Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Will The Terrorists Hit Us Next?

Now that we've cleared the air on terrorists and profiling (we did, didn't we?), let's move on to a topic that's on many people's minds. As we discussed, Al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups are highly adaptive. That's one reason why any profiling is limited in scope and temporary in nature. We have to know what might be coming next.

Terrorism experts and just plain folks know that we have to be prepared for something different after each terrorist success or failure. Hijacked airliners, high explosives set off just outside or just inside compounds (embassies and military bases), the small boat attack on the USS Cole, airliners flown into skyscrapers, letter bombs, shoe bombs, and underwear bombs. As soon as we were on the watch for a certain type of attack, the terrorists changed their tactics. The strategy has never changed--to kill Westerners and Israelis in order to terrify them into submission.

So the facts are that even though previous methods will undoubtedly be used again, we must also try to think ahead of the terrorists and figure out what they might try next. Even the planned car bomb attack in Portland was a good example of old tactics, different cast and crew. A Bush II Homeland Security adviser said: "Al Qaeda's game plan is to create panic, damage our economy, and make us weaker. Was the attack in Mumbai, India, a rehearsal for something here?"

That's a good question. And in support of Andrew Price's position, it's likely that a newly-radicalized non-Arab or two will probably be the ones who try to pull it off. Official or unofficial, Arab male Muslims are being profiled, so the adaptive Al Qaeda is likely to find someone who doesn't fit the standard profile. We must be equally adaptive and watching for attacks to come from a previously-unsuspected quarter. As poor as the current administration's border security is, it is still getting harder to smuggle a foreign terrorist into the country. Why bother? There are always plenty of disaffected and disturbed people born and raised here, and they don't have to be Muslim to be used. And the rules regarding natural-born and naturalized American citizens are quite a bit more restrictive than investigating non-citizens and foreigners.

Although I don't intend to make too much of it, there has been a small but growing community of Muslim-Americans who will swallow their pride and even eschew family loyalties when it comes to mass murder. The Portland wannabe bomber is just the most recent example. Terrorism expert Clare Lopez feels that we have not expended sufficient effort on reaching out to these communities. She says: "I want to see more American Muslims break ranks and speak up in their own communities condemning sharia-justified violence."

As we know, concurrent with the Portland bomb attempt (or nearly so), there was a rash of attempted airline bombings using cargo instead of people to deliver the explosives. A lesser-known incident involved an airline passenger's luggage with a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle and multiple receiving cell phones and watches all taped together. Clumsy and unsuccessful, but it's another attempt to terrify. So the latest reaction from former Bush II Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend is to institute a worldwide 100% scanning of all luggage and cargo. It sounds good, but the technology is not yet widely available and would cause chaos for the airlines. But she at least recognizes that this is something for the (near) future, and that private enterprise must be heavily involved in the effort.

Finally, there are the genuine and horrifying threats that we have not yet faced--dirty nukes and chemical/biological attacks. But I guarantee you that someone, somewhere out there is doing everything possible to stage just such an attack. Even back in the late 60s and early 70s, there was the widespread recognition among investigative agencies that a very small amount of LSD introduced into the water supply of a major city could wreak immense havoc. While we're looking for traditional improvised explosive devices, there is some smart, amoral, college student or professor of physics and chemistry figuring out how to hit us with a weapon of mass destruction.

Several terrorist nations who are busily building nuclear facilities (Iran and North Korea come to mind) are also notoriously lax in their control over fissionable material. Old Soviet biochemical weapons are missing and unaccounted for. While Homeland Security is busy shutting down websites that they deem dangerous for stealing copyrighted materials, they are not busy enough monitoring materials which may be coming in from foreign nations which support terrorism. Imagine Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood getting hold of a few of those beauties. Are you listening, Ms. Napolitano? And with professors like William Ayers teaching at our universities, I hope they're paying a lot of attention to the physics and chemistry labs. But with a President who wants to see Ayers get professor emeritus status, I have my doubts.

One thing that most of the terrorism experts agree on is that the best defense is a good offense. So far, reacting has saved us at the last minute, but we can't continue to act like we're in an episode of Perils of Pauline. As one expert put it: "We must get on the offensive, attacking them and keeping them off-balance." Every minute the senior terrorists have to spend looking over their shoulders for the next American incursion is time they don't have to keep planning more new and even more terrible attacks.

It is my profound hope that the new Republican House will wake the administration up to the need for taking the offense and tracking down terrorists in their lairs. The House (and to a lesser extent, the Senate) have been told by the public to get the economy back in gear. A devastating attack on a major city is not an unrelated matter. The 9/11 attack dealt a terrible blow to the economy, but those were better economic times. An attack of similar magnitude, or worse yet several concurrent attacks, could bring an already-weakened economy to its knees. National security is not an issue complete and isolated in its own niche. It is a vital part of the American economy and must be treated as such.


Tennessee Jed said...

Scary as it is to consider, I think the most likely is terrorism at schools, day care centers, or shopping malls. If they did several at once, just like 9/11, it would get across the message we ar safe nowhere. All that is needed is a few automatic weapons.

Sad really, and yet some still want to think of it as law breaking instead of guerilla warfare run amok.

StanH said...

I know, lets target the Swiss. That will throw the Islamo-Goons off, and will be as productive as the pat-downs at the airport.

I do hope, and pray there are wise people somewhere in our government who are leaning forward in their thought process in dealing with our modern day fascist, otherwise known as followers of Mohamed. These are a patient enemy and will require a vigilant stance, and you can bet they understand we are under, eh-hmmm… leadership of an imbecile-n-chief, Barry.

AndrewPrice said...

I've thought about this a good deal and I am a little surprised that al Qaeda really isn't better at causing problems. Look at the problems the DC sniper caused, and that was just two idiots with a rifle and a blue car. And there are dozens of ways to routinely cause hundreds (or thousands) of deaths without ever getting caught and without spending much more than a few dollars to buy some tools. But they don't seem to understand the power of that. They seem believe in huge, single blasts.

Which brings us to a dirty bomb as the biggest threat. And my biggest fear in that regard is that North Korea or Iran supplies them with the material.

And you're right, the only way to stop these guys is to go on the offensive. Picking up the pieces after the fact is not effective.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Your concern relating to a group of assaults occurring in many locations at once is the one to be concerned about.

Imagine an assault at several locations with an MO like the North Hollywood Bank Robbers. Body armor and automatic weapons that out gun the police. In the right location they would be able to gun down a lot of people before being stopped. Frightening isn't it?

Those perps were in country and acquired their weapons and armor from domestic sources. Yes that stuff is all illegal but as you know with enough money and some creativity about any thing can be obtained or put together.

Identifying such people is a challenge. I wonder is it even possible? If it is, it will require the resources of our Federal Government to implement.
But before those resources can be brought to bear the responsible people in the Government must first decide to move on the problem. do you think that is ever going to happen?

BevfromNYC said...

Tom, that's exactly what they did in Mumbai. They went to a public place and just started shooting until they ran out of bullets.

BTW Did you know that the North Hollywood bankrobbers' families sued the city for police brutality and excessive use of force??

We have to a least make a token effort to secure our trains, bridges, tunnels, subways, ports and water sources. And as our great nemisis Julian Assuage has proved, hitting our e-systems is the best way to shut us down.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: And even if they don't do the grand gesture like 9-11, they can strike at our weakest and most vulnerable. They know we value our loved ones in a way they can't comprehend, and our children most of all. We nurture our children while they train them to strap on dynamite and blow up themselves and other kids.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: I've thought the same things. Some of the targets Tennessee mentioned would be the easiest, and I know it isn't moral scruples that keep them from doing it. Let's hope they don't figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Stan: One thing that could have some effectiveness would be making it clear that the nations that harbor the terrorists have more to fear from us than from the terrorists. That is definitely not going to happen on Obama's watch. Reagan learned from the Beirut attack that withdrawal only encourages them. He wouldn't have made that mistake twice. As long as these nomad murderers can move across borders with little or no resistance, it's difficult to round them up. No matter what, there are going to be no easy answers, and we need a strong chief executive. That pissant in the White House couldn't scare a three-year old child.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: That BofA shootout is exactly the sort of thing that terrorists could use. Even after the North Hollywood Bank of America robbery, the police are still no better armed than a small terrorist cell that has been plotting for years, and they can't arrive fast enough to stop an all-out suicide attack. How bad would the toll have been if they had opened fire at the Staples Center or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion? And BTW, that BofA was where I had my accounts when I lived in North Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Bev: I hadn't seen your comment before I responded to T. Tom. But your comment is an expanded version of what I was saying to him. I am grateful but surprised that they haven't tried something like the Mumbai attack. Let's pray they don't. Your city is particularly vulnerable to a subway biochemical attack. But every big city needs to be carefully securing its urban mass transit.

And yes, I did know about the lawsuit. There a dictum for that: For every scumbag there are two shysters to represent him.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'm frankly amazed they've been this poor at terrorism. If you or I were running their organization, I think we would be achieving a heck of a lot more. But then, maybe stupidity is part of the territory when you decide that killing innocent people is a great idea?

Anonymous said...

Andrew: It is a surprising non-development. The chosen "martyrs" have to be dumber than a sack of rocks, but their leaders and master plotters are at least clever if not highly intelligent. I've thought many times how easy it would be to commit a terrorist attack, particularly if you didn't care whether you die along with your victims. Frankly, I don't get it.

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk - the only reason they haven't done worse is just that they haven't done it. It's not because of any great security measusre that we have taken. The only thing that will avert an attack is personal vigilence. As we say in NYC "If you see something, Say something" - presumably to the cops.

StanH said...

This is the essence of asymmetrical warfare. Surely we have war planners who think the possibilities through, such as the scenarios discussed up-thread. Even in a place like Ft. Hood, one religious zealot or psychopath, which ever you prefer, can do great harm with a weapon and the will to use it. I would hope our military or CIA would step in, even stateside, though Posse Comitatus is the law of the land, and that they would work with the FBI to take down these creeps before they strike. There is no 100% safety, we just have to be good, and I tend to think we are, in places we don’t see, so far, thank God it hasn’t happened.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Yes I did know the perps mother sued the City of Los Angeles.
Only in America could a criminals family sue the law enforcement agency for doing their job. FYI LAPD now carry AR-15 rifles in most of their patrol cars. I personally feel a SOCOM-30 would be a much better choice. I would like to for Sargents to be equipt with the Barret 50 BMG.
However we must be aware this exercise will only deal with a direct assault type of attack.

Hawks proposed of attacking the water supply is even more of a problem. Once contaminated how long before recovery could be for sure?
If it is biological then maybe the water infrastructure of a whole city could be poisoned for months. Also how long would it be before the source of the problem would be identified?

We are such a trusting people I shudder at the possibilities. Along that line also we could create pages and pages of unconventional attacks that almost any creative and reasonably funded perp could use.
MY feeling is we need to be ever vigilant and we need to pray for
the protectors to have the insight and direction to protect our soft underbelly.
We are in scary times.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: That's the hardest part of getting civilian awareness and action. The vast majority of Americans can't develop a deep visceral understanding of the horrors terrorists will commit without hesitation. Most of us could kill in self-defense, or in defense of others, or in war. But we would never develop a taste for it, nor murder innocent civilians in the name of a god. That gives the terrorists an advantage. As horrible as 9-11 was, most Americans assume they will never suffer the same fate because they themselves would never do anything like that.

We should never give in to fear, since that is the terrorists' goal. But we all must learn to be more vigilant and stop assuming that the police and intelligence agencies can do the work that millions of alert civilians can do--careful observation of our daily surroundings.

Anonymous said...

Bev: You are absolutely right. No matter how hard police try, they can't be everywhere. Many people are afraid to report suspicious activity for fear they'll be thought stupid or paranoid. The days that we could indulge in that sort of thinking are long gone. As you said, "if you see something, say something."

Anonymous said...

Stan: Another problem is that instead of getting the CIA and the FBI working together, we created another competing agency, Homeland Security. While the various agencies are supposed to be joining hands to combat terrorism, we still have agency turf wars and even created a third agency that is staking out its own territory. The goal of Homeland Security was supposed to be coordination of the agencies, but it hasn't worked out very well at all. I guess there was enough turf to go around for all of them. The terrorists rely in part on interagency competition rather than fearing interagency cooperation.

Tehachapi Tom said...

What I see in your answer to Stan is our protective agencies leave a lot to be desired.

Like a three sided boat with three different oarsmen each with out a rudder having only a paddle trying to direct where they are going.

That is not a reassuring image when applied to a need for cohesiveness.

No wonder the KGB was so effective.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: I'm not sure if I'm convinced that the split between the domestic FBI and the overseas CIA is necessary or useful anymore. I'm not sure the KGB is the answer either (LOL), but Homeland Security needs a kick in the ass and an order to start hardnosed, "do it or lose your job" coordination of the other two agencies. It was not set up to be a competing agency. I'm basically ready for them to simply combine the agencies, put one person in charge, and as soon as we have a real president, start lopping of non-cooperating heads. We're supposed to be at war with the terrorists, not with each other.

Until the current terrorist asymmetrical war which is being waged in part on our home soil, we had the good fortune to be able to segregate wartime activities from domestic subversion. We no longer have that good fortune. We are at war at home and abroad, and the lines are easily and regularly crossed. It just no longer makes sense to have one intelligence agency doing its job until the subject enters American territory, then passing it off (usually with poor records and bad intelligence) to the domestic agency. Worst of all, often that foreign information gets passed to the NSC and/or Homeland Security for delivery to the FBI rather than directly. By the time the information gets to the FBI, it's frequently useless and too late to do much good. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Or maybe it's just "too many cooks spoil the broth."

Dane said...

I don't think we can predict what they'll do next, but we should put all these bastards to death brutually when we catch them.

Anonymous said...

Dane: As an officer of the court I object. As an American . . . . . .


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