Identifying Suspicious Activity: A Lesson in Anti-Terrorism

In 2015, a U.S. citizen named John T. Booker was issued an indictment following his arrest for planning to terrorize a military installation with an IED (in aid to the objectives of ISIS). In 2016, he plead guilty “to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to destroy government property by fire or explosion.”

Booker, a 20-yr-old at the time, exhibited behaviors that comport with a 7-stage terror attack planning cycle delineated by DHS which consists of the following:

  1. Target Selection
  2. Initial Surveillance
  3. Final Target Selection
  4. Pre-attack Surveillance
  5. Planning
  6. Rehearsal
  7. Execution

Thankfully, Booker was apprehended and questioned by the FBI before he could execute his attack. Here is a link to the story: http://cjonline.com/news-local/2016-02-03/john-booker-jr-pleads-guilty-terrorism-charges-stemming-2015-fort-riley-bomb

For my readers, I wish to use this case as a lesson for promoting community awareness of ‘deviant conduct’. I want to inform responsible citizens of what to be on the lookout for respecting suspicious behavior indicative of terrorist activities. I am no expert in this field, but a little knowledge goes a long way.

In my book Ninjutsu: Tactics, Principles, and Philosophy, I alluded to the relation between surveillance techniques of the shinobi and those of the criminal bent (including terrorists). In my whole-hearted opinion, the distinction between terrorists and shinobi lay in the correctness of mind outlined by Fujibayashi in the Bansenshukai (i.e. loyalty, sense of justice, etc.). Shinobi may have engaged in deviant activities for the sake of their lord and country, but they were not (so far as I can tell) mindless criminals. Yes, shinobi more or less used elements of the above 7-stage planning process as well. But they, operating in the medieval period, used the process for warfare functions deemed necessary to the survival of lord and state – not the execution of innocents (though history may prove otherwise). So what is my point?

Studying ninjutsu, you can learn at least thing or two about terrorists and how they may operate. Will you be as informed as a modern intelligence operative? No. But the principles of ninjutsu allow one to perceive the basic elements of terroristic/criminal conduct. For example, take the surveillance functions of a shinobi.

Surveillance by a shinobi of a given area was done with his five senses. Once he had infiltrated the enemy’s domain, a map of strike points, tactically advantageous terrain, and troop characteristics was drawn up or memorized and subsequently relayed back to his commander. This intelligence would aid the attack.

Like it or not, terrorists survey their targeted territories for the same reason. They gather intelligence, plot, and gather more intelligence to facilitate precise planning for an egregious assault on innocents. Hence, by knowing the principles and functions of surveillance, one can more readily be aroused to the unfolding of suspicious and unordinary conduct (i.e. some shady guy snapping photos of critical infrastructure or delivery personnel who keep showing up at the wrong address but are nevertheless interested in looking around the area, etc.). The unusual conduct may very well be nothing of concern, but an aware public increases the likelihood that someone will see something of import. Be a watchman for your community. If you see something, say something.

Here is a brief list of things to watch for:

-photography in inappropriate areas

-purchase of chemical oxidizers, fertilizers, or other equipment that could be used to construct an IED (powders, metallic containers, fuses) local hardware stores sell potassium perchlorate, KNO3, and sundry other  items that seem innocuous but may be used for wrong purposes.

-radical speech and ideals (i.e. calling for the overthrow of government, hate speech directed at certain population groups, religious fanaticism, etc.)

-attempts to purchase or clone access cards or keys to restricted facilities

-deteriorating relationships with loved ones and/or association with known radical groups

-questioning security personnel on the number and location of cameras in an area

This is not at all an exhaustive list. For more info, you can visit the DHS website: https://www.dhs.gov/preventing-terrorism

Take care, stay aware, and seek to be informed. No, terrorism is not something you should panic about, but don’t kid yourself into believing it is non-existent.

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