Counter-Terrorism Response: Civilian Guide
Essential counter-terrorism guide equipping civilians with critical insights from the CIA’s perspective to recognize, understand, and effectively respond to potential terrorist threats in everyday life.
In an era where the threat of terrorism looms in various forms where no city is completely safe, it’s crucial for civilians to be equipped with knowledge and awareness.
Drawing from the work of the Special Forces and CIA, this guide aims to educate readers on recognizing potential terrorist threats, understanding their tactics, and responding effectively in the event of an attack.
The principles of tradecraft, while primarily designed for covert operatives in the field, offer valuable insights into vigilance, preparedness and strategies that can be applied in everyday civilian life for when such a need arises.
Recognizing Potential Terrorist Threats
I) Understanding Terrorist Profiles
Terrorist operatives often try to blend into their surroundings to avoid detection (homegrown terrorists are naturally harder to detect). However, certain behaviors can be red flags:
• Surveillance: An individual or group repeatedly observing a location (government buildings, public transportation hubs, tourist attractions) could be gathering information for planning an attack.
• Elicitation: Attempts to gain information about operations or security measures in sensitive areas.
• Tests of Security: Probing actions to see how security responds, such as leaving unattended packages or breaching restricted areas.
• Acquiring Supplies: Purchasing or stealing materials that could be used in attacks, like firearms, explosives, chemical agents, and peculiar combination of items that individually are innocuous but together is suspicious.
II) Suspicious Behaviors and Indicators
• Unusual Interest: Showing excessive interest in security measures or personnel, entry and exit points, and peak operational hours.
• False Tourist Recording: Acting like a tourist taking photos and recording videos of seemingly non-touristy points of interest such as security cameras, security checkpoints, border gates, building entrances etc.
• Social Media Footprint: Extremist groups often use social media for recruitment and propaganda. Be wary of individuals sharing or promoting violent extremist materials.
• Dry Runs: Practice runs before the actual attack, often conducting a trial without the actual weapon or tool.
Understanding Terrorist Tactics
Terrorists adapt their tactics based on their environment and targets. Common tactics include:
• Bombings: Still the most common. Watch for unattended bags or packages in crowded areas or public transport. Particularly if an individual “accidentally” drops or leaves behind said bags or belongings.
• Armed Assaults: Attacks with firearms can occur anywhere. Note the importance of escape routes in your daily environments and potential places of cover you can get behind in any given area you’re in.
• Hostage Situations: While less common, understanding basic principles of hostage survival – like staying calm and observing captor routines – can be life-saving.
• Vehicle Ramming: Increasingly used to target crowded public spaces. Stay aware of your surroundings, especially when in large gatherings.
Responding to a Terrorist Attack
I) Immediate Actions
• Run and Hide: If escape is possible, it should be your first choice. If not, find a safe place to hide. Depending on the type of attack and if a secondary attack is imminent, getting as much distance or behind strong cover from the attack point is ideal.
• Engage: As a last or only resort, and only if your life is in imminent danger, attempt to defend against the attacker(s) until you have an opening to escape. Alternatively, for the trained and capable, actively engage the attacker(s) to stop them and or detain them with any means necessary.
• Follow Instructions of Security Personnel: In a crisis, following the directions of trained professionals is crucial. This typically comes some time after the attack by the police, first responders and others.
II) After the Attack
• After Attack Preparedness: Expect for the worst by being mentally prepared for a secondary attack, keep your wits sharp until an extended amount of time passes.
• Contact Authorities: Provide them with as much information as possible about the attackers, their location, identifying features and other relevant details.
• Stay Informed: Use reliable news sources to get updates on the situation
Vigilance and Reporting Suspicious Activities
I) See Something, Say Something
Reporting suspicious activities can prevent terrorist attacks. Contact local law enforcement if you observe anything unusual. Record anything that may be useful with your phone and deliberately memorize potentially important information.
II) Community Engagement
Terrorists often rely on the isolation from society. Building strong, inclusive communities can be one of the best defenses against extremism.
While the responsibility for counter-terrorism lies with specialized operatives and agencies, civilians have a crucial role to play in enhancing public safety. By staying informed, vigilant, and prepared, civilians can contribute significantly to thwarting terrorist threats and ensuring the security of their communities.
This guide, rooted in covert operative tradecraft, offers a structured approach to understanding, recognizing, and responding to terrorist activities.
[OPTICS : Bangkok, Thailand]