Monday, August 13, 2007

Other terrorist threats

While there has been a great deal of attention paid to the threat posed by Al Qaeda in potential terrorist attacks against chemical facilities, there is nothing in the new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATs, 6 CFR part 27) that refers to Al Qaeda or infers that there is only a single type of terrorist threat. In fact, the recent National Intelligence Estimate, The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland, mentions threats of terrorist attack by Hizballah, home grown Islamic radicals, and “single issue” non-Muslim terrorist groups, specifically saying:



“We assess that globalization trends and recent technological advances will continue to enable even small numbers of alienated people to find and connect with one another, justify and intensify their anger, and mobilize resources to attack—all without requiring a centralized terrorist organization, training camp, or leader.”


One such “single interest” group that has been showing increasing readiness to use violence in support of their cause is the radical side of the animal rights movement. Last month there was an attempted bombing of a UCLA researcher’s car, purportedly by the Animal Liberation Brigade.   Jerry Vlasak, co-founder of  the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, and self appointed spokesman for radical animal rights groups has been quoted in the LA Weekly as saying; ““I think the animal-rights movement has been way too slow in taking radical actions,” he says. “And they’ve been way too nice.””


This is not the only type of group that has its violent radical fringe. In fact, every legitimate protest group in the country attracts its own radical element that, while beyond the control of the main stream body, receives some measure of support and respect from the nonviolent side of the protest. This was seen in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the Anti-War movement of the 1970s, and more recently in the Anti-Abortion movement. Similar fringe groups can be found associated with almost any significant protest movement.


While it is easy to dismiss these small fringe groups as being ineffective, we must remember that the second most deadly terrorist attack in the United States to date, the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, OK was carried out by a small group of people, with only two being actively involved in the actual plot. Facilities storing dangerous chemicals are potentially a valuable target for such groups because a relatively small, uncomplicated attack, if successful, can have a spectacular result.


Chemical facilities will have to take these fringe groups into account when they do their security planning. Part of the Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) that all high risk facilities are required to submit to DHS includes a threat assessment. In this part of their SVA the facility should include mention of any organizations with potential fringe elements that may pose a threat to the facility because of facility’s products, business associates, or political ties in this country or overseas. These fringe organizations may increase the threat to that particular facility beyond that seen in the industry as a whole.


Threat assessment is a key part of any security plan. Acknowledging that fringes of political and social protest movements may pose a threat to organizations or facilities protested against is a first step in developing a viable threat assessment.

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