1-2 Short Paper: Preventing a Terrorist Attack
The Open Source Sample Alert provides examples of potential indicators of terrorist activity. Discuss signs that professionals in surveillance roles can look for in order to predict and prevent a terrorist attack. In addition, identify any legal parameters that may limit surveillance abilities. Cite at least one case in which counterterrorism professionals detected terroristic preparation and prevented an attack.
For additional details, please refer to the Module One Short Paper Guidelines and Rubric document.
Website: The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty
This act provides a deep understanding of the latitude given to law enforcement professionals and operational considerations that need to be factored in when developing a case or conducting an investigation.
This resource supports the short paper in this module.
Counterterrorism is a specific and unique form of law enforcement and security. With increased occurrences of domestic and international terrorism related cases, the need to explore all the elements that influence counterterrorism measures is paramount. Counterterrorism approaches are constantly evolving with terroristic techniques, as are the laws and policies that govern the global response to terrorism.
In order to understand this specialty, one must explore terrorism as a whole. Terrorism can come in many forms, including international, domestic, and cyber. Regardless of the type, terrorism poses a major threat to human life, property, and prosperity. Where a violent act attempts to harm the direct targets, violent acts of terrorism have larger political or societal implications. There are many factors to be considered when trying to combat terrorism, such as the means and techniques being utilized, the motives, the target, and the ultimate goal. What is the venue and demographic of the terrorist? Does the terrorist have health-related issues or motivations that go beyond their immediate surroundings? Lastly, what support structure does the terrorist have to assist in carrying out their mission? These are only a few of the many questions that counterterrorism professionals seek to answer in order to determine terrorists’ motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. Understanding the complexity of these considerations is the first step in understanding counterterrorism.
Field operators and surveillance professionals must be aware of the steps a terrorist takes to prepare for an attack. These steps can often begin with pre-operational research, which can include taking notes and pictures of a target location, probing a site to see what security reaction time is, and using social media to obtain additional information. A current trend that terrorists use to conduct pre-operational research is the use of individuals who would not cause alarm to scope out a target. For example, an elderly individual or mother with a child in a stroller can easily obtain information without drawing attention to themselves. Security personnel who are not trained in counterterrorism may not detect these people as suspicious, but counterterrorism professionals know that anyone can be part of a terrorism plot. They seek the indicators of terrorist planning in addition to the individuals behind the plan.
The last part of the planning phase consists of obtaining the materials for a terrorist’s mode of attack. Counterterrorism professionals observe the plan unfold and track the terrorists’ activities until there is enough evidence collected to apprehend and charge the terrorist. In addition to surveillance, professionals use various approaches to obtain actionable information to charge a criminal. For example, an outreach approach can be implemented where agents visit local beauty salons and hardware stores to inform employees of suspicious purchases they should be aware of and provide them with a direct channel for reporting the activity. This increases the likelihood of obtaining current and actionable information and provides intelligence to follow up in relation to case development. Intelligence techniques and methodology will be explored further in Module Two.