Preventing Terrorism

By Chris Terzich, President, Minnesota InfraGard
Today and over the next several weeks, we are going to start a discussion which will take place around something called the “Eight Signs of Terrorism”, and over the next several weeks look to answer questions like these:

  • Should we even concern ourselves with terrorism? 
  • Isn’t deterring, detecting, preventing and responding to terrorism something the government should be doing? 
  • A competent terrorist intent on attacking us really can’t be stopped anyway, right? 
First, let's look at surveillanceSurveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people and often in a surreptitious manner.  What surveillance is not likely to be someone in a black hat with sunglasses and binoculars.   

Does surveillance even take place?  One case can provide insight: Hosam Smadi.  Smadi was born in Jordan in 1990 and arrested and convicted of planning a terrorist bombing of Fountain Place, a downtown skyscraper in Dallas, Texas, on September 24, 2009.

Fountain Place, Dallas
According to the arrest warrant, there were multiple times where Smadi talked about or conducted surveillance:

  • “I would have entered the building prior, to see how security is, how they search, what type of security”
  • “I present to you a small research for the location from my own home.  The big research, such as examining the interior of the building, the security systems, and the entry ways to execute and plant (the bomb) has not started.”
  • On July 21, Smadi conducted surveillance of Fountain Place.  He located a bathroom on the basement level that would be a good location to “plant a bomb”.  He further detailed that he had accessed the drop ceiling in pursuit of a place for a bomb.

The arrest warrant suggests that Smadi had conducted several acts of surveillance at multiple locations.  Smadi was the subject of FBI investigation during this time and never had possession of explosives.  This is very fortunate.  Had he been working with other terrorists and not undercover FBI agents, when he dialed the cell phone trigger on September 24th, the effects would have been devastating

In the 10 months he took to plan his attempt, there were likely many opportunities for his plans to be detected.  Were they?  Did someone see him and think afterwards, “Something just didn’t seem right”?  This is a frequent refrain after someone commits a violent act.  There are almost always a few people who thought something was out of place. 

In his bestseller, “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell explores a growing body of research that suggests our brains have far greater awareness than our “conscious” minds perceive.  In some situations, what we see, hear, feel or smell may trigger lightning-fast understanding about a threat or danger that we only know as a “gut-feeling” or “intuition”. 

If you see someone behaving oddly, particularly in a large, public place, or near critical infrastructure, trust your gut: 

  • Report crimes or dangerous situations immediately to local authorities (911 or your local number).
  • Report suspected terrorism or criminal activity to the FBI online
  • To provide information on select major cases, call the FBI’s Major Case Contact Center at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324)
Additional Information: