FORT LEE, Va. – In an era when most adult Americans can recall their exact whereabouts on Sept. 11, 2001, many would be surprised to know that – at least in the U.S. – airplane hijackings or vehicle bombs are not the most likely threat to civilian or military personnel.
“Foreign terrorist organizations and domestic extremists are recommending their supporters use simple weapons such as knives, handguns or large ramming vehicles to conduct attacks,” said a spokesperson from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
“They are easier to acquire and greatly reduce the amount of coordination and planning necessary (in comparison to complicated attacks such as a group assault with rifles and explosives). And with the NSA and the FBI focused more effectively these days, it is just safer to buy an 8-to-10-inch knife or rent a vehicle. Nobody bats an eye.”
Furthermore, FTOs are adept at finding sympathizers who are unhappy with their lives or feel oppressed, ignored or disrespected. Easily manipulated by extremist rhetoric, these individuals can become weapons themselves – the “quiet guy next door who nobody imagined would commit such a horrible crime.”
August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month, a time for security experts to highlight current threats, activity indicators and how and where to report suspicious activity. Vigilance is the Army’s most effective tool for fighting terrorism and protecting government personnel, families and critical military assets.
Another very real threat emanates from the lack of operational security – both at work and at home. In an effort to counter this threat, force protection personnel across DOD are urging discipline when using social media.
“It has become a mainstay of the ongoing anti-terrorism awareness campaign,” noted a Protection Office representative from DPTMS.
One threat from lapses in OPSEC procedures is terrorist organizations publishing “kill lists” with the names of law enforcement officers, firefighters and military personnel. They compile these lists by pulling information from the ill-advised posting of information on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and other social media.
From their hidden overseas safe-houses, they urge their supporters in a specific area to attack the people on the list by any means available – gun, knife, baseball bat, bomb or running over them with a vehicle. If that’s not frightening enough, the lists also include addresses, places of employment and other personally identifiable information that could lead a potential killer to someone’s front door.
“We’re urging all members of our community to use caution whenever they’re online to avoid attracting attention to themselves, boasting about rank or military skills or deployments - inadvertently providing easily accessible information that could be used to target them,” the DPTMS representative said. “Social media is the apex of vulnerability. Both foreign and domestic extremists and criminals are mining that information.”
Another key to preventing terrorist attacks is to remain vigilant and remember the principle behind “See Something, Say Something.” Learn how to detect suspicious activity and how to report it.
“It is a sad reality, but the United States has been betrayed by people holding positions of trust,” reads a statement on the Defense Security Service website (www.dss.mil). “Arguably,” it continues, “‘insiders’ have caused more damage than trained, foreign professional intelligence officers working on behalf of their respective governments.”
Insider threats can run the gamut from those who unwittingly fail to safeguard sensitive or classified information to troubled or hostile individuals who intentionally plan and carry out acts of espionage, terrorism, disclosure of national security information, and so forth.
This threat highlights the need for all individuals in the military community to be tuned in to suspicious behavior and know the warning signs commonly linked to an insider threat.
Preventing insider threats or terrorist attacks involves much more than physical security measures. Every Army community member must be cognizant of high-risk behaviors that often lead to subversive acts and escalations of violence, and everyone must be willing to say something when they see something suspicious or unsettling.
Over the next several weeks, the DPTMS will team up with the Traveller to present a series of articles focused on criminal and terrorist indicators, behaviors and methods of attack, and preventive measures to protect yourself and your family.
While this information campaign is prompted by Antiterrorism Awareness Month, it is important to remember vigilance – the central theme of this series – is a year-round necessity.
Mass shootings and suicide bombings over the past several years in our homeland have prompted an increase in the security posture on military installations. However, such measures are only a deterrent. Determined adversaries dead-set on infiltrating military installations will find ways to do so if we become complacent.
“During this information campaign, we will discuss the range of threats – from local criminal activity and hostile insiders to violent extremists and radicalized active shooters, and ways to protect yourself,” said the Protection Office spokesman. “The articles will cover methods, weapons and intent – including the newest threats, such as unmanned aerial systems (drones).
“Every installation has security issues that could be exploited by a foreign or domestic extremist … that’s something we can’t ignore,” he continued. “The combined efforts of the Directorate of Emergency Services, the DPTMS Protection Branch, unit anti-terrorism officers and security managers are essential, as is the greatest tool in our arsenal - awareness and reporting.
“That’s why we push so hard for everyone to become familiar with the indicators of suspicious activity and the importance of prompt reporting,” he observed. “As these threats continue, so must our vigilance.”