Expressed or implied threats by an individual or a group communicating intent to commit acts of terrorism or violence or advocating violence against a person, population, or to damage or destroy a facility can be an indicator of pre-operational attack planning. For example, in 2010 a Virginia-based US person pled guilty to communicating threats after he posted a video to the Internet encouraging violent extremists to attack the creators of a television show, including highlighting their residence and urging online readers to “pay them a visit.” He also admitted to soliciting others to desensitize law enforcement by placing suspicious looking but innocent packages in public places, which could then be followed up by real explosives.
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Stolen, cloned, or repurposed commercial or official vehicles—such as police cars, ambulances, and public utility service trucks—have been used in terrorist attacks. These vehicles could facilitate terrorist access to restricted and hardened targets as well as to emergency scenes. The use of these vehicles can provide individuals the ability to approach targets to conduct pre-operational surveillance or carry out primary attacks or secondary attacks against first responders.
March 26, 2013 in FEMA
This guide offers recommendations for local outreach campaigns, explains how to effectively develop and disseminate messages in order to help the public better understand their role in reporting suspicious activity, and helps law enforcement agencies and community partners to understand, navigate, and use the many resources available to help build and sustain local efforts. New technologies, resources, and innovative practices highlighted within this document can be used to improve the education, communication, and trust amongst communities and law enforcement agencies who serve them. With the proper tools and knowledge, individuals and entire communities will help law enforcement agencies identify, investigate, and prevent crime and terrorism.
GAO Report: Increasing the Effectiveness of Efforts to Share Terrorism-Related Suspicious Activity Reports
March 24, 2013 in Government Accountability Office
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has largely implemented the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative among fusion centers—entities that serve as the focal point within a state for sharing and analyzing suspicious activity reports and other threat information. The state and local law enforcement officials GAO interviewed generally said the initiative’s processes worked well, but that they could benefit from additional feedback from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on how the reports they submit are used. The FBI has a feedback mechanism, but not all stakeholders were aware of it. Implementing formalized feedback mechanisms as part of the initiative could help stakeholders conduct accurate analyses of terrorism-related information, among other things.
March 19, 2013 in Featured
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is warning law enforcement and first responders that urban exploration, an activity that involves trying to gain access to restricted or abandoned man-made structures, can provide useful information for terrorists conducting surveillance of a potential target. Also known as “building hacking”, urban exploration has been around in its modern form for decades, tracing some its more recent history to post-war exploration of the Parisian catacombs and members of MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club Signals and Power Subcommittee, who organized explorations of steam tunnels and rooftops around campus in the late 1950s.
March 1, 2013 in Featured
A document issued last month by the Department of Homeland Security identifies priorities for the collection of suspicious activity reports from local communities around the U.S. The document describes”topics of interest” identified by DHS Intelligence and Analysis (DHS/I&A) analysts as priorities for the Winter 2013 period that should be utilized by “law enforcement, first responders, and other homeland security professionals” to improve their reporting of suspicious activity.
(U//FOUO) DHS Intelligence and Analysis Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Topics of Interest Winter 2013
March 1, 2013 in Department of Homeland Security
DHS/I&A is interested in the following SAR topics, which have been updated based on current issues of national interest. Previous topics remain relevant, and law enforcement, first responders, and other homeland security professionals should continue to submit reports on these issues. Per the SAR Functional Standard, only information validated as reasonably indicative of preoperational planning related to terrorism should be reported as a SAR. I&A is reviewing SAR reports on these topics but would welcome any additional context, ideas or local analysis on these topics and opportunities for joint production.
Terrorists are attempting to recruit new members in the United States and overseas to support their operations, obtain funding, and conduct terrorist attacks. For example, in May 2012, Maryland-based Mohammad Hassan Khalid pled guilty to attempting to use the Internet to recruit individuals who had the ability to travel to and around Europe to conduct terrorist acts, in addition to providing logistical and financial support to terrorists. In prior cases of recruitment, individuals who were willing to participate in terrorist acts became involved with known and suspected terrorists, participated in paramilitary training abroad, or tried to acquire small arms and build explosives.
Terrorists or cyber criminals might try to discover vulnerabilities in computer systems by engaging in unauthorized testing of cybersecurity in order to exploit those vulnerabilities during an attack. These attempts might include port scanning, phishing, and password cracking. “Social engineering,” another technique, leverages unwitting insider access by eliciting information about operational and security procedures from employees, personnel, and their associates.
December 27, 2012 in White House
Our national security depends on our ability to share the right information, with the right people, at the right time. This information sharing mandate requires sustained and responsible collaboration between Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, private sector, and foreign partners. Over the last few years, we have successfully streamlined policies and processes, overcome cultural barriers, and better integrated information systems to enable information sharing. Today’s dynamic operating environment, however, challenges us to continue improving information sharing and safeguarding processes and capabilities. While innovation has enhanced our ability to share, increased sharing has created the potential for vulnerabilities requiring strengthened safeguarding practices. The 2012 National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding provides guidance for effective development, integration, and implementation of policies, processes, standards, and technologies to promote secure and responsible information sharing.
(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI Bulletin: Indicators of Suspicious Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Activity
Law enforcement and first responders may encounter chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) related material or equipment at private residences, businesses, or other sites not normally associated with such activities. There are legitimate reasons for possessing such material or equipment, but in some cases their presence can indicate intent or capability to build CBR weapons, particularly when other suspicious circumstances exist.
Terrorists may attempt to steal or divert precursor materials, uniforms, identification, blueprints, documents, access cards, facility vehicles, or other items–possibly with the help of knowledgeable insiders–for use in pre-operational planning or attacks. Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a Spanish national convicted for his role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, stole the explosives used in the attack and the vehicles used to transport the explosives from a mining company where he worked.
December 11, 2012 in Featured
What kind of “suspicious” behaviors might put you in the sights of your local fusion center? A collection of Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) reports from the Washington State Fusion Center (WSFC) obtained by police accountability activist Andrew Charles Hendricks via a Washington Public Records Act request provide insight into the mechanics of suspicious activity reporting at the local level. More than a dozen reports, which are minimally redacted, detail monthly reporting by the WSFC to its “statewide network of agency-selected law enforcement, fire-fighting and critical infrastructure agency representatives” that ensure “vital disciplines are incorporated into the fusion process by serving as the conduit through which homeland security and crime related information flows to the WSFC for assessment and analysis through the state homeland security Regional Intelligence Groups.” According to the State of Washington, the “end state” of the FLO program “is to have FLOs throughout the state in all aspects of law enforcement, fire service and critical infrastructure” to facilitate the flow of information both to and from the state fusion center.
Terrorists may attempt to gain skills and knowledge necessary to plan and execute by obtaining specialized training, soliciting or stealing technical and proprietary information, or reaching out to academics and experts. In 2007, German police arrested three terrorist suspects for allegedly planning and preparing car bomb attacks against US citizens and interests in Germany. The suspects traveled to Pakistan where they received weapons and explosives training from a Pakistan-based Uzbek jihadist group called the Islamic Jihad Union.
Terrorists often conduct physical surveillance to identify suitable targets, determine vulnerabilities, plan attack methods, or assess the target’s security posture. In March 2010, David Coleman Headley pled guilty for his role in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India by conducting video and photographic surveillance of potential targets, as well as later surveilling Danish newspaper offices–the target of another attack plot.
Terrorists and criminals may use photos or videos of potential targets to gain insight into security operations and details of facility operations, including traffic flow through and around facilities, opening times, and access requirements. In late 2000 and early 2001, convicted al-Oa’ida operative Dhiren Barot took extensive video footage and numerous photographs of sites in downtown New York City and Washington, DC in preparation for planned attacks. Photographs and video useful in planning an attack may include facility security devices (surveillance cameras, security locks, metal detectors, jersey walls and planters); security personnel; facility entrances and exits; and other features such as lighting, access routes, gates, roads, walkways, and bridges.
Terrorists overseas and in domestic attack plots have used various methods to acquire and store materials necessary to construct explosives. Najibullah Zazi, who pled guilty in 2010 to plotting to attack the New York subway system, made multiple, large-quantity purchases of chemical components needed to assemble the homemade explosive Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP)—6 bottles on one day and 12 bottles on a separate day—at beauty supply stores throughout the summer of 2009. Law enforcement and first responders should be aware that the possession, storage, or attempt to acquire unusual quantities of laboratory equipment, personal protective equipment, chemicals, and flammable accelerants—although legal to purchase and own—could provide indicators of preoperational attack planning.
Terrorists might use disguises, fraudulent or stolen credentials, and cloned or repurposed vehicles to gain access to restricted areas, to blend in with their surroundings when conducting surveillance, or to conceal other activities while planning or executing an attack. Anders Breivik, the gunman who was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the July 2011 attack on the Workers’ Youth League summer camp in Norway, wore a police uniform and displayed false identification to gain unauthorized access to the camp. Depending on the target, disguises might be aimed at impersonating law enforcement, emergency services, or officials of an institution who have legitimate access to secured/restricted sites.
Known or possible terrorists have displayed suspicious behaviors while staying at hotels overseas—including avoiding questions typically asked of hotel registrants; showing unusual interest in hotel security; attempting access to restricted areas; and evading hotel staff. These behaviors also could be observed in U.S. hotels, and security and law enforcement personnel should be aware of the potential indicators of terrorist activity.
(U//LES) State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) Program: Terrorism Training for Law Enforcement
September 19, 2012 in Department of Justice
August 30, 2012 in United States
The ISE is a partnership for responsible sharing of terrorism-related information between the law enforcement, public safety, defense, intelligence, homeland security, and diplomatic communities. It extends to all levels of government – federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial; and incorporates private sector partners and international allies.
Terrorists may attempt to breach secured perimeters or gain unauthorized access to facilities, sensitive locations, or restricted areas for preoperational activity or to conduct an attack. Timothy McVeigh breached a locked storage shed at a Kansas rock quarry with a battery-operated drill and stole explosives that were later used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Attempts at intrusion could take the form of trespassing, forced entry, or impersonation of authorized personnel and could possibly involve the assistance of knowledgeable ‘insiders.”
August 11, 2012 in Featured
A number of hacked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor have shed light on a global suspicious activity surveillance system called TrapWire, that is reportedly in use in locations around the world from the London Stock Exchange to the White House. The emails, which were released yesterday by WikiLeaks, provide information on the extent and operations of a system designed to correlate suspicious activity reports and other evidence that may indicate surveillance connected with a potential terrorist attack.
August 10, 2012 in Corporate
Trap Wire dramatically increases the ability to detect pre-attack preparations and to take appropriate action to detect, deter and intercept tenorist attacks. A visual monitor of the entire system-a map with dynamic status indicators for each entity connected to the Trap Wire network- facilitates the ability of decisionmakers to absorb vast quantities of information quickly and efficiently. The dynamic status indicators show the threat level at each facility and highlight those that have moved to a higher threat level over the preceding 24 hours. Security officials can thus focus on the highest priorities first, taking a proactive and collaborative approach to defense against attacks. The information collected by Trap Wire can also be shared with law enforcement agencies to assist in their counterterrorism efforts.
Terrorists may use small aircraft flyovers to conduct preoperational activities such as reconnaissance or rehearsals for planned attacks. When suspicious flyovers occur, law enforcement and first responders should report the key attributes of the flight and the aircraft for timely identification (time of day, location and direction of flight, facility overflown, aircraft size, markings, color scheme, tail number, number of windows, placement of wings or rotor, number of engines, and weather) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through a local Air Traffic Control facility or office, a local Flight Standards District Office, or directly to the FAA’s Domestic Events Network at 202 493 5107, and the Transportation Security Administration. The FAA is often best able to distinguish between legitimate air traffic and suspicious flight operations that warrant further investigation.