with Betsy Brantner Smith
Politics, terror, and patrol: Time for renewed vigilance
Counterterrorism on the front lines
Stratfor: 2008 threat season heats up
Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives.
On March 11, 2004 – just three days before Spain’s general Presidential election – a series of well-coordinated bombings against the Madrid commuter train system killed 197 and injured more than 1,500. In addition to death and destruction, the Madrid attacks seemingly accomplished their ultimate goal: to change the outcome of the Presidential election. The incumbent president, who had been enjoying a small but narrowing lead in the opinion polls, was ousted by his opponent, who promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, which he did shortly after taking office.
Unless your patrol car doesn’t have an AM radio, your newspaper subscription ran out six months ago, and you only watch "COPS" reruns on TV, you probably know that the United States is also in the middle of an extremely close presidential race. We have the first African American man nominated for president by a major political party and the first woman vice presidential candidate ever selected by the other side.
Combine our seemingly dire economic woes with the mainstream media’s inexplicable campaign to make us appear weak to the rest of the world, and you have a recipe for vulnerability here on our own soil. As we teach in the “Terrorism” section of the Street Survival seminar, police officers must educate themselves, be vigilant, and above all, communicate.
Know Your Enemy
A violent true believer is an individual who is committed to an ideology or belief system which advances the killing of self and others to further a particular goal.
In today’s volatile climate this could be racial ‘supremacists,’ extreme anti-capitalists, violent separatists, or radical anti-government groups just to name a very few. Get to know their motivations and their capabilities. A terrorist threat can be one individual or an entire cell of extremists. A Florida junior college student was arrested on October 13, 2008 in a rugged tribal area of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is forbidden to most foreigners. Authorities said Jude Kenan had a U.S. passport as well as a camera, laptop, and dagger and said he was in the region to meet “Habibullah,” which is a proper name in Afghanistan as well as the name of an Afghan detainee who died in U.S. custody in 2002. Kenan was later released and no terrorist activities have been linked to this young man as of yet, but his location and activities are suspect according to Pakistan authorities. Is Kenan a harmless college kid on a foreign adventure or the next John Walker Lindh, Adam Pearlman, aka "Azzam the American," or another Joel Henry Hinrichs?
In October of 2005, an off duty Norman, OK police officer observed 21 year old Joel Henry Hinrichs III conversing with a store manager about purchasing ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the primary ingredient used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The officer initiated an investigation but before it could be completed Hinrichs died when a bomb he alleged created exploded as he sat on a bench outside of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium about 100 yards from 84,000 people who were enjoying a college football game. Hinrichs had allegedly converted to Islam, but there continues to be secrecy and silence surrounding the Norman, OK bombing. We may never know Hinrichs’ true motive, but the off duty Norman officer went “above and beyond” according to his agency and would have turned over significant intelligence to federal authorities if his investigation had not been cut short by the bombing.
In addition to Radical Islam, we need to know and understand the motives and capabilities of racially-motivated hate groups such as National Alliance, Creativity Movement (formerly knows as the World Church of the Creator), and the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which are especially prevalent in our nation’s prisons and often align themselves with local street gangs. There are also groups who consider themselves “resisters” to “global corporate dominance,” such as Reclaim the Streets, who falsely claim to be non-violent and are extremely committed to their ideal of “shared community ownership.”
Hundreds, if not thousands, of groups in the United States – like the Army of God (AOG) and various anti-government militias on the right, and eco-terror groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ALF) on the left – would love to do what al Qaeda did in Madrid: forcefully change the peaceful and legal democratic election we are about to engage in.
Talk to each other, talk to other agencies, talk to members of your community.
Cultivate informants at local motels, restaurants, and rental car agencies. Often those involved in terrorist activities will check into motels using only cash, keep odd hours, and leave unusual refuse behind. They may try to rent cars with false ID and credit cards or try to pay with only cash. Watch for “boundary probing” by individuals at refineries, water treatment plants, and other vulnerable spots in your area and talk to the security personnel who may work there; let your fellow officers and supervisors know about any suspicions you may have, and document everything.
Always remember the terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic, that our citizens and our own brothers and sisters have suffered at the hands of extremists. Remember that local law enforcement is frequently responsible for the discovery and the capture of those who have or wish to commit despicable acts of terror on this nation.
Be aware, be vigilant, and as always, be safe.