Monday, October 4, 2010

Extreme Militias and Chemical Security

There is an interesting (and lengthy) article at about the ‘Secret World of Extreme Militias’. The author looks at a wide variety of people and organizations in the various militia movements currently operating around the country. If history is any indication (and there is a rich history of militia movements in this country) most of these organizations will do nothing more that play army in the woods, allowing their members to vent their frustrations.

There is always the possibility, however, that one or more of these organizations will rise to the operational level and execute actual militia/terrorist attacks (some would argue that militia attacks directly on military or law enforcement is civil war not terrorism, a distinction that is not germane to this discussion). More likely is the potential for individuals to self-radicalize and become active lone-wolf terrorists.

In either case high-risk chemical facilities may become a target of opportunity for attack, particularly if they have theft/diversion COI on site. While it is possible that individual companies and/or sites might become ideological targets (depending on the ideology of the group/individual conducting the attack), it is more likely that the chemical facility will be a target because those theft/diversion chemicals could be employed as weapons or weapon components for other attacks.

Insider Attacks

High-risk facilities with theft/diversion COI will typically have security measures in place to protect those COI, but most of those measures will be directed against outsiders. The problem with these militias is that they are derived from the local communities and the political expectations of many in that community. Even if facility employees and contractors are not actual members of these militias, they will likely have friends or family members that are. This provides a whole new dimension to the ‘insider attack’ scenario.

Militias or local lone-wolfs intending to steal theft/diversion COI will likely be able to gain a great deal of information about security procedures, shipping procedures and facility operations from friends, neighbors and acquaintances working for or at the facility. In a few cases the ‘inside’ information will come from fellow travelers, people with similar ideologies, but in most cases the necessary data will be made available by people with no motive to disclose potential security related information.

Discussions at parties, bars or other similar social situations can be guided to problems that the employees have been having with ‘silly’ or ‘stupid’ security procedures. Once started employees will almost inevitably discuss details of such procedures in this type of setting around trusted personnel with little thought or consideration that they are revealing valuable attack planning information.

Insider Attack Prevention

Facilities with a strong possibility of local militia involvement need to ensure that their counter surveillance strategy and procedures reflect this potential threat. Employee training will need to stress the close control of security information; the need to ensure that discussions of the security procedures and capabilities are not talked about with people, even close friends and neighbors if they do not work at the facility.

Personnel surety programs for facilities in such areas will need to have a stronger local records check program to identify employees, contractors, and job applicants with ties to local militias. These can only be accomplished by facility security managers that have cultivated close, personal ties with local law enforcement and nearby fusion centers.

Finally, security personnel need to know that they are not to accord family members and close friends special consideration when it comes to mandated security checks, both upon entrance and exit from the facility. Security personnel frequently come to know and expect such visitors that show up routinely (brining lunches, picking up employees, etc) and it is not unusual for them to be given only cursory inspections.

Facility Targets

As I noted earlier, most facilities will only be targeted by these militia groups as a source of materials for making weapons, either explosives or chemical weapons. There are some facilities, however, that may be specifically targeted for larger scale, more violent attacks, particularly if they have release toxic or flammable COI on site. They fall into two categories, ideological targets and personal targets.

Ideological targets will be those facilities that, typically because of ownership, run afoul of the political concerns of the militia. These will most often be facilities owned by foreign companies, particularly if the facility had been part of an American owned company and after acquisition there had been layoffs of personnel. Animosity against these facilities can usually be identified in advance by police intelligence; again a good reason for Security Managers to maintain close ties with local police and fusion centers.

Personal target facilities will typically be those that are targeted by lone-wolf terrorists who have some sort of personal grudge against the facility management. This will usually be someone who has been fired or with close personal ties to someone who has been fired. This personal stressor combined with a background of militia political beliefs, may actually the key to the turning someone from a relatively harmless militia member into a lone wolf terrorist. Knowledge of facility personnel and close relations with local police will help the facility Security Manager identify these people in advance.

Identification and Prevention

It can not be stressed enough that the ability to predict and prevent militia and related lone-wolf attacks on chemical facilities can best be enhanced by close ties between facility security management and local law enforcement. Early identification and pre-emption of these types of attacks can be very important. That and effective training and communication with facility employees about these types of threats will go along way to ensuring that facility security measures against these types of attacks are never actually exercised.

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