Monday, December 1, 2008

Terror acts: Sophisticated yet Simple Execution
An important element in terrorist preparation for an attack includes infiltration into the protected environment, under a legitimate cover. Terrorists who want to “case” a train station would for example assume the role of an every day traveler. A terrorist who similarly cases a government facility may assume the role of an employee. In order not to blow their cover, terrorists act as law-abiding citizens, blending into their environment and thus avoiding undue exposure.
Contrary to some common perceptions, terrorists are sophisticated and highly professional when it comes to their chosen occupation.
They may identify several targets to hit simultaneously in order to increase the impact and potential for success, should one or some of the targets fail. They hedge their bets. But while terrorists are sophisticated, their operations are not complex. For example, the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 were an example of being sophisticated but not complex. Those terrorists used readily available resources (a plane as a bomb) and very simple tools of aggression (box cutters) to commit their crime. The strategy relied on few contingencies, and the unknowns were likewise limited. A narrow range of things could have gone wrong: they had easy access to the plane, they did not carry explosives, there were few barriers to the cockpit, and no mitigation procedures for high jacking scenarios were in effect at the time. The only thing that could go wrong was the possibility that passengers might resist. This was the case for United Airlines flight number 93 that did not hit its terrorist target in Washington D.C and instead crashed onto an open field in Pennsylvania.
The introduction of suicide missions by terrorists has increased the efficiency of an attack.
Terrorists are using “human smart bombs” where the bomb takes on human attributes that aid in its effectiveness: it knows when, if, and where to explode. In recent years, terrorists have even gone so far as to introduce several bombers onto the same target. The most notorious users of this method are the Tamil suicide bombers from Sri Lanka who execute consecutive suicide bombings to increase the terror impact.
As security and law enforcement professionals, we must think through the potential terrorist scenarios facing our protected environments. Considering the fact that terrorists do not engage in complex operations helps us focus on those terrorist scenarios that are operationally feasible for execution. But before considering a terrorist scenario as a security issue with which we must contend, we must stop to ask the following questions:
=What tools are needed to conduct an effective terrorist act and what is their availability?
=What information does the terrorist need about the protected environment in order to commit a successful attack?
=What exposure would the terrorist be subjected to while gathering the necessary information and tools for his act?
=How many unknown variables would the terrorist confront in the execution of the chosen scenario?
=How much time would it take the terrorist to execute the scenario (seconds, minutes, hours)?
If your answers to the above questions point to a complex terrorist scenario composed of many contingencies, then it is most likely not a feasible terrorist scenario. If your answers point to a sophisticated and simple form of terrorist execution, where few things can go wrong, then you are dealing with a very feasible terrorist scenario.
Terrorist planning considerations and requirements are very different than those of businesses, governments and legitimate organizations.
In business, we usually plan and prepare for our missions with consideration to time constraints and monetary expenses. We also assume imperfection and accept the fact that things could go wrong. On the other hand, terrorists (and especially state sponsored terrorists) will be very patient in the planning of the attack doing so with plentiful resources that will insure a trouble-free execution. They cannot afford failure. If the terrorist plan is not executed flawlessly, it will result in possible early detection of the terrorist activity and ultimately failure of the attack. Therefore we have to estimate the potential for a terrorist scenario to occur, not through our own eyes, but through the eyes of a terrorist planning a sophisticated (not complex) and meticulously planned violent act.

No comments: