Situational Awareness; Spotting a Terrorist

We are all in this together. Whether it’s a home burglar or a home grown terrorist, preserving the sanctity of everyday life is everyone’s responsibility.

“The attempted bombing in Times Square on 1 May 2010 highlights the need to identify Homegrown Violent Extremists before they carry out a terrorist act.”

The Department of Homeland Security encourages all citizens to report anything or anyone who is suspicious to your local authorities.

I was in Time Square that day. At one point I was in range of where the vehicle that had the rigged explosives was parked. If that bomb had gone off, this blog wouldn’t be written or read. I did a segment on Fox News in Manhattan the next morning and had breakfast on the same street the car was towed from.

The people in the restaurant were all a-buzz about what happened and all felt lucky they were spared from tragedy.

“The ability of the bomber to operate under the radar demonstrates the difficulties associated with identifying terrorist activity and reinforces the need for law enforcement, at all levels, to be vigilant and identify individuals who are planning violence or other illegal activities in support of terrorism.”

Law enforcement cannot do this alone. They need our help, as was the case in Time Square. It was a pushcart vendor who spotted the vehicle and notified the police.  In this situation the vendor noticed smoke coming from the vehicle and heard a popping sound. He notified a local cop who called in for the bomb squad. Fortunately for everyone the bomb malfunctioned.

The FBI released a document highlighting some serious red flags citizens should be aware of if someone they know may defect to the bad side :

  • New or increased advocacy of violence including providing material support or recruiting others to commit criminal acts.
  • Adoption of new life styles and segregation from normal peer and family groups in association with advocating criminal or terrorist activity.
  • The adoption of a new name.
  • Behavior that could indicate participation in surveillance of potential targets.
  • Acquisition of excessive quantities of weapons or materials that could be used to produce explosives such as ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Travel to or interest in traveling overseas to attend violent extremist institutions or paramilitary training camps.
  • New or increased interest in Websites and reading materials that advocate violence and then initiating action in support of this activity.
  • New or increased interest in critical infrastructure locations and landmarks, including obtaining aerial views of these locations.

While this may all seem “extreme” it is, and these are the characteristics of the home grown terrorist. My dad always said to me, be good, behave, be careful and be aware. Take Dads advice.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing terrorists and burglars on CNN . Disclosures.