If ISIS is the new Public Enemy Number 1 then Al Qaeda would likely be 1A, but they don’t hold a monopoly on terror.
Whether the act is a beheading, lynching or being drunk behind a pickup truck, the results are equally as brutal, senseless and catastrophic to the victim’s families or targeted groups. When it comes to acts of extreme violence, I don’t have a different filter or level of vigilance for the Islamic terrorist, than I do for the Christian terrorist, or violent atheist. Whether they are home grown, an international terrorist, an active shooter or someone focused on hybrid target violence, I believe we are much more effective when we focus on the activities that make an individual predisposed to consider violence as a solution more so than a myopic view of a particular religious group.
Extreme violence is rarely associated with random acts whether a terrorist act or other civilian mass casualty incident. Today’s extremist leaders are often charismatic, persuasive or just plain opportunistic. They have also learned how to blend in and strategically or tactically recruit. Often times focusing on what do they need now and what do they need in the future whether in personnel, resources or other assets. They will not come marching down Fifth Avenue or Main Street USA waving a black and white ISIS flag. They will not be deterred by the social media triple ninja wannabe gun fighter, but only repelled through education, intervention, and if required, neutralization by capable guardians be they military, law enforcement, protective services personnel or trained civilians prepared to escalate their own countermeasures to fulfill their oath or commitment, or protect those they love. Lions don’t roar when they hunt, as there is no need to engage in wasted dialogue and sabre rattling. To borrow a Latin phrase from the film, The Mechanic, “Amat Victoria Curam – Victory Loves Preparation.”
If we can understand the motivations and pre-incident indicators perhaps we can intercede and avoid the conflict, preempt the carnage or indoctrination. When we find ourselves managing behind the curve (crisis/risk management) then our focus shifts to effectively neutralizing the threat and/or minimizing loss of life. My objective is simple, risk mitigation verses risk management. To quote a friend and fellow protector Jim Curtell, “You uncover plots through intelligence. Intelligence is the Advance of every Advance.”
Before we can ever talk strategy or tactics to preempt or defend against acts of extreme violence we must first level set or standardize our use of the some critical terminology.
Active Shooter (AS)
Is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; and continues to do so while having unrestricted access to additional victims. Active shooters often look for soft targets like malls, churches or schools due to their low presence of security and high access to potential victims.
Mass Casualty Incidents (MCI)
MCI range from extensively planned terror related events to unplanned revenge –motivated or random events (Oklahoma Bombing, Pensacola School Board Shooting, Aurora Movie Theater Shooter, Boston Marathon Bombing, Fort Hood Shooter, etc.).
Hybrid Targeted Violence (HTV) is defined as an intentional use of force to cause physical injury or death to a specifically identified population using multifaceted conventional weapons and tactics. HTV challenges protectors to prepare for violent “hybrid” multi-threat incidents. These incidents may involve conventional weapons, the use of fire as a weapon, chemical weapons, and/or improvised explosives. Attacks of this nature defy conventional thinking about protection strategies involving active shooters about the role of police, fire, and emergency medical professionals. HTV events demand cooperative strategies to efficiently neutralize complex threats that are beyond the capacity of a single first responder discipline. We saw this in the Kenya Mall attacks which featured the use of both small arms fire and explosives.
The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” The FBI uses this definition: “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The U.S. Department of State defines terrorism to be “premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience”.
Terrorism has been utilized as both a tactic and strategy. Depending on your point of view; a crime or a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression or an inexcusable abomination. Terrorism has often been seen as an effective tactic for the resourced challenged side in a conflict. It confers coercive power with many of the advantages of military force at a fraction of the cost or traditional manpower. Also due to often small or secretive nature of many terrorist organizations, they often offer opponents no clear organization to defend against or to readily target.
A terrorist incident could manifest itself as an active shooter. However, an active shooter does not necessarily mean an act of terrorism.
Understanding the Motivation
Religious oriented groups typically attempt to inflict as much harm as possible, loss of life is irrelevant, and often the more casualties the better. Losses among their co-extremist are seen as a sense of duty and of little consequence, because such casualties will reap the benefits of the afterlife. Likewise, non-believers, whether they are the intended target or collateral damage, deserve death, and killing them is often considered a moral duty. Either you are with us or against us.
Fear of backlash rarely concerns these groups, as it is often one of their goals to provoke an overreaction by their enemies, and widen the conflict. The effect of terrorism is often more impactful than the actual act of terror or violence. While a violent act may only kill or injure a dozen people, if conducted in a major metropolitan area it may make another half a million people be cautious about riding public transportation. The type of target selected will often reflect motivations and ideologies. For groups professing secular political or social motivations, their targets are highly symbolic of authority; government offices, banks, national airlines, and multinational corporations with direct relation to the established order.
Another common form of symbolism utilized in terrorist targeting is striking on particular anniversaries or commemorative dates. Nationalist groups may strike to commemorate battles won or lost during a conventional struggle, whereas religious groups may strike to mark particularly appropriate observances. Many groups will attempt to commemorate anniversaries of successful operations, or the executions or deaths of notable individuals related to their particular conflict. Likewise, striking on days of particular significance to their perceived enemy can also provide the required impact.
The candidates who have proven more open to terrorist recruitment and radicalization tend to:
• Have high levels of frustration, or distress (may be emotional, physical or both).
• Experience cultural disillusionment and blame others for their plight.
• Individuals who believe the government or some other sector of the population is trying to subordinate them.
• Lack a religious or value system.
• Come from a dysfunctional family unit.
• Suffer from extreme low self-esteem.
• Feel angry, alienated or disenfranchised.
• Believe their current political involvement does not give them the power to effect real change.
• Identify with perceived victims of the social injustice they are fighting.
• Believe that engaging in violence against the state is not immoral.
• Have friends or family sympathetic to the cause.
• Believe that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards such as adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity.
Religious terrorists are often driven by their desire to please their God. Islamic jihadist believe that their actions are ordered by a higher power, and that their reward will come in the after-life. Terrorists do not see themselves as evil. They are fighting for what they believe in, by whatever means possible to attain their goals. A victim of a terrorist act sees the terrorist as a criminal with no regard for human life.
Active Shooters on the other hand are often motivated by attention. Because of a past of being bullied, feeling rejected or isolated, or as a result of low self-esteem. Acting out their violent plan is their moment of recognition.
While active shooters may be responsible for the majority of civilian mass terror events in the US, the international tool of terror is explosives. Over 70% of the acts of terror committed abroad involve IEDs. With the advent and incorporation of social media and international recruitment efforts by many extremist groups, we can project an increase use of explosives for domestic initiated terrorist acts.
Here are some key takeaways we have learned based on recent acts of terror involving IEDs and suicide bombers.
• Over 70% of all terrorist attacks outside of the US involve IEDs.
• 15 – 20 lb. range is the largest size explosive a bomber can easily carry.
• Be cautious of people carrying backpacks or luggage that appears heavy.
• Be cautious of people carrying backpacks in places that are not normal.
• Be cautious of abandoned luggage and immediately create distance particularly in heavily trafficked public places.
• Critical stand-off distance is 15 meters (100% mortality rate inside of 5 meters).
• If you see an IED you are already too close.
• If you suspect an explosive device do not use your phone within 50 meters.
• Suicide Bombers often have handlers (the handler’s job is to protect the bomber from LE, Military or armed Civilians).
• Suicide Bombers tend to detonate when confronted.
• Does the person you suspect as a potential bomber appear to be focused on someone or has just recently concluded a conversation with someone?
The goals of recruiting often take a two tier approach, recruit able body fighters for today, and the brainwashing of young recruits in an attempt to develop their freedom fighters, race baiters or jihadist of the future. We have seem this strategic approach executed by Adolph Hitler, with gangs from Compton to the Favelas in Brazil, to the Aryan brotherhood to terrorist groups in Libya and Syria. The goal is indoctrination and raising them in a culture and ideology before they have life experiences that encourage them to think on their own or from an objective platform. The goal in the youth recruitment program is often to extend the legacy. However, we have seen some groups utilize youth perpetrators in the US for if arrested they are often tried as youth verses adults.
The Recruitment Process
The RAND Corporation identified three recruitment models utilized by today’s terrorist:
Every potential candidate is sent the recruitment propaganda (could be a video tape or video file) or invited to a weekend retreat. It is understood that some candidates will react positively and some negatively, but the whole population is viewed as potential targets. This method is often used outside of the US in regions of the world where there is little opposition to the message. An example could be a mosque headed by a recognized radical religious leader.
Is a phased approach that is utilized when the organization believes there is the potential for conversion but may require some transformation. It is recognized that when recruits finish this process they will have demonstrated dedication. This process is usually characterized by milestones, rites of passage, hazing or other rituals demonstrating commitment. They make take the form of demonstrated knowledge of radical Islam or extremist views of Christianity, or whatever the religion or acts of violence to achieve goals and objectives. These techniques often produced radically polarized attitudes and strong converts.
This method is often utilized when there is considerable public opposition to an overt message. A trusted agent often a charismatic individual is inserted into the target group through direct personal persuasive approaches. As the recruiting effort increases so does the conformational pressure. There is a measured return on time investment to these activities with the goal of spreading the infection to levels hazardous to the public. They often look to trusted infrastructural organizations like the police or military who are often dissatisfied with their jobs or hold a grudge against the government.
Today’s terrorist is becoming more adept at utilizing regional operatives and diverse communication technologies to target the West. Today, terrorist groups are recruiting, inspiring, and guiding global strategies not just by internet operations but through an organized, steady infusion of propaganda videos and call-to-action messages circulated via social media. Their goal is to use unfolding world events, to take direct action via an open-ended jihad at home.
The strategy of bringing like-minded people together via conversational media to increase radicalism and the collective technical capabilities of jihadists, in concert with greater reliance upon regional criminal activities to drive revenue. This is significantly changing the domestic threat picture and adding to the complexity of defeating borderless terrorism. This approach has eliminated the need for direct funding from prominent terrorist groups and global supporters because homegrown jihadists are capable of financing their own operations. Of the 32 plots in the United States examined from open-source material, only a few showed evidence of foreign funding. Furthermore, virtual classrooms have lessened the operational impact of eliminating key bomb-making specialists.
In Philip Howard’s “The Arab Spring’s the Cascading Effect,” He speaks to how one activist in Egypt succinctly tweeted about why digital media was so important. “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” This symbolizes a radical difference in strategy with the incorporation of social media. Extremist are now actively going to the potential extremist as opposed to a potential terrorist searching the internet looking for information.
The Terrorist Next Door BY: Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC, a full service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Executive Protection, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction. www.pantherprotectionservices.com.