December 4, 2015
While the exact motive for this week’s horrific attack in San Bernadino remains unclear, based on the evidence collected thus far, most security experts and government analysts believe this to have been a terrorist operation. The weapons used, timing of the attack, and planned escape route all point towards a high degree of pre-attack planning. Although many people are struggling to understand why the Inland Regional Center was targeted (as opposed to a high-profile iconic site), or why the attackers planned an escape route rather than martyr themselves at the scene, we view these factors as indicators of a potential new modus operandi for attacks on the homeland. US citizens who self-radicalize and commit lone wolf attacks should be expected to plan terror operations differently than jihadists in conflict zones around the world. It is our assessment that “American jihadists” will likely plan to attack soft targets of convenience rather than iconic sites (as witnessed in Ft. Hood, Chattanooga, etc.). These individuals will likely also continue to use firearms and small, homemade IEDs instead of sophisticated/larger explosives, given the relative ease of acquisition and preparation. And, importantly, we believe more attacks in the US may be planned with an escape route in mind rather than as suicide operations. This new survivability dynamic will require even greater pre-attack planning and reconnaissance of the target site(s) by the perpetrators – which can provide security personnel and others additional opportunities to detect these types of operations in the preparatory phases. One point is clear: security experts need to re-think previous assumptions regarding target selection, attack methodology and survivability of the attack team in order to better understand and plan for attacks on the homeland.