Saturday, January 3, 2009

Your Own Safety: Dealing With A Bomber

Israel has moved to a ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Ukraine and Russia are squabbling over natural gas supplies. All over the world, tensions are building.

There has been debate within intelligence circles concerning whether or not an established terror group, other than Al-Qaeda, would sanction a suicide bombing within the United States. Many terror groups receive funding and sympathetic support from segments within the American population. They are well aware of how those ties were strained by the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Many of the more vocal anti-Israel , pro-Palestinian voices went silent for a time following the attacks. Ostensibly, fearful of extreme reactions from average Americans. Some Americans had already engaged in acts of retribution targeting those who appeared to be of Middle Eastern origins.

The unspoken fear among anti-terror authorities, terror groups, and those who support extremist causes within the existing societal framework, is that a rogue terrorist will strike.

Terror groups and their supporters are afraid of rogue attacks because such an attack will harm their cause. The attack would more than likely evaporate any sympathy that has been generated within the average American. Such an attack will cause Americans to demand actions against a perceived enemy. The protests against profiling would in all likelyhood, disappear, thus making movement of men, money, and materials more difficult.

The authorities are fearful of the rogue terrorist because they strike without warning, and are not easily tracked through normal intelligence channels. One man. One bomb. One mission. It is highly unlikely that such an individual would trigger any suspicion in the surrounding community.

In 1997, one Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Maizar came close to becoming the first Middle Eastern style suicide bomber to strike within the United States. He had constructed several bullet and nail laden devices that he had intended to carry into a New York subway station.

Maizar's room mate became aware of the plot only hours before Maizar planned to strike and alerted authorities.

To illustrate how difficult it is to track a lone bomber one only has to look at the case of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski's reign or terror lasted seventeen years. Bear in mind, Kaczynski was not a bomber who targeted random people. He was in contact with authorities, newspapers, and even some of his own victims, yet the FBI was no closer to apprehending Kaczynski or even deducing his identity. If David Kaczynski, Ted's brother, had not alerted authorities to the possibility of Ted being the Unabomber, the cases may never have been solved.

More recently, there is the case of James Chester Blanning from Aspen Colorado. Although Blanning had several run ins with local authorities, no one viewed him as a potential bomber.

According to The Department Of Homeland Security, there are no defining characteristics of a suicide bomber. Israel, on the other hand, has had copious amounts of experience and has compiled a list of behaviors exhibited by bombers.

1) The appearance of being nervous. They may seem preoccupied or have a blank stare.

2) Focused intent and vigilance. Such an acute focus may result in no response to verbal or other contact.

3) An awkward attempt to blend in. Behavior will seem odd or overtly out of place.

4) Avoidance behaviors toward authority. If security is present, suicide bomber tries to be inconspicuous. The person may engage strangers in an overly familiar and animated conversation, move laterally away from security, or attempt to place structural features or decorative features between them and security in an attempt to mask themselves from observation.

5) May be praying fervently to him/herself. This gives the appearance of talking or whispering to someone. Keep in mind that many people talk to themselves, thus this behavior in and of itself has little meaning. Further, either of these behaviors could be confused with speaking on a cell phone headset. Note from author: Here in the United States, Arabic languages stand out.

6) Behavior may be consistent with that of a person without any future. For example, giving away things of value, buying a one-way ticket, or being unconcerned about receiving change for a purchase.

7) Profuse sweating that is not consistent with weather conditions.

8) Walking deliberately toward a specific object or target, often pushing their way through a crowd or around barriers. May show a high degree of focus or intent, especially if the target is in sight.

9) Lack of mobility of the torso may cause the body to appear rigid. This is due to the bomb device that is strapped to the body. The increased use of backpacks may reduce or eliminate this element.

10) In order to disguise the appearance, a beard may have been recently shaved or the hair cut short. There is a noticeable difference in the skin color of the recently shaved area.

11) In order to smell good on arriving in Paradise, the suicide bomber may use herbal or floral scented colognes.

General appearance of a bomber:

1) Clothing that does not match the weather. For example, wearing a heavy coat on a warm day.

2) Clothing that is excessively loose, giving the appearance that the head is out of proportion with the body. The loose clothing is used to conceal explosives worn close to the body.

3) The suicide bomber may carry a backpack, bag, briefcase or luggage. These items may be out of place in certain venues. IE. Carrying a briefcase to a football game.

4) The detonating switch is often held in a clenched fist. Backup devices might also be used, including a timer, pager, cellular phone or booby-trap switch. An accomplice or supervisor can remotely detonate the bomb if the attacker is detained or killed, or if the attack is otherwise aborted.

5) The appearance of excessive weight. Many bombs will be packed with shrapnel such as ball bearings, nuts, bolts, screws, nails or other small metal objects. Bombers may appear to be struggling to walk or their gait will appear unnatural.

What to do when you suspect someone may be a bomber:

1) Remove yourself as quickly as possible from the area.

2) Try and place as many structural objects between yourself and the suspected bomber. This may help deflect energy from the blast and also shield you from shrapnel.

3) Notify authorities. Note clothing, approximate height, weight, hair color and any facial hair or prominent markings such as scars or tattoos.

Although it may seem selfish to ignore alerting others, and removing only yourself from proximity of the suspected bomber, you must keep in mind several things:

1) Your immediate area may not be the site of the intended attack. He may just be passing through.

2) If the bomber is tipped off that he has been identified, he may detonate his bomb early.

3) Many times the bomber has a handler, and the handler may detonate the bomb remotely if he thinks the operation has been compromised.

What to do if confronted by a suicide bomber:

Sometimes, not always, bombers will shout something immediately before detonating their payload.

Drop to the floor. Lay flat. Close your eyes, and attempt to protect your head and ears awith your arms. Exhale and hold your breath. If tables are present, turn them over and place them between you and the bomber. Be aware that the blast may tear the table from your grasp. The table may help to absorb some of the shrapnel and blast forces.


Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Christ on a rubber crutch..Dig in, ' cause i got to treat this as bad as a hollywood movie...

Let's begin with reflections on the section directly following "behaviors exibited by bombers"
[By Number]:
1)Like i probably look entering the local H.E.B, intent on price-comparisons...
2) Such as intently holding mentally the other store's 'Treet' price to compare with this one's...
3)Yeah, like i ain't already "different" and proud of it
4)uh, because the first thing i wanna do is find some rent-a-cop and banter...
5) agreed on this one. thank the gods i don't speak sandskrit...
7)Damn.. as an alcoholic...
8)Like, "Treet was $1.25 over there... Treet was $1.25 over there...Treet was $1.25..."
9)Because of the envious physical fitness level of the majority of sheeple, you mean???
10)Scary. My clean-cut american look always leaves a horrendous whitish area due to time b'tween trims...
11) so easy to single this man out-- fortunate that the majority of Americans don't believe in Fragrances...

And on to the next...

1) When in Rome...
When i lived on the island of Ouahu, the temps would drop into the mid-50's long about dec-feb. I'm from the Lone Star State. They, the Aloha. I had shorts on. They had jackets...
2) good thing today's youth see the value of Tight-Fitting-Jeans...
3)Yep; me goin' in to the Nascar event with my 84-quart cooler, Illl never stand out...

Sorry, Catman it's not like i WANTED to spend this much time pickin' apart stereotypes... it's just what i saw.


HermitJim said...

You know, I never thought about it. I guess, like most Americans, I've been doing the head in the sand thing. Even if we think it could never happen to us, we should know the signs.

Better to have this kind of knowledge and NOT need it , than to need it and not have it!

Good post with very valid points!

Catman said...

Hey Cygnus,

No harm, man. It isn't ONE characteristic, perhaps I should have been more clear on that point. It's a conjunction of many characteristics that point to someone potentially being a suicide bomber.

An example might be you're getting ready to enter a mall. You notice a man walking toward the mall. It's 70 degrees. He's wearing a large heavy coat. He's obviously perspiring. He seems oblivious to people around him and is walking towards the entrance and the people around him are forced to move out of his way. You notice that he is breathing heavily, obviously exerting himself, and his legs aren't moving in a normal fashion. It almost appears that he is waddling.

A long time ago, I worked in Loss Prevention for a major chain of department stores. It got to the point that I could look at someone as they entered the store and just know they were there to steal. Granted, it wasn't 100%, maybe 80% they would go good. Things would freak them out, they would change their mind and dump what they had, a sales associate was too helpful...that kind of thing. Those were the amateurs. The pros. That was an entirely different story. It was hard to pick them out. They'd done it so long that they didn't have any "tells".

Cops can frequently do the same thing. For example, they can just know who is carrying. Who is the dealer and who is holding.

Suicide bombers are amateurs. They don't live long enough to perfect their craft, so they have a lot of behavioral markers.

This was just to give a list of what many people who survived these events gave to authorities as observations of the individual prior to the blast.

Just a couple of things, out here in California people are not allowed to take large coolers into the stands at the NASCAR races anymore. Security inspects everything at the gates. You guys still can take large coolers in? (Used to be a crew chief for a South West Tour Team).

What is this "Treet" you refer to? I've never heard of it.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Catman said...

Thanks Jim!

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

I understand your points, and they are valid. don't know what sent me on such a long-winded spout... thanks for not takin' it as ugly as i put it across...

The TREET is Armour (hey, never thought about the irony there!)-- anyhow, Armour meat co.'s version of Spam; in local stores they're usually right next to each other. Treet i got last night was $1.14; spam was priced @ $2.24.
Same tripe (i opine), so ...


Ken said...

...evenin' Catman...good post,all valid to some degree...i touched on these(not specifics tho)at Bullseyes' place,during the social stealth much info available about each and every individual,just by lookin' at 'em...moreso if given the opportunity to speak to,or hear them speak...

Catman said...

Hey Cygnus,

What you said wasn't ugly. It was what you saw, and I appreciate your candor. We're all learning from each other.

We all have our very own BS detector, and frequently its been calibrated by our own life experiences. I'm not sure where you live, but my brother used to live in St. Louis, Mo.

It was a culture shock to go from California to the Mid-West. I remember stopping at a small market somewhere in the middle of Kansas. I bought a few oranges, apples, and bananas for the rest of the ride east.

I made the mistake of bagging my own groceries. The checker looked at me and said, "You're from California, aintcha?"

"How could you tell?"

"Here we bag the customers purchases for them, and this nice young man will carry it to your car for you."

"It's only one bag", I said.

"It doesn't matter, honey. We treat people like people out here. I'm glad I left California ten years ago."

So, if someone had told me there were grocery stores that still bagged and carried your purchases out to the car for you, I'd have thought it was a bunch of BS.

However, the chains here in California have started to use courtesy clerks again. That's kind of a mixed bag. No pun intended.

It was eerie for me when I read what to look for in a suicide bomber. Many of their characteristics mimic those of a shop lifter.

Thanks for the explanation of Treet. I've never seen it.

Catman said...

Hey Ken,

Glad you stopped by. Hope all is well for you. You've seemed kinda stressed lately.