As we approach another anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, we are reminded of the importance of situational awareness and the need to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement offices and our base security forces.
Much has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, to increase our nation’s security but the threat of a terrorist organization causing harm to the United States has remained a constant.
We must continue to do our part and report activities that are suspicious in nature as soon as we recognize them. The Air Force Eagle Eyes program has identified the following seven areas in which it is imperative to identify and report suspicious activity to help prevent a terrorist attack.
Surveillance: Someone recording or monitoring activities. This may include the use of cameras (either still or video), note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices.
Elicitation: People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people. Elicitation attempts may be made by mail, fax, telephone, or in person. Examples could include being approached at a gas station (or mall or airport or library, etc.) and asked about what’s happening at the base.
Getting a fax (or an e-mail or a telephone call) asking for troop strength numbers; the number of airplanes on base; deployment procedures; or how a trash-collection truck gets on base. They could also ask the location of the HQ building; how many people live in a dorm; where the commander lives; how many people hang out at the club; which nightclubs/restaurants off base are highly frequented by military; or the workings of the base’s network firewall, etc.
Tests of security: These are attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses. Examples: A person grabs the base fence and shakes it to see how long it takes for police to respond; a driver approaches the front gate (without ID and/or car sticker) and pretends to be lost or have taken a wrong term just to learn the procedures of how they are dealt with and how far into the gate he/she can get before being turned around. Another example is a person places a “smoke bomb” near the fence or throws it over the fence to learn how quickly police respond and what effect that has on front-gate operations, etc.
Acquiring supplies: Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, detonators, timers, etc. Also includes acquiring military uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes and badges (or the equipment to make such items), or any other controlled items.
Suspicious persons out of place: People who don’t seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment or anywhere else. This can include suspicious border crossings and stowaways aboard ship or people jumping ship in port. This category is hard to define, but the point is that people know what looks right and what doesn’t look right in their neighborhoods, office spaces, commutes, etc., If a person doesn’t seem like he or she belongs, there’s probably a reason for that.
Dry run: Putting people into position and moving them around according to their plan without actually committing the terrorist act. This is especially true when planning a kidnapping, but it can also pertain to bombings. An element of this activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the timing of traffic lights and flow. Take note of people moving around from place to place without any apparent purpose and doing it, perhaps, many times. The appropriate example here is the Sept. 11 hijackers who are now known to have actually flown on those exact flights several times before Sept. 11. Their purpose was to practice getting their people into position, working out arrival times, parking, ticketing, going through security, boarding, etc. By taking note of everything around them, in one sense they were conducting surveillance and testing security, but they were also doing a dry run of the actual activity.
Deploying assets: People and supplies getting into position to commit the act. This is a person’s last chance to alert authorities before the terrorist act occurs. Look for people loading up vehicles with weaponry/explosives and/or parking that vehicle somewhere. People in military uniforms (who don’t look right) approaching an installation or getting into a vehicle; people who seem out of place standing by at a certain location as if waiting for something to happen. One fairly good example of this is the attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. When the explosives-laden truck pulled up to the fence line (which was the “deploying assets” step) the driver jumped out and ran away. That was seen by a spotter on the roof of the dormitory who recognized this as suspicious activity. He then sprinted down stairs and began pounding on doors, rousting people out of bed and getting them out of the building. Because of that, he saved many, many lives. It’s all because he recognized the “deploying assets” element.