terrorist attacks

According to a recent poll by McLaughlin & Associates, 74% percent of American’s believe there will be more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.  Sadly, for these three-fourths of our population who are realistic about the current situation in the world, they are almost undoubtedly correct.

It’s too bad our President doesn’t seem to share their same sense of urgency.

The problem with terrorist attacks isn’t our response after the fact.  Virtually any authority on the matter will tell you that on-the-ground reaction by emergency services to such events has gotten much better since 9/11.  Moreover, those investigating the attack have an array of tools at their disposal that weren’t even a science-fiction fantasy when the author began his law enforcement career in the 1980’s.

Thus, in the aftermath, we save many lives and quickly figure out who conducted an attack.  Unfortunately, our ability to prevent such incidents hasn’t been perfect (and likely will never be in an open and mostly-free society).  Regardless, until there is a tectonic social and political shift, terrorist attacks are likely a growing, rather than decreasing, threat.

Terrorists aren’t stupid.  They are certainly misguided, evil perhaps, but there is no lack of intellectual capacity behind the planning of their misdeeds.  They, like fighters everywhere, often conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their intended actions and determine if the eventual outcome is worth the effort.

Unfortunately, too many people in our country and government unconsciously overlay their own personal values and moral codes to followers of groups such as ISIL. The unintended consequence is that it causes a glaring “failure of imagination” as the 9/11 Commission so aptly described the problem.  We just can’t or won’t think about all the ways that bad actors can kill and maim here in Hometown, USA.

The following is a list of possible targets or scenarios that many people in our country haven’t considered or dismiss as mere doomsayer fantasies but are frequently discussed by counter-terrorism planners. The list certainly isn’t exhaustive nor in any particular order but is provided mainly to provoke further consideration and inspire productive action in preparing for future events.

Don’t worry that this post is giving ideas to the terrorists.  All of these things are discussed at length in open-source materials; it is the “good guys” who aren’t paying attention.

Ten Places Terrorists Might Strike Next:

  1. Cruise ship– What better target is there than a floating city filled with hedonistic Americans? A ship is ideal because offers a mobile, highly-symbolic target of western decadence that can be controlled by only few people from a few physical stations.  It’s already been done: see the Achille Lauro hijacking for details.
  2. Amusement park– Talk about a public-relations win for a terror group.  An attack on a well-known amusement location would garner more shock and media attention than even the most ambitious terrorist could imagine.  A classic soft, but high-value, target.
  3. Concert/sporting event– While such locations have been widely considered as a possible terror objective, the Paris attacks highlighted a new strategy: taking the crowd hostage and then staging either a mass execution or incurring carnage during the inevitable rescue attempt.
  4. Trains– Aside from the obvious value of human lives held within a passenger train, freight trains are essentially a massive rolling bomb passing through every major U.S. city multiple times a day.  Moreover, it is highly impractical to protect every foot of track and every piece of infrastructure.
  5. Radiological Facility– Building a so-called radioactive dirty bomb is simple and only requires common nuclear materials such as found at a hospital, clinic, or testing firm.  While the result of such an explosion in a major population center would be limited in physical scope, it would instill widespread and irrational panic throughout the entire country.
  6. Military Base or installation- This doesn’t make sense- or does it?  On most bases, the security force is small relative compared to the spatial footprint and is commonly armed with “only” handguns and rifles.  Sure, there are thousands of men and woman in the area ready to kick butt but their weapons and ammunition are generally locked away in secure storage.  By the time a full-scale response could be mounted, the attackers would likely be dead along with many security personnel. The symbolic value for terrorists would far outweigh any personnel costs incurred.
  7. Chemical Plants– A highly-dangerous but relatively soft target frequently located near population centers.  This is one category of potential trouble that many experts worry about but most citizens completely ignore.
  8. Water Supply– The vulnerability of major U.S. cities to even short-term loss of drinking water is astonishing.  Many cities truly “have all their eggs in one basket” when it comes to potable water, meaning contamination at the source or destruction of single-point infrastructure would be devastating.
  9. Small planes– A recent media report claims that terrorists have established a training base overseas in order to train general aviation (small aircraft) pilots. When you consider the utter lack of security at many small, rural airports along with all the various possibilities of airborne attack by a small plane laden with explosives, you can imagine the scope of the danger.
  10. The internet– Hacking attacks, by hostile states or terrorists, are a real and on-going danger.  However, there is another point of vulnerability often ignored: the high-speed backbone.  Much internet traffic is generally routed through points housed within nondescript relay buildings protected only by a fence and silent alarm.  Though such an attack might not cause direct fatalities, the effect on the economy and society as a whole would be dramatic and widespread, even if relatively short-lived.  Imagine trying to buy gasoline to get home if your debit card won’t work.

After reading and considering this list, what can the worried reader do?

  1. Take the “all hazards” preparedness approach as emphasized by the National Incident Management System doctrine.  Be ready to overcome general macro-scale problems like loss of water, inability to access cash, long-term communications disruption or forced evacuation.  Don’t try to war-game specific scenarios as you will simply end up overwhelmed and underprepared.
  2. “If you see something, say something.”  This requires no explanation but repeated emphasis….This requires no explanation but repeated emphasis.
  3. Be prepared to take an active part in self-defense.  Many authorities believe that a successful airline hijacking would be nearly impossible today as passengers would likely fight to the death.  As U.S. citizens, we need to make sure that attackers anywhere do not achieve success when attempting their mayhem, even if it means risking harm to oneself.

The readers of BearingArms.com are doers, not bystanders.  Be ready!