February 28, 2017
The recent spate of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCC) raises several questions:
- Are these threats solely for the purposes of intimidation?
- Is there a pattern to the threats?
- And most troubling: Could the threats be used to view security and evacuation protocols in preparation for an attack?
This picture epitomizes several security vulnerabilities associated with the JCC threats. Imagine that the individual calling in the threats is actually observing evacuation procedures via on-the-ground surveillance for this particular JCC. Perhaps their intention is not to plant a bomb inside the JCC, but instead to wait for the evacuation, and then harm individuals clustered outside the building. It is also possible the perpetrators are studying first-responder protocols during the evacuations and maybe planning a secondary attack against them. We have observed this type of terrorist M.O. in several locations overseas.
Adding further confusion to the situation is that the volume of bomb threats may actually be intended to hide the attackers’ true intention. If the attacker planned to attack a single JCC (or multiple JCCs in a geographic area), initiating multiple bomb threats at JCCs throughout the country, without showing a specific focus on a single geographic region, allows the attackers to mask their true target. Additionally, like the homeowner who finally turns off the burglar alarm after repeated false alarms, the perpetrators may be counting on first responders and JCC employees to tire of the threats and let their guards down.
JCCs, and the Jewish community at large, must remain vigilant of the threats facing them. As we describe above: A secondary or tertiary attack against a cluster of people after a bomb threat will likely yield a greater casualty count than a single gunman targeting a JCC site. JCC members and Security Directors must continue to collect and report suspicious activities and collaborate with local LE. Collection and info-sharing/collaboration are key to staying “left of boom.”