Saturday, October 20, 2012


As I view the Boston Marathon end in a disaster, I thought about how the 17 agencies compromising the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) are on “Z” while most of the American public and news media remain on “A” regarding the topic of homegrown terrorism. My mind wandered back to an Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) seminar held in Tyson Corner, VA in 2006. Charles "Charlie" Allen, a top counterintelligence expert warned us of the growing numbers of radicalized U.S. citizens...who become radical Islamist supporters or joiners.
This discord exists because counterintelligence and counterterrorism professionals do not want to release any information that may give away sources and methods to radical Islamists or other terrorists within the U.S. In this age of leaking classified information, I acknowledge this fact, but, perhaps, this disharmony can be bridged by establishing a pure, sanitized public relations campaign to combat terrorism, akin to existing Community Block Watch Programs (CBWP).

In a broad sense, citizen participation to protect America from terrorist attack can be utilized more effectively. To avoid vigilantism, and actually protecting innocent American Muslims, such an awareness program can be absorbed into existing CBWP‘s which exist in thousands of American neighborhoods. Block Watch programs help neighbors to get better acquainted with each other and help local police by reporting unusual activities as they occur.

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Neighborhoods across America would a much-closer partnership with the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and the role all federal agencies play in protecting them from harm. And, the IC and those federal agencies would benefit because local denizens know what’s “normal” activity in their respective residential settings; they would be grassroots 'eyes and ears' them.

So, how would it work? To prevent local crimes, CBWP enables local law enforcement to train neighbors to write down descriptions of suspicious persons and vehicle license plate numbers, models, colors, etc. But, now that we have local police and counterintelligence professionals working in Fusion Centers (FC), why not enhance intelligence-gathering by incorporating local citizens and businesses who “know” their neighborhood’s idiosyncrasies and customs? Residents are familiar with their neighbor’s habits, types of friends, relatives, vehicles, leisure pursuits, interests, etc. Through risk-free and vetted workshops, citizens could be taught what to look for, regarding terrorist behavior. Even a well-integrated homegrown terrorist who has lived and worked in a particular neighborhood and remains underneath the radar of homeland security, behaves differently as the attack plan nears fruition.

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A great deal of time and energy is used to plan, prepare, finance, purchase and store materials, and to meet with others in order to execute a devastating attack. Unseen inside the home, garage, or workplace, such a radical can be detected if laypeople are educated on what to look for. Local police agencies conducting CBWP’s could invite overt intelligence officials, such as some FBI agents, to speak at their public meetings. Detailed descriptions of “terrorist-like” behaviors could be incorporated into the established system of CBWP’s. A toll-free hot line number to call could be distributed. This would make federal counterintelligence and counterterrorist agencies more open and available to the public and law enforcement. Of course, covert agents would never show their faces at such public gatherings. But, other federal representatives could.

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"Terrorist-specific” observable behaviors could be taught to Americans through the CBWP network. The term "observable behavior" describes actions in a way you can record with a check-off. For example, instead of saying “My son is lazy”, which isn’t really observable or “checkable”, you could say “My son didn’t take out the garbage on Tuesday‘s garbage pick-up day.” I prefer observable behaviors because they make citizen observations more accurate and confirm-able. Also, such observations aid citizens to identify homegrown terrorists who do not fit the stereotype of an Islamic terrorist. For example, Colleen LaRose, or Jihad Jane, doesn't look like any one's idea of a radical Islamic warrior. Yet, the blond-haired, blue-eyed suburbanite from Philadelphia has been charged in connection with a plot to kill a Danish cartoonist.

OSINT News offers these 13, observable behaviors that should raise the antennae of citizens in their capability to identify a terrorist:
13 Tell-Tale Observable Behaviors of homegrown terrorists:
Observable Behavior 1- Uncommon cell phone behavior: terrorists need communication with others to plan meetings or buy materials and chemicals. They use multiple anonymous pay-as-you-go mobiles phones and swap SIM cards and handsets. Stolen mobiles are typical. Also, they may have large quantities of mobile phones. Some years ago, the same small group of persons bought hundreds of cell phones from Wal*Mart stores throughout Ohio.

Observable Behavior 2- Suspicious Passports: They use multiple identities and documents for no apparent reason.

Observable Behavior 3- Small truck, vans and station wagon vehicles: They need transport and will buy, rent, or lease a van or small truck for transport, even possibly for use in the attack itself. Anyone working in commercial vehicle renting, leasing or sales should be on the look out for suspicious behaviors.

Observable Behavior 4- Excessively thorough interest in local site: Terrorists use cameras or camcorders to gain logistics and other information about potential attack sites. It helps them plan coordinated and comprehensive attacks. If you see anyone preoccupied with security arrangements, heavy pedestrian traffic, etc., report it.

Observable Behavior 5- Over-abundant purchases. Be on the watch for persons buying large or unusual quantities of chemicals for no reason. Anything odd, such as accumulating BBQ propane canisters from different stores falls under this category. I remember, years ago conducting police surveillance at the local supermarkets for excessively large purchases of baking soda, which dealers used to cut their pure cocaine. We simply followed them out to the parking lot and followed them home. Remember, Zazi and three others linked to the Denver-NYC terrorist connection, bought large quantities of peroxide and acetone from Denver, CO beauty supply stores. One store owner alerted the authorities; another example of the critical importance of citizen participation.

Observable Behavior 6- Suspicious financial transactions: They need funding and check and credit card fraud runs rampant among terrorist cells. Remember, observable and “checkable” actions- do they open up numerous checking accounts? Lost or stolen credit card reports? Carries around separate check books from different banks? 

Observable Behavior 7- Suspicious use of and heavy reliance on computers: They are on the cutting edge of organizational networking to recruit new members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. Suspicious computer behavior, such as visiting terrorist-related websites and should be a red flag. Terrorists make instant press releases after a fatal bombing attack on their respective websites! If you ever witness such unusual Internet behavior, grow suspicious!

Observable Behavior 8- Protection Paraphernalia: They need to handle hazardous waste and radioactive, biological or other WMD material. Masks, goggles, thick rubber gloves, disposable or reusable coveralls, hardhats, safety glasses, chemical-resistant clothing, face shields, even devices to protect one’s hearing or portable respirators that cover only the mouth and nose to large varieties that supply oxygen to self-contained suits. You may see someone carrying these items into the garage at night or find them thrown away in a dumpster.

Observable Behavior 9- Padlocks: Terrorists need storage. Lock-ups, garages, backyard sheds, storage rentals, etc. can be used to store equipment.

Observable Behavior 10- Terrorists need to travel: The counterterrorism and counterintelligence agencies battle in protecting us has turned upside down. All terrorist attacks in the last year, inside America, were from home grown terrorists. But, they were influenced, funded and trained overseas. Many U.S. citizens turned terrorists have flown to the Middle East to train and plan attacks back “home”…in the U.S. They certainly don’t freely brag about their vacations when they arrive back in the U.S. Be suspicious when they are vague about where they are going, sites they saw, etc.

Observable Behavior 11- Change in behavior: Terrorist planning or finalizing an attack plan may behave differently from how you’ve known them to behave in the past.

Observable Behavior 12- Strange visitations: A terrorist usually has people helping him. These people may come and go at odd hours. Trust your instincts!

Observable Behavior 13- Overhear threats: A true terrorist is full of hate for western democracies. Due to their uncompromising beliefs, they may get quite angry at times and shout, boast, laugh about, or mention during a normal chat their intention to harm civilians. Obstinate and unbending viewpoints may be expressed when discussing politics, religion, societal issues, etc. If you hear an intimidating or even threatening tone of voice, weigh this observation against your previous observations.

Ironically, by incorporating a “terrorist watch” program and incorporating it into a national community organization such as Block Watch, we may not have to worry about big government intruding on our lives. Let me explain. I recall  Democratic Representative Jane Harmon, not too many years ago, introduced National Security legislation that passed the US House of Representatives by a secretive voice vote, but failed to pass the US Senate.

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Harmon’s bill, the federal “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” was supported by President Obama and his top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan. Both men were deeply concerned about the problem of home-grown terrorists and the increasing number of individuals in the US who have become “captivated by extremist ideology or causes.” Unfortunately, the bill didn't  spell out Observable Behaviors and leaves the defining and identifying of homegrown terrorists left to political whims of the future. Perhaps, we should rethink this bill and enhance its effectiveness by initiating a "Homegrown Terrorist Blockwatch Program."

OSINT News believes that, America needs to determine what is and what isn’t terrorist behavior and who is and who isn’t a terrorist. We studied the resource "Al Qaeda in Europe" by Lorenzo Vidino (not advertised here), the European expert at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. This resource details what could materialize in America. Europe has become a key battleground in the global war on terror, and we hope America does not. From the July 2005 London bombings, the Madrid train bombings, the thwarted plot to attack various European capitals with chemical weapons,  the movements of hundreds of European Muslims who are joining terrorist groups in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and NW Pakistan to fight U.S. forces, to the burgeoning of radical Muslim ideology in the hearts and minds of "citizens" throughout the EU, the region has become not only a target but as a base of operations...against America. 

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The implications for the United States are tremendous: under existing law, for example, terrorists carrying European passports could easily enter the U.S. It is not a coincidence, in fact, that every attack planned or executed against the United States, including 9/11, has had strong European ties.
It's a sad state of affairs when terrorists-most of them native to the countries of Europe, raise money, communicate, and hide in plain sight in the suburbs of London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. And, law enforcement agencies worldwide are having more difficulties when attempting to shut down terror cells. idino analyzes events such as the Madrid train bombings, the thwarted plot to attack various European capitals with chemical weapons, and the movements of hundreds of European Muslims who are joining terrorist groups in Iraq to fight U.S. forces.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean."  His ideas are his own and do not represent any organization he's a member of. He welcomes your ideas and comments on OSINT. Contact him on the SECURE CONTACT FORM.

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