Terrorism. Lone-operator terrorism will likely grow during the 21st century, according to seasoned terrorism analyst Jeffrey D. Simon. A former RAND Corporation analyst and current president of Political Risk Assessment Company Inc., Simon reminded attendees that with the exception of the 1993 World Trade Center and 9-11 attacks, all of the major terrorist events in modern U.S. history were perpetrated by lone actors.
Examples of such incidents include the 1920 anarchist bombing that killed 33 people on Wall Street in New York City, the Unabomber, and Eric Rudolph’s campaign of terror, which included the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing and attacks on abortion clinics in the South.
At the outset, Simon said that he avoids the popular term “lone wolf” because of its cartoonish characterization of a wild perpetrator. While some, if not a majority, of lone-operator terrorists are mentally ill, many are also highly intelligent, making them a critical threat to society.
Unlike terrorists sponsored by a state or radical group, lone operators are limited to the resources within their means. They have a critical advantage, however, in avoiding detection before and after their attacks because most of them have no communication whatsoever with others regarding their operations, which denies authorities a major opportunity to detect them, Simon said. He noted that despite the unprecedented investigation into Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, it took a tip from Kaczynski’s brother to place authorities on his trail.
Simon cited several factors to support his contention that lone-operator terrorism could trend upward in the coming years. One was that the information revolution provides potential actors with unlimited access to both radicalization materials and data on how to carry out attacks. Another was the shift toward “leaderless” terror as networked attacks become tougher to carry out.
The challenges in catching lone operators have fostered the attitude that they cannot be caught before they act and leave a forensic trail. Simon, however, said that “We need to challenge the view that there’s nothing we can do to prevent lone-operator terrorism.”
Prevention can begin at institutions like the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which has already modified policies in response to cases like the Unabomber’s. The case led to the ban on packages weighing more than 13 ounces in USPS drop boxes, and the agency no longer ships packages with visible oil stains on the exterior. Further measures could include improved awareness training, Simon said.
CCTV technology also holds promise for detecting attackers, according to Simon, noting the potential of gait-recognition software to spot perpetrators wearing suicide vests. Expanded use of biometrics, especially voice recognition, might also help, he said.
Finally, the government can work to boost public awareness of activity that raises suspicion of terrorist activity, such as unattended bags in public places. While such vigilance is fundamental for security professionals, Simon argued that public awareness has in fact waned in the eight years since the 9-11 attacks.
Threat simulations. Threats to people and structures can be natural, like tornadoes and floods, or man-made, like bombs and arson, but the thing they have in common is that they create the need to get people out of harm’s way, said Joseph Smith, PSP. Smith, a senior vice president at Applied Research Associates, Inc., spent the earlier part of his career in the U.S. Air Force modeling the effects of weapons use on buildings and areas. His later career has focused on what he calls the “human effects” of disasters, like how many lives are lost and how many injuries occur. Through his years in the field, Smith has seen an evolution in the state of modeling and simulation.
Models and simulations are essential because— for reasons ranging from cost to liability—it’s difficult to carry out realistic large-scale evacuation drills.
There is more to take into consideration than simply evacuating individuals through the nearest exits. For instance, stairs and exits may be blocked and there may be chemicals or gases present that will impede the egress. Additionally, Smith said that alternative exits, such as windows, may have been hardened against blasts or hurricanes, inadvertently eliminating them as alternative escape routes.
Until recently, simplified event simulations have been lacking, said Smith. A popular model had been the hydraulic model, which essentially treats the egress of people as though they were fluid flowing out of a leaking tube. Smith said those models have many flaws, including the assumption that people start evacuating at the same time and that everyone’s evacuation will be uniform.
The model also does not take the differences in human behavior into account. For example, Smith said that people will tend to go out through the door they came in, even if there is a closer or more convenient exit alternative.
Smith said that modeling and event simulation abilities have vastly improved in recent times. There is now the ability to do “agent-based simulation,” which has each individual recognized as its own software agent with its own characteristics. The new simulators also provide the ability to maintain fidelity to the facility that’s being modeled. The models are dynamic, replete with the capabilities to model for various types of events; they are also realistic, address multiple hazards, and perform event analysis.
One simulator that Smith helped develop is the Event Simulator E-Sim Agent. In that simulator, humans are autonomous agents with individual characteristics. It can model evacuations based on optimal egress scenarios and other situations, as well as use realistic human behavior. Smith recommends involving a cognitive psychologist in modeling, as he says “the trouble with people is that they do strange things,” and their idiosyncrasies must be accounted for in simulations. He adds that models must take into consideration a range of factors; he cites as examples factoring in how people might react if they needed to help small children evacuate or if they were faced with other distractions.
Executive protection. In the global economy, business opportunities exist everywhere, even in some of the world’s most dangerous locations. Executives traveling to such insecure locales, or more secure ones, face a variety of threats ranging from illness to terrorism. Robert Oatman, CPP, president of R. L. Oatman and Associates, Inc., discussed the use of advance planning and onsite maneuvers to successfully extract an executive from a threatening environment or situation.
Oatman discussed scenario-based planning and advised executive protection professionals to do the planning away from the office. He also recommended that the company use its own resources to do scenario-based planning rather than hire an outside consultancy to do it for them. “You need to observe interactivity and connectivity to be successful,” Oatman said.
He also addressed worst-case scenarios, advising companies to ask whether they have made plans for the principal in a number of types of scenarios, including personal medical emergencies, public health pandemics, broad-scale civil unrest, terror events, and transportation disruptions. More specifically, companies should ask if the principal is a special risk based on his medical past, whether local medical care would be sufficient if the principal were attacked or harmed, and what the likelihood of unrest in the country is at the time the principal is visiting.
Oatman said it is important for executive protection teams to physically go to the hospital where an executive might be taken in case of an emergency. In order to form a mental picture, “Go in, go to the front desk,” Oatman said. “There is a sense of empowerment when you are able to do that,” he added.