At GovSec West 2013, after listening to Victor Vella, federal sector for Panasonic, business development manager, talk about terrorist ideologies, how to understand terrorism and how to mitigate it, I realized this harsh reality: We, America, our society, environment, economics and people are all targets because “they,” the terrorists, don’t like our freedoms, our religion, etc.
In 2012 alone, 11,000 people were killed by terrorists, according to Vella, leaving us to wonder if those people, who are now deceased, held the key to some of life’s major issues, like a cure for Cancer or how to put an end to childhood hunger. Yet, we will never know.
Perhaps the scariest thing I learned is that we [America] cannot afford complete protection against terrorism because targets of opportunity are everywhere within our country. There is never enough time to respond when we encounter acts of terrorism, so the next best thing is to be able to act before something happens. In order to do this, we must become educated.
Profile of a Modern Terrorist
As seen by law enforcement bodies, the modern terrorist, the ones we are currently dealing with, usually have a sense or feeling of superiority and use religion as the basis for their actions. Not adorned in uniforms, they blend in with society, making them difficult to spot in a crowd.
Modern terrorists have overwhelming beliefs that:
- There is no need for restraint with any of their actions;
- He or she is on a sacred mission;
- Greater violence is for the greater good of the world;
- Killing infidels reduces the number of nonbelievers; and
- Their religion is under attack.
Think of how strong some of their beliefs are; I mean, if you honestly believed you were on a sacred mission, for example, wouldn’t you stop at nothing until it was completed? Terrifying when you stop to analyze each characteristic in isolation.
Goal of a Modern Terrorist
The modern terrorist is an extreme and dedicated planner, with specific goals in which to carry out, most of which are to:
- Create a sense of vulnerability in a large target population;
- Gain recognition;
- Provoke adversaries into some type of violent action;
- Expose adversaries’ weaknesses;
- Force policy change by pressuring the public; and
- Turn the public or large target population against each other.
Terrorists are actually very sophisticated and intelligent. They know that if they can create chaos, it is much easier to accomplish their goals within a community. To them, their goals and actions are perfectly rational, and some terrorist groups even have well-defined goals, objectives and strategies posted on their websites.
Terrorist Timeline and Tactics
The modern terrorist uses whatever tactics they see fit to accomplish their goals, the most popular of which are explosives. The timeline of a terrorist act is actually quite simple and includes 3 stages.
- Pre-event: Terrorists are obsessively gathering intelligence and collecting surveillance.
- Event: Once the terrorists are in “go” mode, we are unable to catch him or her in time to prevent the act of terrorism.
- Post event: After the terrorist act is committed, we, America, have gotten really good at catching them, but the goal needs to be to catch terrorists either before or during the pre-event stage.
Protecting Ourselves against Terrorism
Terrorism is a global threat that is beyond the control of all country leaders, and it would take world-wide togetherness to defeat it; unfortunately, this is impossible. The next best thing is to develop situational awareness by knowing your environment and knowing exactly what is going on around you at all times. The fact is, if you’re not looking terrorism, you won’t find it because terrorists are experts at hiding in broad site.
Just as the terrorists are constantly planning and practicing, we too must do so to ensure that we are actively prepared at a moment’s notice.
No doubt about it, the whole concept of terrorism is horribly terrifying, but the more we learn and education ourselves about terrorists and terrorism, the more likely we will be to at least start to get a handle on it.