Ahh ISIS, the current group of assholes that no one likes. Say what you want about them, they have been effective in their mission of taking over physical and psychological terrain in order to move them closer to a global caliphate. Well I say, “fuck those assholes.” This article aims to show you the commonalties present in all terrorist attacks, and give you actionable ways to stay safe and help thwart their operations.
Almost all military style operations follow a similar planning and execution cycle. As a former intelligence officer, I am intimately familiar with both enemy and friendly planning processes. See the graphic below.
Lets break this down step by step.
Broad Target Selection
As you would imagine, this step is very involved. Several ISIS assholes will get together and brainstorm some ideas for their next attack. There are numerous ways they might define success in an attack and it isn’t always a high body count. Most often attacks in areas they control, such as Iraq and Syria, are tactical in nature. They simply wish to take an area that might give them increased funding, like oil fields. They might also wish to secure their supply lines from one controlled area to another, but these type of attacks are not for broad media consumption.
Attacks in Europe and the US occur for much different reasons. These attacks attempt to generate broad media coverage and inflict fear in their target audience, such as the recent Paris Attacks. These are the types of attacks we are going to focus on for the purposes of this article.
ISIS believes that through these attacks they can appear much more powerful and effective both in their enemies minds and to those who might attempt to join them. Basically, these attacks are a sophisticated PR operation that just happens kill people as an attention getter. ISIS will end this step by electing a few areas that seem promising for further investigation.
Intelligence and Surveillance
In this step ISIS will send someone who has half a brain (must be hard to find) to conduct some reconnaissance on the targets they have selected during step one. This person is likely someone who does not conduct operations in Syria or Iraq most of the time. This is someone who will be able to fit into western culture. They will know how to travel, probably be reasonably fluent in english, or the target area’s language. This turd’s mission is to make a reasonable estimate on the likelihood of success.
In corporate terms he is a risk manager. He knows generally how these types of operations are conducted and he will use that knowledge to estimate various factors that will influence their mission success, such as:
- Safe House locations and ease of travel into the country
- Logistical considerations such as smuggling weapons, money, and explosives into the target area.
- Physical factors like ingress and egress routes.
- Number of victims present on any given day
Once this is done they will give their estimate to the decision maker in their chain of command. Keep in mind this is likely occurring in multiple locations throughout many western countries as we speak. Many of these areas will ultimately be deemed unsuitable. However, some will be chosen for specific consideration.
Specific Target Selection
This step narrows down the target even further. The step previously might look at Paris as a whole for an attack. This step will consider a specific area and specific time for the actual attack, beginning the pre-operation actions that will facilitate actions on the objective.
Likewise this is where specific planning details are worked out. Where is the safe house? How will they move around? Where will they acquire/stash their weapons? What specific cover will they use while in the target area? Once these questions are answered ISIS will then begin to move their assholes into the target area.
Pre-Attack Surveillance and Planning
Now that all assholes are in the target area. The head asshole for the action cell will continue to surveil the target area to finalize the specifics for the attack. They will attempt to determine what times are most advantageous, and what the local police response actions are likely to be etc.
Simultaneously, this is when they are likely to move their weapons into their safe house. ISIS might be unwashed morons stuck in the 8th century, but they are smart enough not to travel in large groups with explosives and AK-47’s. At the end of this step they have a 70% percent solution for all member’s actions during the attack.
This is their dress rehearsal. All members participating in the operation will run through a realistic rehearsal from leaving their safe house, to their communications plan, their physical movements, and their egress plan (if they aren’t planning on a suicide job). Generally, this phase is conducted within days of the actual attack.
Actions on Objective
This is the real deal, blood, chaos, and carnage. In general, these types of terrorist cells are no more than eight actual people with one person coordinating; however, this is a generalization. There have been instances where terrorists set up a command center thousands of miles away, monitor the news, twitter, and police actions while feeding that information back to the on scene commander.
Escape and Exploitation
If this is not a suicide operation, each member will likely split up and attempt to leave the country as soon as possible. If it is a suicide operation, only the coordinator is likely to be escaping. During the Paris attacks, ISIS did a poor job of exiting the country while the French admirably locked down their borders and tracked them down. Now that we know how terrorists go about their planning, how can we disrupt that? How can we piss in their cheerios?
To do this we must make a couple assumptions; first, they are fairly competent and won’t broadcast their plans all over the internet and twitter. Second, they will be foreign to their target country. Given these assumption there are only two places where we can disrupt their plans.
The soonest we can have an effect upon them using the above cycle is in Pre-Attack Surveillance. In this step there will a couple people hanging around in a given target area, attempting to get information that will further their planning. They will be taking photos, and recordings of the area to use in planning operations. These types of things can initially look innocuous; however, if you pay attention you’ll notice most tourists aren’t counting the number of police in an area, they aren’t looking for surveillance cameras, and they are usually smiling. I don’t know about you, but if I’m on an assignment I’m probably not smiling and yucking it up with passersby.
This is still early in the planning cycle. Consequently, it will be difficult to detect because there are so few people on the ground to find, and for the most part their actions are hard to detect. Which brings us to the other area we can disrupt them, Attack Rehearsal.
This is by far where we have the best chance of preventing an attack. During this time, all participants will be in the actual area running through their actions in the operation. This means their most moronic members will be in an area where we can see them. I’ll tell you a secret, the people that blow themselves up or agree to participate in a nearly suicidal operation are not smart. They are not likely to be familiar with the local customs and they probably will not fit in, even in areas with a diverse group of people.
What indicators should you look for? Groups of men 20-30 years of age, using cell phones to communicate. During the dress rehearsal, they are likely to talk on the phone out in open while scanning their surroundings for other members of their cell. Think about that for a second, most of the time, if you’re walking and talking on the phone, you aren’t looking in any general direction, you’re probably looking where you’re going.
Also, if you see someone talking on the phone while walking towards another person, then they hang up and continue the conversation face to face, that is a good indicator. They may also display these indicators multiple times with multiple people. You need to think to yourself, how often do you see groups of young, possibly middle eastern men, exhibit these types of behaviors in crowded public areas? Now that you are noticing these types of behaviors, what should you do about it?
Ideally, you should remain as discrete as possible. If they get into a vehicle, you should attempt to get the license plate and a description. I can’t emphasize how important that is. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve been on where all I get is a general description of the individuals. That really doesn’t help, unless I happen to see them immediately. A plate number is going to tell me where the car is registered and give me somewhere to start an investigation. Even if it is a rental, I can investigate them using the info they gave the rental company. So get the PLATE!! A description is nice, but it is definitely secondary to the plate.
Once you have all of this, call the Police and give them the information, including car description and direction of travel. Pro Tip …just take a photo of them getting into the car, try not to be obvious about it.
Once the Police arrive, tell them what you saw. Emphasize why what they were doing was different than what everyone else was doing. Show them the info. If the ISIS turds are still there, direct the police towards them. This in and of itself may be enough to stop an attack. If they are conducting a rehearsal for an attack and the police show up, even if its just to talk, they are likely to downgrade their chances of success. However, this may not be enough to halt an attack outright. So, what should you do if you find yourself in a the midst of an attack?
Step one, and I must emphasize this, get the hell out of there! Most folks reading this site probably carry a concealed firearm, but because they read my review on proper carry, they understand its limitations. Since that’s the case, you know your weapon is only to be used if you, or someone in your immediate area, can be saved without risking being killed yourself.
If there are multiple shooters, very close together, just run. You can then call the police. If you do see people being shot near you and there is no immediate hazard, take the shot. By all means, let some air out of their lungs. Remember, the number one goal is live to fight another day. They may be bent on suicide, but we’re not.
You will need to run about 4-5 blocks away, do not stop any closer as you could still be within range of a cell’s operational area and explosive casualty zone. I hope you you’ve been doing your pt.
Put solid walls between yourself and them. Drywall will not stop rifle rounds, brick and concrete will, at least for a few hits. If you have been running with your pistol in your hand, you need to re-holster it, especially if you hear sirens. You do not want to be the man holding a gun during an active shooter scenario when the police show up, it generally doesn’t end well for you!
Remember, if you find yourself in a shitty situation like this, your job is to get clear and help anyone else you can along the way. If the shooting has stopped, after the police arrive, you can begin to help others by administering first aid, but you aren’t Arnold from Commando. Don’t let Arnold’s sweet bicep veins trick you into thinking any of that movie shit should happen in real life. Pro tip, if you watch the movie the belt never gets shorter which proves if you are jacked you never need to reload.
Let’s summarize. All terrorists will operate in a similar manner. Realistically, we are only likely to stop them when they are in the area doing surveillance or a final rehearsal prior to the attack. Get those license plate numbers. Finally, if you are in the midst of an attack, get the hell out, use your gun as needed, but put it up when you hear sirens. Remember, the best time to stop an attack is before the loud noises start, so pay attention.