by Frank Borelli, Borelli Consuting
frank at borelliconsulting.com
with thanks to John Giduck
This article is the second installment of the original article, titled Dealing with Multiple Terrorists: 21st Century AT/CT Doctrine.
"Posse Comitatus: Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
For three years I did some contracting / consulting work that had me literally playing a role in between the Army and the civilian law enforcement community and the one thing that was constantly being put in my face was, "Posse Comitatus." When I was making a presentation at FBI Headquarters and made the suggestion that military installations could be used to train law enforcement, and vice versa, I was asked, "Doesn’t Posse Comitatus prohibit that?" Um, no.
very carefully read the ONE sentence above that makes up Posse Comitatus, it’s quite clear: It’s illegal to use the Army or Air Force as domestic police. You can’t grant soldiers powers of arrest over civilians. Posse Comitatus was enacted in 1878. Let’s move forward a little more than 100 years to the resent past and today’s present.
September 11, 2001: nineteen terrorists seize four commercial aircraft and successfully use three of them as human-guided missiles. On the fourth, a band of American citizens refusing to be willing victims resist the terrorists and defeat their plan. Unfortunately, those heroes sacrificed their own lives in the process, but they saved an untold number of lives because no one is sure what the terrorists’ intended target was for that plane.
Many Americans believe that our war with terrorism started on that faithful day in September of 2001. Others believe that our war against / with terrorism started with the first attempted bombing of the World Trade Centers. Fewer still might believe that our war with terrorism started in 1981 when American citizens were held captive in Iran by Islamic terrorists – one of whom is now the President of Iran. (Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to the news, he’s aggressively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and has made repeated statements that Israel should be wiped off the map. Think he’s a "good" guy?)
I submit to you the reader, that our war against terrorism started in 1801 when President Thomas Jefferson dispatched a contingent of Marines to Tripoli. (Hence the words, "From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…") Why did President Jefferson do that? Because American shipping interests and the shipping interests of many other countries, were being threatened by pirates… Islamic pirates. Pirates who would capture commercial vessels and demand a tariff / toll be paid for release. If the captain of the captured vessel refused to pay, or couldn’t simply because the price was too high, then all of the property on the ship was taken; the crew and any passengers were killed; and the ship was burned into the sea (unless it was nice enough for the pirates to take for their own use).
So it is my belief that our war against terrorism – especially that terrorism performed by radical Islamists – has been raging for more than 200 years. In that 200 years I further submit that many Americans have failed to learn obvious lessons.
Lesson One: You can’t negotiate with terrorists to make them go away. Negotiation is a sign of weakness that they will return to exploit again at a later date. Negotiation insures that they will see you as a willing victim.
Lesson Two: Terrorists are not (largely) afraid to die. From a very young age they’ve been conditioned to believe – thanks to the Islamic faith – that it is Allah’s will for them to die fighting against and killing (if at all possible) all infidels. An infidel is anyone who doesn’t believe as they do. For Wahhabist Muslims (what Bin Laden is), anyone else in the world who isn’t also a Wahhabist is an infidel. In this way, they justify their moral obligation and religious duty to murder all those who aren’t Wahhabists, to include infants, children, women and all non-combatants. You see, if you aren’t a Wahhabist, then you are the enemy and Allah has ordered your death.
Lesson Three: Terrorists are patient. Approximately ten years passed in between the first attack on the World Trade Center towers and the second. Even though they failed in their first attempt, the bomb / truck did explode and damage was done. From the terrorist point of view, their second attack wasn’t a great success either: they wanted hundreds of thousands dead… not a mere 3,000 (approximately).
Lesson Four: Terrorists view their war as purely about religion. America, and most of our allies, view the war as being about democracy and freedom. Even though this is a radically different approach to war, in many ways it gives the terrorists an advantage. While our American and allied troops are fighting within guidelines and "rules of war" (isn’t that term an oxymoron?), the terrorists fight to defend and/or retake "Holy Cities", and they do so using at least as one of their tools, "Suicide Bombers". From my perspective, a city is only Holy if it is the epicenter of a religion. That makes Jerusalem Holy, and EITHER Mecca OR Medina Holy, but not both. It also makes Salt Lake City Holy (Mormons), as well as whatever cities are the centers of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc, etc, etc. If a bomber is a suicide bomber, then his/her ONLY intent is to kill him or herself. Unfortunately for the rest of us, a "Suicide" Bomber’s actual intent is to kill as many innocent people as possible be acting as a human-directed self-detonating bomb. The intentional use of a destructive device to kill others is HOMICIDE. The death of the bomber is a side-effect and not the primary purpose of the explosion. However, by repeatedly referring to these CRIMINALS as "suicide" bombers, we – society as a whole – allow them to continually view themselves and be viewed as martyrs dying for a cause. Let’s get past that: they are criminals. Terrorism in the United States is labeled as a CRIME. Let’s start calling these people what they are: Homicide Bombers. The only thing that they do that is any good for us IS kill themselves in the process. At least that way we won’t have to spend money on a trial and then to take care of them in prison.
Lesson Five (and this is an important one): Terrorists want media attention and will prolong any event as long as they can to get as much international news coverage as they can. Here in the United States that will mean that terrorists who seize a school, church, mall, whatever… they will count on our standard police tactic of negotiating a peaceful resolution. Understand this: there WILL BE NO peaceful resolution. The terrorists aren’t there to release hostages and escape alive. They are there to kill as many infidels as they can while they manipulate the situation to present themselves in as favorable a light as possible.
When you examine those five lessons you should come to realize one thing: any time there is a terrorist attack, our best hope for a minimal body count is the immediate violent unrestricted assault response on the terrorists.
Now I’m going to change gears just a little bit and talk about where I see this as potentially most challenging in our society: in our schools.
Ever since 1966 when Charles Whitman took guns up into the Texas Tower and began shooting people, our country’s police departments have been developing SWAT teams to respond to such events. SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. A great many of these teams nationwide don’t use that acronym but use others of equal meaning: Emergency Response Team (ERT), Emergency Services Team (EST), Special Operations Team (SOT), etc. Los Angeles was one of the earliest developed SWAT teams and since they used "SWAT", then it became recognized nationwide. With the development of SWAT, the average patrol cop had to change his tactics: respond, observe, communicate and hold a secure position. Set up a perimeter to contain the incident and wait. SWAT is on the way. Once the Columbine High School incident occurred, cops all over the country discovered that can’t be done anymore. Why? Because the parents of those endangered students will get very pissed off. It’s our jobs to go into harm’s way to protect those students. Active Shooter training was born. Now cops respond and, if hearing shots, form up a team, move to the sound of the shots and neutralize the threat.
A few years ago, a SWAT vet told me that SWAT actually stands for SIT WAIT AND TALK. Why? Because we police love our negotiators. Actually, our police administrators love negotiators. Time is on our side with the average criminal. If we can wait him out; keep him contained and let the negotiator talk him into depressing boredom, maybe he’ll just surrender without killing anyone else or himself. The thing we have to worry about with terrorists is the word "maybe". We’re not even 100% sure our tactics will work with homegrown idiot criminals… and we have every reason to believe that negotiations with terrorists will ONLY allow them time to fortify their positions.
This was demonstrated in Beslan, Russia when they seized over 1,200 hostages in a school. The hostages ranged in age from infancy (still in diapers and not able to walk) to elderly. 49 terrorists were involved in the siege. That’s an approximate ratio of 1 terrorist per 24 hostages. Even with automatic weapons, during the initial assault on the school, had the hostages fought back in unison, the terrorists would have been overwhelmed and defeated.
On hand in the Beslan school were two security guards armed only with pistols. They were killed within seconds of the terrorists’ initial assault. As part of their early efforts to secure the school and take control of the hostages, the terrorists gathered up and killed all the bigger men and older teenage boys. Any potential resistance was crushed. Further efforts by the terrorists to demoralize the hostages and insure complete and utter immediate obedience included torture, mutilation, rape and other atrocities committed on the hostages.
What this reveals to us in the United States is that we cannot fail to learn from historical events. We cannot assume that terrorists will act like any other criminal we’ve ever encountered and we have absolutely no reason to believe that the terrorists will do anything different in the United States than what they have done elsewhere around the world.
So what do we have to do? We have to harden our schools, train our school staff, educate the families of the students, and appropriately train our police officers to respond to a terrorist siege.
Refer to the lessons listed above to apply them to the following necessary evolution of police response and tactics in the event of a terrorist siege:
Lesson One: Negotiation will not resolve the event. The use of negotiation as a tactic should only last long enough to plan and initiate an assault. All other time wasted on negotiation should be considered an investment in the death of hostages.
Lesson Two: Terrorists would rather die than be arrested. Therefore, we as law enforcement have to insure that they die as efficiently as possible and while allowing the deaths of as few hostages as possible. We have to remember that we are in a customer service oriented profession. If the terrorist wants to die, it’s our job to grant his wish. Personally, because of the Islamic terrorists’ belief structure, I’d prefer to kill them with pork-filled hollow-point bullets, thus insuring that they don’t get to the paradise they think is waiting. If we can educate them in advance about this ammunition, we may actually get them to kill themselves when we assault rather than allowing us to deprive them of paradise.
Lesson Three: If the terrorists wait as long in between HUGE attacks like they did in between the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center, we have about another five years to "spin up" for a siege type event. Reality is quite different: our governmental agencies are defeating planned and potential terrorist attacks every day. Those prevented attacks don’t make the news and I’m happy for that. It denies the terrorists media explosure. We don’t have five years. We may not have one year. We are already behind the curve and we’d better start getting our act together NOW.
Lesson Four: The whole world has to be made to realize – even if it is simply through restructuring the terms we use to discuss terrorism – that Wahhabist Muslims are NOT fighting a holy war. They are committing crimes in the name of their god (Allah) and those crimes shall not go unpunished anywhere on the planet. I’m not one to advocate the criminalization of any religion, but there are exceptions: if we can document the attendance of any person at a known terrorist training camp, then that person should be identified as an international criminal and a bounty posted. All known terrorist training camps around the world should be bombed out of existence. When a new one is identified, it should be bombed out of existence within a few hours. "Collateral damage" is going to occur. Innocents are going to die. That is the choice of the terrorists and their families. It’s not our responsibility to save them from themselves and their choices. It’s our responsibility to protect America and American citizens.
Lesson Five: Any terrorist event that does not present an on-going threat to the general public should receive a media blackout until its conclusion. I say again: If the news coverage isn’t necessary to protect the public, then a media blackout should be enforced. The news media should be permitted to remain at the perimeter and should receive continuing briefs so that they stay informed. However, to be there every media representative’s network / publisher should have to agree NOT to distribute ANY information until the event is ended. In this way, we limit the amount of press exposure any terrorist event can receive and deny the terrorist a huge part of what they want as part of their goal.
All that said, the terrorists have to be eliminated and we should try to do it without intentionally killing hostages or putting them at unnecessary risk. The faster our law enforcement professionals can mount an assault response, the less chance there is for the terrorists to build fortifications, improvised explosive devices, etc inside of any structure they seize. Cops will die. Hostages will die. The faster we act, the fewer casualties we will take.
To perform such an immediate assault, police officers need a few things that they are (largely) not getting today:
1) They need better equipment: body armor either needs to be upgraded, or armor plates need to be added. Nearly every cop in the country wears concealed body armor. Add to that a plate carrier than provides 10"x12" of additional protection from rifle rounds and we’ve taken a great first step. Cops need helmets and they need to qualify at least twice a year with them on. Cops need equipment vests. The amount of ammunition that will be required to mount an assault would be staggering to most of today’s cops unless they are military service vets. Every cop should be issued a rifle and every rifle should have seven 30-round magazines with it. .223 / 5.56mm will do. .308 / 7.62mm would be better. Shotguns aren’t preferable but are better than going in with just a handgun. All shotguns should have slug, sabot or PolyShok ammunition available in copious quantities.
2) They need better training: Active Shooter / Immediate Response training is becoming quite common and standardized across the country. However, it is largely built to answer the two-student-shooter model of Columbine High School, not a terrorist siege. While it’s fantastic that no one is saying we need to arrest active shooters, no one is properly preparing our cops – physically, mentally or emotionally – for the out and out warfare they will engage in against terrorists in a siege event. They need to be prepared and they need to be trained. Small unit tactics of maneuvering under fire, cover fire, suppression fire, firing to cover a lateral movement, etc. all need to be taught. Retreat must be expressed as an unacceptable and inexcusable option. All police officers take or took an oath to protect the innocent. None are more innocent than our children and it is our JOB to stand in front of them and block bullets with our bodies if necessary to save their lives. All of the training listed in item #1 above needs to be worn in training, especially while training on siege response / small unit tactics.
3) They need upgraded policies and administrators / executive officers who will back them up when things go ugly. Many cops today are afraid to do the right thing simply because they’re not sure if the department will stand behind them. "The department" usually boils down to the man or woman in charge of the agency. If you are a Sheriff or a Chief of Police, make the commitment now: issue the memorandum: hold that meeting. Do whatever it takes to assure your men and women in uniform that you will back them 110% for doing what they believe is the right thing in the event of a terrorist attack / siege.
Our country has had warnings galore. On nine eleven we were made aware of how the terrorists feel about us. On nine-one (2004) in Beslan, we were made aware of how terrorists feel about women and children as victims as well as how brutal and barbaric they can be in their treatment of the same (female hostages of all ages were repeatedly raped and their genitalia mutilated as they were also raped with the terrorists’ rifles).
If we’re not awake to this looming threat now, then we will sleep through our own deaths. Our outlook; our response plans; our training strategies and budgets; our response tactics and policies all need to change. They need to be updated to meet the presented threat and it needs to happen yesterday.
As I did with a previous article, I leave this thought with you: the Russian Special Forces’ motto is, "If not me, who?" I ask every cop in the country today from every Chief to the most rookie new boot patrol cop: IF NOT YOU, WHO? Ask that when you look in the mirror. IF NOT ME, WHO?
Frank Borelli is the president of Borelli Consulting. You can contact Borelli Consulting by phone/fax at 410-394-1004, and you can contact Mr. Borelli directly via email at [email protected].
Mr. John Giduck is an honorably discharged American soldier, survivor of eight wars / conflicts. He is also president of the Archangel Group
, a nonprofit organization that provides consulting and training at all levels of public safety and military operations.