to know. Wrong; not only do they need to be informed but they need to be directly involved. I am not talking about citizens taking the law into their own hands but what I am talking about is citizens making observations, and reporting what they see to the proper authorities so they can be investigated.

You must win your battles without effort. Avoid difficult struggles. Fight when your position must win.  You always win by preventing your defeat. ~Sun Tzu The Art of War

Preventing your defeat or making an all out effort to prevent the terrorists from attacking. One method that is obvious is to have every citizen who is able, staying observant to the indicators of a terrorist attack. Preventing the attacks would obviously be the ultimate goal of our defense against terrorism. We can make it that much more difficult for the terrorists to operate successfully in this country if we all, stay alert and report that which we see.

According to the US Bureau of the Census, the population of the United States will reach 300 million people in October 2006. We need every able individual to pay attention to what they see. I use the word see but in know way do I mean just what you see, I mean using all your senses sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste in combination with your life experiences so that you do not only see (observe) what is going on, but understand what you see is telling you something and you take action as a citizen you pick up the phone and call your local police department.

Counterterrorism relies on the development and exchange of information. Information is what we need to stop future terrorist attacks. People going to and from work, kids going to and from school or hanging on the corner or walking through the woods, whatever you do during your daily activities there is a chance you could come across activities or indications of terror. We know this terrorists plan their attacks, in carrying out their plans they conduct surveillance of their intended targets. They buy, steal or make supplies they will use in their efforts to complete their mission. Gathering information is not limited to intelligence networks but includes . . . Gathering information from the community and us in law enforcement and security disseminating appropriate information to the community, organize community meetings to emphasize prevention strategies, vigilance, and public awareness letting them know what the threats are and encouraging them to call any suspicious activity in to their law enforcement agencies.

Citizens need to be educated on terrorism to an awareness level so they understand what terrorism is, why people commit terrorist acts and how terrorism can touch the community as a target, the logistics and support provided to terrorists in the community and activities that fund terrorist organizations. The public can be of great assistance by staying informed about what to look for and report to the police obviously to accomplish this; local law enforcement must be prepared for information sharing. You must be aware, yet be fair by being cognizant of threats but avoid stereotyping.

Bottom line is there must be close relationships with the community. Forget about the buzz phrases such as community policing which send shivers up cops spines and is interpreted by community members as public relations bull****. Good law enforcement, security officers and citizens should be talking anyhow, they should know one another well enough so that trust is developed based on integrity and honor and cohesion is developed. Obviously these efforts will be dependant upon individual communities and the efforts put forth by all involved keeping in mind that we do not know where the next terrorist attack will be. So preparedness and cooperation is crucial to our defeating the terrorists of the world. There is nothing new written here. The information in this article about involving the community has been talked about by many involved in the security of the United States and there have been some jurisdictions who have taken it to the level necessary such as New York City with Operation Safe Guard. What we need to do is make every citizen understand his or her importance to this fight and get them to act on what they see.

This country has faced many threats in the past and we have persevered because that is what we do when we are challenged as a country. Five years after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks are we safer? This is not the question that should be asked, instead the question should be; are we doing everything we can as a nation sworn and non-sworn people to ensure we minimize this threat? Let’s band together and use the power of observation as a valuable tool, to defeat the enemy, the eyes of all the residents of this great Nation; open in a relaxed awareness to keep the freedom and our way of life as it is yet open to detect and defeat the threats we face.


· Gagliardi, Gary (2004) Sun Tzu’s The Art of War Plus Strategy against Terror, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s War Clearbridge Publishing

· National Strategy for Combating Terror Report September 2006

· State and Local Anti-terrorism Training, Train the Trainer Presentation Bureau of Justice Assistance, in collaboration with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research 2006

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