Istanbul Pre-Attack Planning: The Terrorist’s Greatest Vulnerability

June 30, 2016


It was carried out in a way that suggests the kind of advance intelligence, careful study of a target, and cool execution that would normally be practiced by Western special forces.

Excerpted from:
Istanbul Ataturk Airport Terrorists Behaved Like a Special Forces Unit
June 29, 2016
The Daily Beast

This article by the Daily Beast accurately describes the level of sophistication and pre-attack planning used by many terrorist organizations in preparing for an operation like the one in Istanbul; however, this is not a new development. On the contrary, beginning as far back as the Abu Nidal attacks against the airports in Rome and Vienna in 1985, our adversaries have always shown the ability to carefully select, study and attack a target – regardless of the physical security measures in place.

Simply placing security guards or protective barriers around a site does not, in fact, dissuade the committed terrorist. As described in the Daily Beast article, and as we have witnessed in countless terror attacks around the world, “hardening” the attack objective will, at best, cause the perpetrators to modify their attack plans to circumvent the new security features – but rarely convinces them to abandon the operation. [What is a hard target?] Additionally, as described in our recent interview with WTOP in Washington DC, if the attack team fails to hit its primary target at the site, they will simply shift to “Plan B” and attack secondary targets of opportunity that they have already identified in their pre-attack planning. [TRAPWIRE Director provides insight on terrorist rationale to WTOP]

It is physically and financially impossible to harden every public and private sector site in the United States. Nor is that the kind of society most Americans would want to live in. We can, however, make it much more difficult for terrorists to achieve success by becoming more aware of our surroundings and developing a true information sharing platform between the public and private sectors that can alert our law enforcement and intelligence services about possible attacks. Terrorists are most vulnerable when they are in the attack planning stage of the Attack Cycle, and much more difficult to defeat once the attack is already underway. In order to insure success, the terrorists must have “eyes on target” (a simple Google Maps search of your site is not sufficient to plan these kinds of attacks), which will require repeated visits to the target objective. The behavior of a surveillant around your site is discernable and detectable; we have trained more than 30,000 law enforcement and private security officers to detect these behaviors with great success. With this knowledge you can effectively deny our adversaries the most critical part of their attack plan: the ability to identify your vulnerabilities and security procedures, and plan their attack accordingly.

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