Tag: terrorist

How many terrorists are there, anyway?


Earlier this week we attended a special

CERT update presentation on Terrorism.

Terrorist with pistolThe meeting was sponsored by our police department and given by an expert with military and law enforcement experience.

As always, it was good to see some of our CERT colleagues and to renew that feeling of being a part of a committed and capable group. (We have over 2,000 grads in our community!)

As it turned out, much of what was presented is information we have already reported on here at Emergency Plan Guide. Check out the list of Advisories at the end of this article — remembering that some of them were written as early as 2013 and thus are dated.

Anyway, after our training at the City, and prompted by news headlines about terrorists that we’ve seen on pretty much a weekly basis, I decided to dig a deeper into the issue.

My first question was,

How many terrorist attacks have we experienced here in the U.S.?

After several hours of research, my answer is:

There’s no good answer to that question!

Statistics on terrorism were difficult to find and even harder to interpret. Let me go through the challenges that I faced in trying to answer what I though was a pretty simple question.

Challenge #1. “What’s your definition of terrorist?”

As you might expect (!), different people define terrorist differently.

Dictionary definitions of terrorism seem to include three elements: “using force, particularly against civilians, to achieve a political goal.” (Typically, “state-sponsored terrorism” is not included in the basic definition.)

OK, but other terrorist terms popped up, too.

For example, in the U.S., the FBI has the job of combating terrorism. On their website I found that they track or otherwise deal with two different categories of terrorists. “Known terrorists” have been convicted or are known to belong to a terrorist organization. “Suspected terrorists” are people likely to engage in terrorist activities.

(“Terrorist organizations” is yet another aspect of this study. The list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is maintained, interestingly enough, not by the FBI but by the Department of State. https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.

And I could find NO formal list of Domestic Terrorist Organizations, but Wikipedia has a good start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_terrorism_in_the_United_States)

And we have all heard of the FBI’s “watchlist” that they use to track terrorists.

But I did NOT know that people cannot be put on that list solely because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation or because they are exercising First Amendment-protected rights – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. There has to be a link to actual or potential terrorist activity – that is, back to the concept of “violence or force.”

You can find out more about the FBI and its watchlist here: https://www.fbi.gov/about/leadership-and-structure/national-security-branch/tsc.

Whew. More work than I really expected to have to do. But while we’re on words, I have to include “extremist” and “radical,” too. Both these words show up, right along with “terrorist.”

Further research suggests that extremists and radicals share and support ideas that are “far from what most people think is correct or reasonable.” It’s only when we add the concept of violent and forceful action that these believers shift over to becoming terrorists.

So what’s the point of all this word play?

Terrorist, extremist, radical, domestic, foreign . . .

It’s this: Having extreme beliefs doesn’t make you a terrorist or a criminal. Forcefully and violently ACTING on those beliefs can.

So, before I could even attempt to answer my initial question, I found I had to first define my terms!

Challenge # 2. What are the parameters of the source you are using?

There are more than a dozen lists online of recent and not-so-recent terrorist activity. Every single one is different. Why? It has to do with the parameters of the study.

And nowhere did I find those parameter clearly stated!

For example, I had to look for . . .

  • Period covered. Online lists of terrorist activity cover very different periods of time – leading to different conclusions. For example, one oft-quoted and very long-term study (starting in the 1970s and ending in 2008) shows a preponderance of terrorist activity perpetrated by Jewish Underground organizations – groups which by today have become essentially inactive. Recent studies, covering the U.S. only since 2000, omit important acts like the Oklahoma City Bombing and Columbine. Timing matters.
  • Current activities. Most studies online are not up to date. The most up-to-date list I found is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Lists_of_terrorist_incidents_by_year
    As of February 15, 2017, the Wiki list shows 63 attacks for this month alone – none in the U.S.
  • Obvious bias. Again, as you can imagine, different authors are attempting to make a particular point. To pick up bias, first it helps to check the author of the study (Individual? Organization, Agency?) What about the use of particular jargon or “code” that reveals a particular point of view? (Religious bias seems to come through pretty strongly.)

With all this in mind, then ask yourself:

Challenge #3. What are YOU trying to prove?

If your goal, for example, is to focus on terrorist activities perpetrated by refugees (a popular topic these days), then be sure you set out your own clear parameters.

For example, if you were looking for statistics about terrorist activities perpetrated by refugees, you might look for refugees who . . .

  • Came from a particular part of the world
  • Arrived during a certain time period
  • Adhere to a particular religion
  • Attacked a certain target
  • Used a particular weapon
  • Etc.

As it turns out, for the purposes of this Advisory I found NO statistics on “refugee terrorists!”

I plan to continue with this topic, because at our meeting we learned some more about how police respond to terrorist activities, and what YOU can do to evade or avoid getting caught. But, that’s for another day.

Meanwhile, if I find myself hearing “statistics” about ANY of these subjects — terrorists, radicals, extremists, refugees — I know I’ll be a whole lot more cautious in trusting them.

Oh, and my research also came up with some terrific quotes about statistics, and I leave you with this one from William T. Watt (Professor of English, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania)

“Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.”

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Some earlier Advisories with good background info:

Again, some of these were written as early as 2013, so keep that in mind as you read the stats!


Special Terrorism Report, Part Two, now available.


Part Two of Joe’s Terrorism Series is now out. It focuses on workplace violence.

“How can we possibly anticipate an attack by a terrorist or by a co-worker who suddenly snaps?”

Workplace violence warning signsThe truth is, there are warning signs for nearly all these acts of violence. When we look back, we almost always find a trail of anti-social or illogical behavior.

In the past, only law enforcement and some human resources professionals received training in identifying  these warning signs.

Today, with incidents happening more frequently, it’s time for all of us to know more.

Here’s the link to the article:

  Part Two of the Special Report  

And here are links to earlier Advisories from Emergency Plan Guide, in case you missed them.

Plus an article on workplace security: Security at the Front Door


Be aware. Take action.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
Joe and Virginia


Terror at the Mall


How safe is your local mall?

Mall security

Where are the exits?

Today’s news is filled with threats of terrorist attacks on local, American, British and Canadian malls. These threats follow on the heels of the release of HBO’s amazing documentary, “Terror at the Mall,” showing one such attack.

If you are involved in security and counter-terrorism, you need to have seen this chilling story. If you are simply a parent, or even a shopper, you may want to take time to see it, too.

Security camera footage

Footage for the film was taken from the over 100 security cameras that continued to run while noontime shoppers visited the upscale WestGate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on September 21, 2013. Again and again, the footage shows innocent and unsuspecting families and store personnel suddenly confronted by militants armed with automatic weapons.

These men entered the mall like any other shopper, moving steadily through the corridors and into stores and shooting down anyone who moved.

Over the course of four hours, over 60 people were killed, women, children and police. The floors ran with blood.

You may well ask, “Four hours?”

It was a classic example of a “soft target” attack combined with poor response by police and military. While the terrorists continued to move throughout the mall,, police and military forces, who took over 45 minutes to arrive,  milled around outside. One of their leaders is seen shouting, “Give us time to get organized!”

The gunmen were purportedly from Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab in Somalia. They were quoted as wanting “revenge” for the death of some of their brethren. Ultimately, after 4 days, a potion of the mall and the terrorists were destroyed by fire, purportedly the result of the army’s artillery “remote assault.”

Mandatory training

Viewing this chilling film should be mandatory training for anyone involved in security and counter-terrorism activities. It also reinforces the lessons taught in the “Run-Hide-Fight” active shooter video that was created by the City of Houston, Texas and the Department of Homeland Security. This film was reviewed by us last year. It has now had over three million views on YouTube.

As a matter of policy, at The Emergency Plan Guide we normally avoid publishing anything that smacks of “alarmist” publicity. Unfortunately, given the open threat from al-Shabaab, recent events in Paris and Copenhagen and warnings coming today out of Homeland Security, we can probably expect soft target attacks in the not-too-distant future. And, if ISIS gets its way, even the possibility of large-scale events cannot be overlooked.

“If you see something, say something.”

The Department of Homeland Security began a new campaign at the Superbowl, promoting awareness. It applies here, too.

If you feel that your lifestyle is such that you have higher than normal exposure, you would do well to view the Houston film (it’s only about 10 minutes) and even the HBO Documentary (60 minutes). It’s important to see how many people were able to get away and how others successfully hid from the attackers.

Finally, it makes good sense to always be aware of exit routes for any public structure. And, if you see something, say something!

Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. The Documentary is available to subscribers online at HBO. There are also a number of interviews, clips and trailers available on YouTube, but some have been apparently been “hijacked” by groups trying to take advantage of the title of the documentary. Caution is advised.


Can You Spot a Terrorist Before Something Goes Down?


(First of a three-part series on terrorism.)

Before we jump into this subject we need to clarify what we mean by “terrorism.”  When most people think about terrorism, they’re really envisioning attacks by jihadists or other non-state actors like those who perpetrated the 9/11 attack.  In reality, we need to broaden our definition to include domestic terrorism and terrorist acts perpetrated by individuals or groups that are motivated by political or domestic “causes” . . . and persons who are mentally unstable.

Pre-Incident Indicators

From the standpoint of frequency of events, the domestic terrorism poses a greater threat than that perpetrated by international groups.  With that in mind, let’s explore some of the “signs” – or, Pre-Incident Indicators (PIIs) of a possible, impending act of terrorism at a target location . . .


Possible surveillance?

Serious terrorists – even would-be ones – are most likely to visit the target area in advance, conducting surveillance and even taking photographs to aid them in their planning.  It is often difficult to differentiate between terrorists and tourists since both are interested in the features of the location, but with just a bit more attention, you can notice these traits:

  • Tourists are likely to take photographs at random of the more interesting features.
  • Tourists often take photos with themselves or their friends in front of the interesting features.
  • Terrorists will likely be more systematic, taking multiple or series of photographs of areas of ingress and egress.
  • Terrorists will be making notes about security coverage, monitoring activities, drawing floor maps, drawing diagrams of the location, using a recording device, etc.

Elicitation (attempts to get information)

Everybody has questions and asking questions in unfamiliar surroundings is normal.  Would-be terrorists, on the other hand, will be interested in more than the casual answers.  While their conversation at first appears ordinary, they will attempt to gain  more detailed information to determine security procedures, vulnerabilities, etc.  Elicitation attempts are not always made in person.  They can be made by telephone, mail or email inquiry or research at a library, etc.

Examples of unusal questions might be, “When does the next shift (of security guards) come on?” or “Where are the electrical shut-offs?”  Surely a question like one of these should capture your attention!

Please watch for the next post in this series. Part two will cover the logistics of terrorism and the third part will delve into the tests of security, dry runs, etc.