Multiple Terrorist Doctrine
By: Frank Borelli
with thanks to John Giduck
Not long ago I read through the book, "Terror At Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools" by John Giduck (review of the book here). The book so convinced me that we in law enforcement are training for the wrong threat (Active Shooter) that I doubted my own thought process. So, to double check my understanding, this past week I attended a presentation by John Giduck given at a conference in Washington , DC . What I found was that not only did I understand the book correctly, but the situation is worse than I actually perceived it. Understand that all of the following is provided thanks to Mr. John Giduck and his insights into the Beslan incident. I am merely reiterating his material and hope I got it all right out of my notes.
Through his presentation, Mr. Giduck explains the terrorist thought process and how the attacks / sieges they've committed have been motivated, planned and performed. Yes, I said "sieges". As Mr. Giduck explained:
There are two types of prevalent terrorist attacks -
The Decimation Assault - such as suicide bombings, drive by shootings, etc.
The Siege - otherwise known as a Mass Hostage Siege.
Recent history shows us two that were reported in the popular media: The taking of over 800 hostages at the NordOst Theater in Moscow , and the taking of over 1,200 students, teachers and parents at the school in Beslan.
As Mr. Giduck pointed out: the Beslan siege had a larger number of hostages than that of the NordOst theater. Every time the terrorists attack they have to do something bigger and better. Follow that to the logical conclusion and that means that IF or WHEN they take over a target in America , the number of hostages will HAVE to be in excess of 1,200.
Now let's take a look at the popular targets, preferred method of attack and the resultant bad news for the United States:
1) Transportation: public transit systems can be attacked to cause interuption in service. The preferred method of attack is a Decimation Assault - suicide (although I prefer the term HOMICIDE) bomber. Poison has been used in other attacks, but the end affect is still roughly the same - there are a limited number of victims and a relatively short burst of media attention.
2) Malls: although we have these in abundance in the United States , the number of terrorists required to actually take over, secure and hold a mall would be difficult to mount. Therefore, the preferred method of attack would likely be the Decimation Assault. Not that the numbers of victims would be small. Virtually any urban mall on a Saturday night is packed with potential casualties.
3) Places of Worship: bearing in mind that a number of Imams have specifically stated that places of worship are viable targets. Skip Saturday night at the mall and you can hit Sunday morning in the churches all around our country. It is not coincidental that our "heartland" is largely populated by conservative devout citizens. Again, the method of attack would most likely be a Decimation Assault simply because there are very few churches where any terrorist would have a hope of taking more than 1,200 hostages.
4) Schools: Here is the bad news. We have schools in abundance. A great many high schools, and even plenty of our junior high / middle schools have student counts in excess of 1,200. I went to a private high school and even it had a student count near 1,000. Add in teachers and staff and how quick can you reach 1,200 or more? Now let's make it even scarier. We all know how the country reacted to two students killing thirteen people at Columbine. Those were high school students and a teacher. All of them were at least fourteen years old. Look at what the reaction was. Now imagine what it would have been had that been an elementary school and that those thirteen dead had been children under the age of ten. At Beslan, the terrorists had, as their hostages, babies still in diapers and children of all ages.
Now consider this: Al Queda trains to hit four targets at once. Why? As Mr. Giduck explains, because even terrorists understand Murphy's Law: what can go wrong will. If they plan and attempt to execute four simultaneous attacks, they expect at least two to move forward. If only ONE does and they get the kind of media attention they crave, then they've succeeded in part of their goal.
Now, before I attended Mr. Giduck's presentation, I would have assumed that there was simply no way that 49 or 50 terrorists could infiltrate the United States , secure weapons, plan the attack(s) and execute them. If you look at the recent news reports you can find - on any given day - reports on how many illegal immigrants are flowing into our country. How many of them could be terrorists? Potentially worse yet, how many terrorists are applying for political asylum from any country and getting temporary or permanent visas? We already know that they know how to get student and visitor visas. Still, how realistic is it to expect that 49 terrorists (the number that took Beslan school) will attack a single American school?
Let's take a look at a relatively small number: 15. Even using as an example only fifteen terrorists taking over a school, the challenges we face are immediate and daunting.
First, let's consider this: who is responsible for responding? Who will negotiate? Who will assault? Do any of our current tactical protocols effectively address the situation? I will answer these in that order.