Fort McCoy News February 14, 2014

Antiterrorism 2nd quarter theme: The evolving threat

The Army Antiterrorism theme for the second quarter of fiscal year 2014, January through March, is the evolving threat.

Terrorism remains an enduring, persistent threat to the Army, the Army Reserve, and the nation.

Terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) constantly are evolving.

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Although larger organized groups continue to plot terrorist attacks, the trend has shifted toward attacks from small groups and individuals who are radicalized to take independent action.

These emerging threats have evolved in recent years to include homegrown violent extremists (HVEs), active shooters, and insider threats.

The example of al-Qaida

To highlight the trend, the example of al-Qaida is instructive.

Al-Qaida and its affiliates continue to devise new methods to attack lucrative targets within the United States without further placing its own operatives and resources at risk.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) publishes an online magazine, Inspire, providing rudimentary instructions in the construction of explosive and initiation devices, criteria for target selection, guidance for conducting surveillance and acquiring necessary supplies, and providing justification for extremists residing in the United States to further al-Qaida's cause.

Homegrown violent extremists, insiders, active shooters

Al-Qaida actively seeks two types of individuals: those with a propensity to become violent extremists and the active shooter.

HVEs are noted as being influenced by terrorist ideology without being under their command and control.

Despite being in service to the goals of terror groups and despite their ideological identification, they act without any official connection to the group.

HVEs have lived and operated in the United States giving copious advantages to terror groups through their legitimate presence and knowledge-base of the desired targeted area.

HVEs take advantage of an evolving TTP knowledge base, whose dissemination is encouraged and facilitated by the resources often arising from within organized terror groups.

Two ethnic Chechen brothers detonated two pressure-cooker explosive devices April 15, 2013, killing three and injuring more than 260, along the final stretch of the Boston Marathon. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who had become a United States citizen the previous year, admitted that he was inspired by the AQAP publication.

While explosives have been a prime means of worldwide terrorist attack for decades, at least some terror groups are encouraging active-shooter style attacks, given the widespread media coverage, the tendency for mass casualties, the adverse effects to the economy, and the ability to tie up emergency services.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security define an active shooter as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases … (using) firearms (with no discernible) pattern or method to their selection of victims."

The attack on an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on July 20, 2012 and the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the same year are two recent examples.

In addition to nonmilitary venues, the examples of Fort Hood in 2009 and the Washington Navy Yard shootings of Sept. 16, 2013 serve to highlight that the threat extends to the military, and that active shooters also may have insider access.

While many active-shooter incidents are not conducted for terrorist purposes, active-shooter events can be used as templates, regardless of attack motives.

Al-Qaida, for example, already has promoted shootings as an available method of attack to anyone, anywhere who wants to serve in its cause. HVEs and active shooters having inside access to otherwise protected targets, such as the interior of a military base, pose a double threat to Army missions and personnel.

Suspicious activity reporting remains relevant

Insider threats, active shooters and HVEs have proven a challenge for both intelligence and law enforcement personnel.

Even internal areas of protected military bases are vulnerable, potentially, should an active shooter or HVE also be a trusted insider who enters access-controlled military installations, as was the case with the attacks at Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard.

While each case may appear to lack the indicators historically associated with typical threats to U.S. persons, facilities, installations, and vessels, making it difficult to identify specific targets and the individual's intent on causing harm, each case displays indicators similar to those seen in other terrorist activities.

Each follows some sort of planning cycle before attacking the chosen target.

Based on Joint Publication 3-26, Counterterrorism, seven phases, or steps, ensue prior to an attack:

1. Broad target selection;
2. Intelligence gathering and surveillance;
3. Specific target selection;
4. Pre-attack surveillance and planning;
5. Rehearsals;
6. Actions on the objective, and
7. Escape and exploitation.

Not all of these phases, however, may be present or implemented in the execution of an attack.

One example may be the lack of an escape strategy on the part of the Tsarnaev brothers after their attack during the Boston Marathon.

Given the persistent threat of terrorism and the transference of terrorist tactics to independent-threat actors, the Army's antiterrorism efforts must remain proactive, and the entire Army community must remain vigilant.

Please remember, "If you see something, say something."

For information about Fort McCoy's iWATCH program, call the Antiterrorism Office at 608-388-4719/4504.

For questions about Fort McCoy's participation in the iSALUTE program and the Threat Awareness and Reporting Program, call 608-388-5107.

(Submitted by the Fort McCoy Antiterrorism Officer.)