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Thread: What & Who discovers terrorist plots?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What & Who discovers terrorist plots?

    I have long been intrigued over the role of the public in the early identification of terrorist plots, with post scattered in several threads and hearing a variety of high-level speakers give differing answers, or no answer at all.

    Hat tip to an Indian friend who pointed to a US study I'd missed:
    research done by North Carolina based Homeland Security Solutions, a private group, proves this. They examined 86 terror attacks between 1999 and 2009. Of this, 18 were carried out, including 9/11; 68 were foiled; 20 each were detected by the public and federal agencies, 13 through advance intelligence and the local police detected 15.
    The cited report awaits reading and I shall return another time, meantime the summary states:
    More than 80% of foiled terrorist plots were discovered via observations from law enforcement or the general public
    The link is:https://www.ihssnc.org/portals/0/Bui...lues_Strom.pdf

    In the UK historically there has been very little public information, although of late officialdom cites two examples.

    This is a thread in progress.
    davidbfpo

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    David, this should be an interesting and worthwhile line of study that potentially could increase the effectiveness of our unofficial civilian surveillance methods (meaning civilians looking for suspicious activity, not law enforcement intruding in civilian lives without just cause). Our public (in the U.S.) is sensitized to varying degrees to detect suspicious behavior, yet that could still be enhanced through public awareness programs (training for detecting both terrorist and criminal pre-execution behaviors). Although much improved since 9/11, our biggest challenge seems to be law enforcement's ability to receive these reports and fuse these reports in a common database (that local, state and federal can all access), and then have enough trained analysts to connect the dots. Fortunately, when want to be terrorists are dumb enough to buy certain materials and ask questions that makes the hair on the back of your neck raise, that is normally enough to prompt local law enforcement to investigate. For terrorists and criminals that are more sophisticated, like the 9/11 terrorists, the key is connecting the fuzzy dots.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 08-09-2011 at 04:59 PM.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Blindness in Turkey

    This is copied from a post added 23/1/10 to a thread on Turkey's experience.

    One of the few open source articles that provides some context for the role of the public is from Turkey:http://ccj.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/2/142 (Behind a pay wall, although I have a copy).

    In November 2003, a series of coordinated suicide bombings were carried out by al-Qaeda in Istanbul. The targets represented Israel and the West, including two synagogues, an HSBC bank, and the British consulate. The attacks resulted in 68 deaths and more than 700 injured. The investigation and arrests that ensued revealed that the network involved in the bombings had trained in Afghanistan. Of particular interest was the interpersonal web that grew from the four suicide bombers as well as the range of materials confiscated in the investigation. (My emphasis)Specifically, nearly 300 people were identified who had some knowledge of the planned attack. Of these, 48 were viewed as hard-core committed terrorists, leaving approximately 250 community members who were not ideologically committed to al-Qaeda’s goals and who had some information that potentially could have been used in preventive action.
    Chilling and possibly a reason why it is the only example in the public domain I know of, with numbers.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The most effective tool

    In June 2011 a Saudi diplomat at a lecture stated:
    The most effective tool is the citizen in the neighbourhood and their reports to the police. That tip-off starts the process and this has been a tremendous tool for the KSA, especially since 2006'.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default 21/7/2005 bombings - London lesson learnt

    In November 2005 after the 7/7 bombings Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, stated:
    It is not the police and the intelligence agencies who will defeat crime and terror and anti-social behaviour; it is communities.
    He also referred to the role of the public, acknowledging the information came after the 21/7 attacks:
    A local authority worker identified the flat, which three men shown on the CCTV images had frequented: this was the bomb factory. However, he also mentioned that he had found dozens of empty peroxide bottles in the waste bins. Had we had one of our neighbourhood policing teams in place then he probably would have told us about what he had found. Peroxide is the basis of the bombs.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pre...dimbleby.shtml
    davidbfpo

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    It is not the police and the intelligence agencies who will defeat crime and terror and anti-social behaviour; it is communities.
    True if:

    A formal or informal community watch is organized (either self organized or organized by local government officials) and sensitized to detect and report on certain types of behaviors.

    Reports are acted upon by the appropriate officials.

    This relatively simple and cost effective organization (formal/informal) would do more to limit terrorist and criminal freedom of movement than the billions we're spending now on technical surveillance.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    I know of a case (not in the US) in which a significant plot that was broken up due to specific intelligence was publicly attributed to a combination of police work and accident... presumably to avoid revealing or hinting at the source of the intel. I would not be surprised if this has happened in other cases, though it would be difficult to confirm.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Discovery update: a UK example

    Recently there were a series of arrests in Birmingham (UK), which led to six men being charged regarding a planned bombing campaign; for some background and details see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15054790

    What is noteworthy - for this thread - is that the senior police officer responsible has publicly commented:
    The actual case does not rely upon what local people were telling us, that came later - afterwards and we are grateful for that.
    Some, if not all of those arrested were known in their local communities as being Jihadist "hot-heads" and who had of late become more vocal; so people began to disassociate themselves from the group and stated words similar to "The police will be calling on them soon, if they keep on talking like this".
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Missing the 'dots': Mumbai attacks

    Reading Stephen Tankel's book on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) I found references to prior information being given to the US authorities on David Headley, he Pakistani-American, by his wives, to officials in the USA, August 2005 and Pakistan, in 2007. The DNI later ordered a review, result not known to Tankel.

    The original source was ProPublica, an investigative journalism site:http://www.propublica.org/article/ne...meline-in-mumb

    Note this article refers to three other sources, friends or relatives, giving information.

    I shall leave aside the many issues that arise, notably intelligence management decision-making and the value of such information.

    One caller never had an update to his call. I know from my experience feedback is vital and can generate additional calls.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default US (Muslim) citizen reporting: 20% of all cases

    Taken from a wider review of the 'Muslim 'Homegrown' Terrorism in the United States: How Serious Is the Threat?' which appears in the fall 2011 issue of International Security, from the Belfer Centre; with my emphasis:
    In fact, the evidence suggests that engaging in terrorist activity in the United States carries a serious risk of exposure. First, although difficult to quantify, societal awareness about terrorism has grown considerably over the years. In October 2010, for example, members of a Hawaiian mosque reported to authorities a new member whose recent move to the area raised their suspicions. Contrast this with the hospitality and no-questions-asked reception that the Muslim community in San Diego gave to two of the September 11 hijackers in the months preceding the attacks. Additionally, over the past decade, alert citizens otherwise unacquainted with the would-be perpetrators have reported apparent terrorist activity involving American Muslims to authorities. Second, as the result of both a significant investment in grassroots counterterrorism efforts spanning the federal, state, and local levels as well as expanded prerogatives such as the availability of FBI assessments, would-be terrorists must contend with an increasingly sophisticated monitoring and investigative apparatus. Third, American Muslim communities have demonstrated a willingness to report aspiring terrorists in their midst—a dynamic that, according to several studies, has occurred in more than 20 percent of terrorism-related cases. Consider that Shahzad is the only homegrown Muslim terrorist unknown to authorities before he tried to execute his plot.
    Link:http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/...ed_states.html
    davidbfpo

  11. #11
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Suspicious Activity Reporting: 99.99997% worth O

    Found on a previously unheard of blogsite:
    ...there were 161,948 suspicious activity files in the classified Guardian database, mostly leads from FBI headquarters and state field offices. Two years ago, the bureau set up an unclassified section of the database so state and local agencies could send in suspicious incident reports and review those submitted by their counterparts in other states. Some 890 state and local agencies have sent in 7,197 reports so far. And the results? Five arrests and NO convictions.

    “Ninety-nine percent doesn’t pan out or lead to anything” said Richard Lambert Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville office. “But we’re happy to wade through these things.”

    No, it’s not 99% doesn’t pan out…It’s 99.99997% that doesn’t pan out
    Link:http://twshiloh.com/?p=4574 and originally in the WaPo 'Top Secret America' articles.
    davidbfpo

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    Default It's only a domestic; no wrong

    From a longer article on a current UK terrorism trial; which covers other points, notably being self-radicalised:
    Police were called to their marital home in Foster Street, Oldham, but as officers dealt with the domestic dispute and with Shasta still upset and worked up, a "wholly unexpected turn of events occurred", Miss Cheema said.

    "A member of her family, one of her brothers, told the police, in Shasta Khan's presence, 'We have something that I think might be interesting to you, I think he's a home-grown terrorist'."

    The wife then took the opportunity to "spill the beans" and cause "serious trouble" for her husband - but left out her own alleged involvement in any terror offences.
    Link:http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/977...rror_offences/

    It's a classic, imagine the attending officer calling back "Can I have the CT police here".
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Stung once, not again Mister

    Hat tip to Stratfor giving a hint to the role of the public in the case of Naser Jason Abdo:
    planning to attack a restaurant frequented by soldiers from Fort Hood (in July 2011)
    The public's role:
    On July 27, 2011, Abdo raised the suspicion of the staff of "Guns Galore" in Killeen Texas by buying an unusually large amount of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a pistol. A clerk notified the Killeen Police Department who, in turn, tracked Abdo to the America's Best Value Inn and Suites via the taxi that he had taken to make his purchase. Guns Galore was the store in which Nidal Malik Hasan bought a pistol used in the Fort Hood shootings.
    Link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naser_Jason_Abdo

    I expect the Guns Galore staff and management were all too aware of the purchases being suspicious, even allowing for a two year gap. Would another local gun store have done the same thing?
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Communities may not know about extremists

    Within a far wider report by Clints Watts, aka CWOT on SWC, there is this passage, with my emphasis:
    U.S. law enforcement has dramatically increased its community-oriented policing strategies with the Muslim community leading to increased detection and preemption of extremism. However, as noted by Kurzman and Jenkins, the past decade’s incidents of MuslimAmerican extremism provide no particular profile and provide no basis to conclude that extremists will reside in Muslim communities. In addition, if an extremist does reside in a Muslim community, there is no reason to assume that the Muslim community will be aware of potential extremists in their midst.
    Link and the passage is on pg. 11:http://www.fpri.org/pubs/2012/201208...calization.pdf
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Non-public help: Uncle Sam's (helping) hand

    The reverse of public sources and my error in not posting before today.

    Nigel Inkster, ex-No.2 at SIS, in an article in 'Survival' a year ago made an interesting comment on the role of US intelligence in all UK CT investigations:
    Referring to the USA acting as 'counter-terrorism collector of first resort to the international community. Of the many plots that Western European services disrupted between 2001 and the present, there was none which did not benefit from game-changing US intelligence....there is no doubt that the US did more to make Europe safe from terrorism that Europe was able to do for itself'.
    From: 'In 9/11/11: A Decade of Intelligence', Survival December 2011-January 2012, pgs. 5-12 (quote pg.10).
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default No public help in UK's biggest plot since 7/7

    I refer to the recent trial and convictions of three main plotters in the UK, for some background:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21414518

    ...it has emerged that, at no point during the 18-month investigation, did anyone in Birmingham’s Muslim community inform on the behaviour of the three...This comes despite the families of the four other men – who later pleaded guilty – intervening early themselves to bring their sons back from Pakistan....the four families “had become aware” the men had travelled for terrorism training ...None of the men received any training as they left the camps after just a day....Three of the four came back almost immediately, while the fourth stayed with his family in Pakistan.
    The senior police officer, for CT stated:
    I agree it would have been really good if more could have been shared with us, and we could have dealt with it in a different way. In terms of community engagement, would I like them to come forward more? Yes, I would. Do I think they (the Muslim community) were being disruptive – no, I do not....For the evidential journey .. there was some reporting of (relatively minor - including fake charity collections on the streets of Birmingham) concerns of these people over the years and that was properly followed through.
    Link:http://www.policeoracle.com/news/Cri...ive_61495.html

    Some of the reporting here differs on the four young men travelling to a terror training camp in Pakistan; the common features are that family pressure turned them round and no-one in the UK told the authorities.

    I will try to get a community activist to explain what happened.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-01-2013 at 12:16 AM.
    davidbfpo

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    Maybe a rather slanted claim in Canada, regarding the recent arrests of two plotting an attack on the Canada-US VIA rail link, as the author is the lawyer who handled the initial information on the plotters:
    A tipoff from a prominent Toronto imam through our law office (Kutty, Syed and Mohamed) more than a year ago appears to be at the heart of the arrests this week in the alleged VIA Rail terror plot. In fact, counterterrorism police began their press briefing by thanking Muslim leaders.
    Link:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/comme...ng_terror.html
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Update on the Canadian plotters

    A third person has now been charged in NYC, with immigration fraud and is linked to the other two. A UC was involved.

    Link:http://www.fbi.gov/newyork/press-rel...onal-terrorism
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default RAND on Crowd-sourcing Our Security

    A blog piece by Brian M. Jenkins, which reviews more citizen involvement in the USA post-Boston:http://www.rand.org/blog/2013/05/cro...TKhSG0.twitter
    davidbfpo

  20. #20
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Where is the tipping point in suspicion?

    A rather good BBC article which poses the question after the Woolwich murder and a particularly nasty child murder in rural Wales:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22731671

    When "snitching" and other phrases are used to advocate public reporting more few ever mention this:
    Criminologist David Wilson says it's impossible to pinpoint when oddball behaviour turns into something worth reporting: "There is no tipping point."
    davidbfpo

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