During recent weeks, various sources in law enforcement and media outlets have been reporting phone kidnapping scams occurring in Central and Northern New Jersey and New York. In most incidents, scammers have alleged that a member of the phone scam victim’s family had been involved in a car accident and claimed to have taken the victim’s family member hostage. The scammers then claim they will drop their hostage at a hospital after a certain amount of money (usually $1500‐2000) is wired via Western Union to the scammers, as restitution for damage to the scammer’s vehicle. In addition, the scammers state that they have the hostage’s cell phone and any attempts to call the cell phone or disengage from the conversation will result in the murder or beating of the hostage.
This report attempts to analyze the indicators and commonalities of recent school shootings in an effort to inform public safety officials and assist in the detection and prevention of potential school shooter plots or attacks. All incidents included in this assessment occurred in the United States while classes were in session. Domestic violence shootings and gang violence were not included in an effort to differentiate between “active shooter” incidents and other acts of violence. DHS defines an “active shooter” as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.
This report examines the 29 deadliest mass shootings in the past 13 years, starting with the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, to identify commonalities and trends. These 29 incidents include shooting incidents in which at least five people were killed.
The Central California Intelligence Center (CCIC)/Sacramento Regional Threat Assessment Center (RTAC) has prepared the following Situational Information Report on exploding targets, a commercially available binary explosive agent, to provide law enforcement and public safety officials with a better understanding of the potential public safety risks involving its use. While exploding targets are legally permissible depending on state and local regulations, the CCIC is concerned that the mixture may be more dangerous than what is stated on the manufacturer’s website especially if mishandled by individuals with novice experience in handling explosive components or when used in large quantities to detonate bigger targets and, in essence, creating an explosives or incendiary device.
Four days after the mass shooting last July in Aurora, Colorado, a project of the Houston Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security called Ready Houston released a training video to help educate members the public about how to survive a mass shooting. The six-minute video, which was produced with $200,000 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative, includes a dramatic recreation of a man dressed entirely in black walking into an office building and beginning to shoot people at random with a shotgun that he pulls from a small satchel. Variously described as “outlandish”, “surreal” and “over-the-top”, the video has met with mixed responses since it was re-released by several fusion centers and local agencies, including most recently the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.
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.
The Central Florida Intelligence eXchange (CFIX) recently received a brief from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC – TLO Program) that included a report of a stolen ambulance in Phoenix, AZ. At the request of an Intelligence Liaison Officer (ILO) in the Central Florida region (R-5 Hospital/Medical Sector), CFIX was asked to collect, research, analyze and develop a ‘Situation Brief’ based on this report to determine if this was a significant trend that could cause concern for Region 5 partners.
Within the past year, first responders and members of the public have died of asphyxiation, or fallen ill, following accidental inhalation of concentrated carbon dioxide (CO2) gas in public locations. At least two recent incidents are connected with significant gas leaks caused by the failure of liquid CO2 lines connected to beverage dispensers in commercial facilities. Emergency personnel responding to medical or service calls can use signs and symptoms to determine possible CO2 exposure and correspondent risks to first responders.
The Subcommittee investigation found that DHS-assigned detailees to the fusion centers forwarded “intelligence” of uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism. Congress directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead this initiative. A bipartisan investigation by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found, however, that DHS’ work with those state and local fusion centers has not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts.
James Eagan Holmes, a 24-year-old male, allegedly shot and killed12 people and wounded approximately 38 more after opening fire in a crowded movie theater during a showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The shooting erupted during the midnight showing at the multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, not far from Denver, where a large crowd had gathered, some dressed as characters from the highly anticipated Batman sequel. Holmes began the attack by throwing two gas canisters into the theater after entering through an exit door that had been propped open. Witnesses stated many assumed it was a promotional stunt related to the movie and did not initially react. After both canisters had deployed, Holmes commenced shooting into the crowd.
On May 9, 2012 the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) conducted a practical evaluation of the Ember Bomb incendiary device as described in the ninth issue of lnspre, a magazine published by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
A recent terrorist attack on a resort hotel in Afghanistan demonstrates the vulnerability of hotels and other “soft” targets to these types of assaults. On June 22, 2012, Afghan forces retook a lakeside hotel outside of Kabul from a Taliban suicide assault team that was holding dozens of civilian hostages. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, calling the hotel and others near it a “hub of obscenity and vulgarity.”
Past statements from al‐Qa’ida Central, as well as their franchise groups, highlight the importance of targeting the U.S. economy as part of their strategy of confronting the West. Most recently, militant propagandists, such as Adam Gadahn, American mouthpiece for Al‐Qa’ida in Pakistan, have made statements advising Muslims in the West to “…undermine the West’s already struggling economies with…targeted attacks on symbols of capitalism which will shake consumer confidence and stifle spending”. Additionally, in November 2010, al‐Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula introduced the “strategy of a thousand cuts”, where they encouraged their mujahideen brothers to “attack the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations…the aim is to bleed the enemy to death”.
(U//FOUO) New York Fusion Center Bulletin: Use of Cloned Vehicles in Terrorist or Criminal Operations
Criminals and terrorists have long used official vehicles, “cloned” vehicles (those painted/decorated to appear official), or seemingly legitimate vehicles (e.g. livery, maintenance or delivery) to circumvent security measures at targets of interest. There have been numerous terrorist attacks overseas wherein operatives used police vehicles or ambulances (or vehicles painted to resemble same) to conceal improvised explosive devices. Within the US Homeland, the most common use of cloned official vehicles by criminals is for drug smuggling; however, at least one terrorist targeting New York envisioned misusing vehicles that would appear to be legitimate, in order to conduct an attack. Dhiren Barot, an al Qaeda operative involved in the 2004 Financial Centers Plot, allegedly plotted to detonate three limousines packed with explosives and gas cylinders in underground parking lots in Manhattan. While the limousines would not have masqueraded as “official vehicles” per se they would have appeared to be legitimately entering those parking structures.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released issue 9 of its English-language “Inspire” Magazine. There is a portion of the magazine dedicated to attacking the United States by starting wildfires. The article instructs the audience to look for two necessary factors for a successful wildfire, which are dryness and high winds to help spread the fire. Specific fire conditions that are likely to spread fire quickly are Pinewood, crownfires (where the trees and branches are close together), and steep slope fires (fire spreads faster going up a slope).
Do you want to know what kind of information fusion centers gather on you and your friends? A document contained in the recent Anonymous/AntiSec hack of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office provides a great deal of insight into what kind of information is gathered and processed by fusion centers at the request of local law enforcement. The document is described as a “biographical profile” and was produced by the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange (CFIX), a regional fusion center serving a number of counties including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Seminole and Volusia. CFIX is one of several fusion centers in the state of Florida, part of a larger network of more than seventy operating all around the country. When the Lake County Sheriff’s Office asked for a “workup” on a man being investigated for charges relating to child pornography, CFIX produced a six page profile on the subject, who had no prior criminal history. The report has a flashy cover festooned with logos, restrictive markings and even a graphical depiction of the man’s name, meaning that an employee of the fusion center did not just type the man’s name into a word processor, but actually took the time to produce an individualized graphic with stylistic highlights and shadows.
A new stock is being produced by Slide Solutions as a product named the SSAR-15. The product, a bump fire stock, is being sold over the internet and at local gun stores which easily converts special models of the AR to a fully automatic weapon. Information has been received that a Louisiana gun store in Lafayette has ten of them in stock and are selling them for around $380.00 a piece.
Over the last week, approximately 10 Energy Sector substations in the Marshall and Battle Creek area have been the victims of copper theft. Because the current street value for scrap copper is over $4.00 per pound, electric substations have become lucrative targets. The targeting of substations for copper has been an issue for over a year. The recent thefts from substations in the greater Flint area caused significant power outages to the area and safety issues for first responders. The suspects are stealing the grounding system conductors and other wires stored at the substation at night. This is accomplished by digging up sections of the grounding system conductors and cutting it off from the power units. The process is time-consuming and requires the suspects to go inside the substation perimeter fence. A few sites have experienced repeated offenses of copper theft.
Group logos, flags, and other extremist imagery are prevalent throughout most terrorist and extremist groups. Imagery provides a means of evoking existing emotional and historical memories in addition to communicating ideas to potential recruits. Logos and symbols are often used as visual representation of groups and/or their ideology. Print, internet propaganda, tattoos, clothing and accessories, stickers, and other graphic media are the most common representations of extremist imagery. First responders need to be aware of common extremist imagery as it may indicate involvement or support for a particular domestic extremist organization or international terrorist group.
Cop Block, based on the description on their Facebook page, is a “decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goals of police accountability, education of individual rights and the dissemination of effective tactics to utilize while filming police.” The project was founded in 2010 by an individual who started Cop Block due to his personal experiences with law enforcement when he was “a victim of the war on drugs, twice”.
Two Massachusetts schools received letters postmarked from Dallas, TX today, March 6, 2012, which contained a white powder. The letters were received at the Memorial Elementary School in Milford, MA and the Dedham Middle School in Dedham, MA. The incidents are being investigated by the FBI and the Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Division. Additionally, a letter was also received at a school in Warwick, Rhode Island, one at a school in Fort Kent, Maine and one at a school in Goffstown, NH. On 3/5/2012, a school in CT received a white powder letter. A photo of one of the envelopes is shown below as well as maps of the affected MA schools.
Since 2007 an unknown subject has sent more than 360 letters containing a white, powder substance to various government officials, public schools and other locations. In May, 2011 20 letters were delivered to public schools in Washington, DC. Over the past two days similar letters have been received in Washington, DC; New York, New York; Dallas, Texas and Enfield, Connecticut.
Today Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined by West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato and West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center Director Thom Kirk together announced a new mobile app, that enables West Virginians to submit tips concerning suspicious criminal and terrorist activity, is now available for smartphones. “Through the use of innovative technology our citizens can download the new Suspicious Activity Reporting Application for free and help protect their own communities,” Gov. Tomblin said. “With the assistance of our citizens, important information can quickly get into the hands of our law enforcement community allowing them to provide better protection. This is just another example of my administration’s commitment to helping keep our streets and citizens safer.”
An example of a weekly bulletin released by the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center to local businesses through its “Private Sector Terrorism Response Group” (PSTRG) on January 6, 2012. The PSTRG was created in “December 2001 to create a private sector partnership [that can] effectively address private sector safety, incident management, employee education and public health consequences of potential attacks on the critical infrastructure within Orange County. Two large groups involved with PSTRG are the Orange County Business Council, of which 80% of the major businesses in Orange County are members, and Technet, a consortium of 28 high tech firms.” The bulletin includes excerpts of news articles related to terrorism, a list of upcoming events, including dirt bike events and rodeos, as well as a helpful list of upcoming television shows on the History Channel and other networks that relate in some manner to terrorism.
Steganography—the practice of concealing data within a carrier—may be used to obscure malicious or criminal information and activity from law enforcement. While steganography dates to the fifth century BC, it has long been regarded as, and remains, one of the most advanced forms of clandestine communication. In modern usage, the Internet allows accessibility to, and broad dissemination of, steganography tools, and its application continues to evolve with technology. Understanding steganography in its current state is essential to its identification and detection.