Evolving threats, events prompt need for vigilance

  • Published
  • By Ken Oates
  • Antiterrorism and critical infrastrusture program chief
While terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda still pose a significant threat, their ability to conduct coordinated large scale attacks within the US has been degraded. This by no means indicates we are safe from attack and in fact the efforts of terrorist and extremist organizations to inspire individual attacks have made us quite vulnerable. For this reason, today's most significant threat within the U.S. may be that of the "lone wolf" or homegrown violent extremist.

These offenders are literally threats from within. In general, they're U.S persons who have been radicalized locally or remotely. They may also be motivated by individual anti-government, hate or supremacist beliefs. These persons should be of great concern to Keesler personnel based on the knowledge among our own military ranks, civilian work force or family members. Events such as the 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas, by an active-duty major and the recent arrest of another military member planning to conduct a similar attack at an off-base restaurant adjacent to Fort Hood highlight this threat.

A key take-away from the Fort Hood events is the threat is as much internal as it is external. Hostile actors need not be a card-carrying member of a terrorist or extremist organization to pose a threat.

Another take-away is that an attack targeting Department of Defense personnel need not be conducted on a military installation, since there are plenty of target locations outside the installation's protected perimeter. Clubs, restaurants, and special events all serve as soft targets where a violent operation may be easily planned and conducted against the military.

To thwart an attack:

Look within first.
Be aware of co-workers and family members going through stressful situations. Look for significant changes in their demeanor such as severe depression or anger associated with individuals, groups or organizations. Tipping points, like pending disciplinary actions such as Articles 15, courts-martial or employee dismissals, as well as personally stressful periods such as a divorce or separation, may be catalysts for violent action. Also, be aware of personnel making extreme statements that justify the actions of those who commit terrorist or violent criminal acts.

Look outward from your workplace to off-base places you frequent.
Persons, including terrorists, looking to conduct an operation often provide several indicators of pending action. The easiest of these to observe is surveillance, which generally takes the form of monitoring and recording activities. Taking pictures or videos, drawing diagrams
or maps and taking notes are all key examples of surveillance. An exceptional training video on pre-event indicators is available through the Department of Homeland Security "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign website, http://www.dhs.gov/files/reportincidents/seesomething-say-something.shtm.

Trust your instincts -- report it. Don't be the one on CNN who saw or knew something ahead of an incident, but didn't take action. On base or outside our immediate perimeter, report your suspicions or concerns to the 81st Security Forces Squadron's Base Defense Operations Center, 377-3040, or Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 407, 377-3420. If off base, call 911 or contact local authorities directly. Don't delay -- report it immediately.

Taking threats seriously is the first step to preventing a violent event; learning what to look for and how to react when your suspicion is aroused is the next.

Information and training on protecting yourself, family, and coworkers is available through the installation antiterrorism office, 377-2808