The planning and execution of the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City illustrates this process. Consider how a vigilant person might have recognized indications of a threat.
Phase 1: Broad Target Selection. During broad target selection, terrorists collect information on numerous targets to evaluate their potential in terms of symbolic value, casualties, infrastructure criticality, or public attention.
Timothy McVeigh wanted to attack a symbol of the federal government, preferably the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He identified possible targets such as individual federal employees, their families, and facilities in at least five states.
Phase 2: Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance. Vulnerable targets able to meet attack objectives are selected for additional intelligence gathering and surveillance. This effort may occur quickly or over years depending upon the target and planning information needed. Terrorists seek to gather detailed information on guard forces, physical layout, personnel routines, and standard operating procedures.
McVeigh performed initial surveillance of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, one of his potential targets. He noted the interstate highway allowed easy access and possible escape routes. He also observed indented curbs that permitted vehicles to be parked directly in front of the building.
Phase 3: Specific Target Selection. Specific targets are then identified for attack based on anticipated effects, publicity, consistency with overall objectives, and costs versus benefits of the attack.
Timothy McVeigh chose the Murrah Federal Building because he believed the Federal agencies represented there were responsible for the incident in Waco, TX two years earlier. In addition, he assessed the facility as a “soft target,” with a good chance of success at low risk. His intent was to kill Federal employees and thereby gain media attention.
Phase 4: Pre-attack Surveillance and Planning. Terrorists may conduct additional surveillance to confirm previous information and gain additional details. During this stage, terrorists will select the method of attack, obtain weapons and equipment, recruit specialized operatives, and design escape routes.
McVeigh recruited Terry Nichols and prepared for the Oklahoma City attack over a six-month period. He acquired materials for a 5,000-pound truck bomb through theft, use of false documents, and paying cash for items normally bought on credit. He also made several trips to the Murrah Federal Building to identify the exact place to park the truck and to select escape routes.
Phase 5: Rehearsals. Terrorists often rehearse the attack scenario to confirm planning assumptions, enhance tactics, and practice escape routes. They may also trigger an incident at the target site to test the reaction of security personnel and first responders.
McVeigh practiced making and detonating bombs in isolated locations. He memorized details of the Murrah Building layout, finalized the sequence of actions for the attack, and practiced responses to law enforcement officers if they were encountered.
Phase 6: Actions on the Objective. Terrorists choose to execute attacks when conditions favor success with the lowest risk. Factors they consider include surprise, choice of time and place, use of diversionary tactics, and ways to impede response measures.
On 19 April 1995, McVeigh parked a rental truck – a 5,000-pound vehicle bomb – in front of the Murrah Federal Building where it could cause the most damage. The date of the bombing, 19 April, was symbolic – the second anniversary of the fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX.
Phase 7: Escape and Exploitation. Unless an operation is a suicide attack, escape routes are carefully planned and rehearsed. Terrorists may exploit successful attacks by releasing pre-developed statements to the press.
After preparing the bomb for detonation, McVeigh walked away from the scene on a preselected route. To flee Oklahoma City, McVeigh used a get-away car pre-positioned before the attack.
McVeigh wanted the world to know that he attacked the Federal Murrah Building because he believed the Federal Government infringed on individual rights of Americans. McVeigh left a file on his sister’s computer titled “ATF Read” echoing these sentiments. His get-away car contained anti-government literature and he subsequently made statements concerning his motivations for the attack.
GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS OF INTEREST
. Association: Terrorists may focus on obvious foreign tourists, personnel associated with foreign firms, foreign military and foreign government organizations, and ESPECIALLY individuals who appear to be high-ranking or important. Try to blend in with the local population. When possible, avoid disclosing your country of origin, religious, business, military or government affiliation.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SAFE TRAVELING IN THE US OR WESTERN EUROPE? Consider this… within the United States, several organizations and individuals use Terror/criminal tactics to achieve their goals. Other organizations provide direct and indirect assistance through fund-raising, recruiting, and training support.
Terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists against US interests and personnel began in 1978 with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In my personal opinion, the US has been at war since that date. Foreign Terror attacks in the US began in 1968 with the hijacking of Pan Am flight 501 to Cuba, and in 1993 with the first attack against the World Trade Center in New York. More recently, the foiled Terror/criminal plot against Fort Dix, New Jersey demonstrates that al-Qaida cells still exist within the nation’s borders. (Note: Perhaps you can add the Ft. Hood shootings to this as well)
Home-grown terrorism is a reality. During the 1960s and 70s, the Weathermen and the Armed Forces for Puerto Rican National Liberation executed several small-scale Terror/criminal attacks. More recently, violent elements include the anti-abortion Army of God, the eco-terrorist Earth Liberation Front, and other domestic anarchist groups and individuals. Homegrown terrorists have employed various tactics such as rudimentary letter bombs, improvised explosive devices, small arms attacks, and truck bombs. Bioterrorism is also a concern in view of the anonymous anthrax attacks in 2001.
For more information on events in North America, see historical examples on the Oklahoma City bombing, United Flight 93, and the plot to attack Fort Dix. There are serious threats now from MS13 and other Latino gangs, who work with Russian/Italian/Asian mobs, and other gangs. Also, note that the Mexican Cartels have turned the US border area into a war zone, per recent news items. It is reported that Phoenix, AZ is now the kidnapping capitol of the world.
Islamic extremists pose the primary Terror/criminal threat to US military and government personnel. Since the mid-1990s, terrorists have enhanced their capabilities around the world… including Indonesia and the Pan-Pacific area, Venezuela, the tri-border area of Paraguay/Brasil/Bolivia and expanded their influence and presence into other parts of the world.
In the areas of current US military operations, roadside IEDs pose one of the greatest threats to US forces. Additionally, local political leaders and civilians, infrastructure, and international aid personnel are terrorized by suicide bombings, kidnappings, and murders. In many other parts of the Western Asian and African regions, suicide bombers and gunmen target hotels and tourist attractions to advance domestic political agendas.
Numerous Terror/criminal organizations operate in almost every region of the world. In addition to al-Qaida, other organizations include Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ansar al-Islam, and Mujahedine-e Khaiq, the Russian Mafia, etc.
For more information on events in this region, check the Internet for historical examples on the USS Cole, the Luxor Massacre at Deir el-Bahri, and Khobar Towers.
. EUROPEAN COMMON MARKET: This region is diverse and contains a wide spectrum of Terror/criminal threats. Threats include traditional nationalist, ethnic, and leftist Terror/criminal groups such as the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), November 17, and the Real Irish Republican Army. The region is also threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam. Chechen rebels, responsible for several Terror/criminal attacks within the former Soviet Union, are both Muslim radicals and separatists. There is a lot of Mafia related activity.
In recent years, US allies in Europe have suffered dramatic Terror attacks. Terrorists have targeted civilians with IEDs and suicide bombers for maximum impact on government policies and elections. US military forces have also come under direct attack by organizations wishing to diminish America’s influence in the area.
Additionally, organizations sympathetic to Terrorist/religious radical objectives actively raise funds, recruit, and provide other support to religious extremist groups. As seen in the events of 9/11, western Europe can be a staging area for attacks against the United States.
For more information, see the historical case studies for the London and Madrid subway bombings, the bombing of the La Belle Discotheque, and other attacks.
. AFRICA: Stability in the region is threatened by nationalist, tribal, and ethnic groups that use Terror/criminal and pirate tactics to support their agendas. The region is also threatened by Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaida, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, and Al Shabaab. (Note: The increases of piracy off both coasts are more examples.)
The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania illustrate the willingness of terrorists to use indiscriminate violence to attack foreign interests in Africa. Additionally, local ethnic and nationalist-based conflicts increasingly threaten foreign corporate infrastructure and personnel.
Terrorist organizations also engage in support activities within the African continent. These include fund raising, training, recruiting, operation of front activities, and involvement in criminal enterprises. Africa has the potential to be a significant transit point and support base for Terror/criminal operations in other parts of the world.
For more information, see Internet sources on the African embassy bombings.
. Pacific Rim/SE Asia: Narco/criminal groups in this region present diverse threats to foreign interests. Some specifically target foreigners and others target public sites where foreigners may become victims. Additionally, there is evidence of ties between groups in the Pacific/SE Asia region and al Qaida and other international groups.
Terrorist attacks in this region demonstrate a broad spectrum of tactics. These include kidnappings, suicide bombings, and even chemical attacks. Aleph, formerly known as Aum Shinrikyo, attacked Tokyo subways with sarin nerve gas and cyanide in 1995. Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group seeking to create a radical Muslim state, targets foreigners for kidnapping.
Terrorists have targeted foreign assets in the region. In 2001, Singaporean officials foiled a plot to attack US military forces and western diplomatic missions. The group, Jamaah Islamiya, seeks to create a radical Muslim state across South East Asia. In 2002 it conducted a suicide bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia to kill western tourists.
For more information on events in this region, seek Internet sources on the Bali Nightclub Bombing and Tokyo Subway Attack.
. LATIN AMERICA: The primary/criminal threat in the area is NarcoTerrorism and the continued operation of radical leftist groups. Additionally, the ties between NarcoTerrorists and radical extremists from the Middle East are reportedly increasing. It is possible Latin American countries, notably Venezuela and Argentina may become a transit point for terrorists from other parts of the world to enter the United States via Mexico and Europe via Africa. I have read accounts of Colombian NarcoTerrorists and known radical Islamics being arrested in Mexico and Spain with genuine Venezuelan passports and personal documents when said individuals are known to have never lived in Venezuela. There was one report of a US Border Patrol intercept on the US/Mexican border of some Cubans and a different party of 15+ persons of Arab descent all carrying genuine Venezuelan passports and documents. You should probably take that information as indicating that Venezuela is not friendly to US/ European Common Market interests.
Unlike the 1980s, recent attacks against US interests are focused primarily on businesses and not US military or government assets. In addition to bombings and arson, Terror/criminal tactics include targeted assassinations and kidnapping, especially against foreign-owned commercial assets.
Some of the most prominent Terror/criminal organizations within the Latin American region include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Shining Path in Peru. Various Internet sources are available.
. A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE MUMBAI ATTACKS. The FBI reports are trickling back from the agents dispatched there to cooperate with Indian authorities, and the results are depressing. It appears more and more certain that various Pakistani high-level authorities were aware of the activities of the attackers and their support team in Pakistan. An incident of this sort could easily be the start of a war between these two nuclear powers.
But, take a moment to think of the businessmen and their families that were at their hotel having a nice dinner and deep into their cozy world… when the unthinkable happened. I hope each and every reader of this report will resolve to include a special SURVIVAL bag in their luggage to include packaged ready-to-eat food. I use WalMart granola bars, peanut butter and crackers… MREs, if space is available. You should also have lots of spare batteries, a flashlite… I use a head-band light, a bottle for water, a fire-starter kit (cotton balls soaked in vaseline with a sparkstriker and a Bic disposable lighter). Want more ideas? Research the web for what others have assembled as EDC: Every Day Carry survival bags on the web. If you want to read how life is affected by a total societal meltdown, read the blog of FerFal, a student of architecture during the 2001 financial meltdown. I especially liked the info on his family’s ideas of what they would have done differently given the chance, the items that became most important to them, and some gimmicks that helped them keep a good survival attitude.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is to maintain a positive and happy attitude while preparing for the unthinkable.
I hope you have enjoyed the series. It is thought provoking, and hopefully will help readers of this blog desire to search out more information. The world out there can be scary, but it should not be a hindrance to people getting out and traveling. It is unfortunate that the 1% chance of something happening will prevent many from enjoying the many people and cultures of the world.
Travel Security, Final Part
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