Police departments across America are being put on alert that terrorists are looking to strike on Independence Day.  And this time, it’s not just ISIS they are worried about.

Investigators are making it clear that one of their concerns this year is “domestic” terrorists.

The department comes from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and National Counterterrorism Center.  And it’s indicated that while there is no specific threat, they have concerns that all types of terrorists could strike on the holiday.

The bulletin was issued Wednesday and, according to ABC News, makes it prominently clear that “domestic” terrorists remain a threat.

The bulletin was titled “Large Crowds at Independence Day Celebrations and Parades Present Attractive Targets for Violent Extremists”.

It states: “The FBI, DHS, and NCTC are not aware of any specific, credible threats surrounding the upcoming Independence Day holiday, but note that previous attacks in the Homeland have happened with little to no warning.”

Philadelphia Police released a statement about their vigilance:

“As always, we work with our partners at all levels of law enforcement, in assessing threats to our area. At this point, there are no credible threats to safety in our area for the Independence Day-related festivities.”

Philadelphia has long been recognized as a potential terror target, given this historical significance of the city along with the massive draw of crowds on holidays.

This weekend, in particular, they are hosting several large events including Wawa Welcome America events.

Mike DelBene is the CEO of Welcome America.  He released this statement:

“I have full faith in Philadelphia’s men and women in uniform, who work hard every day to keep us safe. July 4th is no different. We’re looking forward to a great festival.”

NYPD is also on high alert.

Earlier this month, a man was arrested after police say he tried to buy a gun and grenades to use in a terror plot in downtown New York City.

22-year-old Ashiqul Alam was intercepted by federal and local officials after he attempted to purchase grenades and mentioned detonating them in downtown Manhattan. Authorities said the man tried to intentionally buy a gun with a defaced serial number. According to reports, Alam was trying to decide whether to enact violence on civilians in NYC or travel to Washington DC to go after a United States government official. 

ABC noted that Alam lives in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens, New York. Sources say that he was observed both inquiring about purchasing the explosives as well as mentioning his intention of potentially using them in one of the busiest sections of Manhattan. 

 

They say Alam was investigated by members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is made up of FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives. The group began tracking Alam and eventually took him into custody.

 

They released information about the suspect, noting that after he was arrested they determined he posed “no imminent threat” to the community at that time.

Alam had proposed an attack either in Times Square or an attack in Washington to kill a U.S. government official, the complaint said. In April, the suspect reportedly met up with an undercover officer to visit a shooting range in Pennsylvania. While driving to the range, Alam told the officer that he had scheduled an appointment for laser vision correction, the complaint said.

When the cop asked him why, the suspect said he was worried that his glasses would fall off during the attack and he would accidentally shoot the officer, and joked that the media would call him the “Looney Toons Terrorist” or “Blind Terrorist,” according to the complaint.

exits

Police said that Alam was acting alone. (Pixabay)

 

Reuter’s reported that Alam’s lawyer, James Darrow, had asked for his client to be released on $200,000 bond, under home confinement and with an ankle monitor. He said Alam lived with his parents, who were both in the courtroom and prepared to sign the bond.

“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weapons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, whose office brought the charges, said in a statement.

Alam was denied bond and is being held in federal custody. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 21 in Brooklyn. Magistrate Cheryl Pollak ordered Alam to be “permanently detained,” calling him a “danger” to the community.

Authorities noted that Alam did not appear to belong to any larger terror group and was apparently working alone. The NYPD requested that all questions be directed to the FBI.

Times Square, which is a commercial and entertainment district in the heart of Manhattan that attracts huge numbers of visitors every year, has frequently been linked to terror-related arrests.

  • In 2018, a Canadian man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting to carry out attacks on Times Square, the New York City subway system and concert venues in 2016.
  • In 2016, an Uber driver in Brooklyn was arrested and charged with trying to join ISIS and and planning a Times Square similar to one earlier in the year in Nice, France, in which a truck was driven into crowds of people.
  • 2010, a car bombing didn’t happen after the bomb failed to detonate and a sharp-eyed street vendor called police.  Months later, the suspect, who claimed to be a follower of Usama bin Laden, was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the case.
  • In 2008, a U.S. military recruitment station was bombed.  Nobody was injured in that early morning blast, but the case still remains unsolved.

But on Thursday, a chilling confession from a captured ISIS fighter was revealed that shed light on how the terrorist group is planning on striking next.

It came from Abu Henricki, a Canadian citizen with dual citizenship from Trinidad. 

He claims the terrorist group plans to exploit the vulnerabilities of the U.S. border with Mexico, using English speakers and westerners to take advantage of smuggling routes and target financial institutions.

He was arrested last month, and admitted he was sought out by the violent insurgency’s leadership to attack the U.S. from a route starting in Central America.

That’s according to a study by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and published in Homeland Security Today.

Anne Speckhard co-conducted the study as the director of ICSVE and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University.  She said it doesn’t come as a surprise.

“ISIS has organized plots in Europe with returnees so it seems entirely plausible that they wanted to send guys out to attack. The issue that makes a North American attack harder is the travel is more difficult from Syria,” she said.

But that’s where the loophole lies.

“So the idea that they would instead use people who were not known to their own governments as having joined ISIS might make it possible for them to board airplanes.”

Authorities say Henricki traveled to Syria with the intention of serving as an ISIS fighter. But he was reportedly later told he could not take on soldier duties because of a chronic illness.

He then claims at the end of 2016, he was “invited” by the ISIS intelligence wing – known as the emni – to join other Trinidadians and launch financial attacks on the U.S.

He says the attacks were described to him as being designed to “cripple the U.S. economy,”.  He also claims he was informed that he would be issued false identification and passports and would be maneuvered from Puerto Rico to Mexico and then to the United States.

“The plan came from someone from the New Jersey state of America. I was going to take the boat from Puerto Rico into Mexico. He was going to smuggle me in,” he said.

He went on to say he believed the scheme was aimed at New York financial targets.

“They wanted to use these people (to attack inside the U.S.) because they were from these areas,” Henricki told the scholars, indicating that they were either from North America or were English speakers.

He said other Trinidadians were also approached to “do the same thing.”

But he claims he refused the mission and was subsequently thrown into an ISIS prison in Manbij where he was brutally tortured.

His wife, who is also a Canadian, was also imprisoned in a women’s department and he said she endured psychological torture.

“This plot is likely dead as those who were pressured to join it are according to Abu Henricki now all dead and ISIS is in retreat as we know,” Speckhard said.

She points out that should put us on high alert.

“We often hear about terrorists trying to enter the southern border in political debate, but I rarely have come across a real case.  It surprised me to hear this was a real plot by ISIS to exploit our southern border.  That’s concerning of course.”

Earlier this year, Henricki surrendered to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the final assault to take back Baghouz.

He’s still in prison in the SDF-controlled region of Syria, with their futures in legal limbo as many foreign governments are not willing to take back accused ISIS operatives.

The authors of the report stressed that it serves to demonstrate that ISIS has discussed and operationalized ways in which their operatives could infiltrate our borders and cause harm to our citizens. 

They also said to downplay the potential terrorist threats from the border areas would be harmful to the safety of Americans.

“This account is not a warning bulletin for an imminent attack against our country, nor is it a fear-mongering attempt to suggest a wave of ISIS terrorists are waiting to cross our southern border,” the authors added. “But a reminder to diligently consider leads and sources that confirm terrorists’ intentions to exploit one of the weakest links in our national security – our borders.”

Another rising threat we’re seeing in  America are violent protests and riots.  

That’s why we’ve partnered with Government Training Institute to bring advanced training and protection to our law enforcement officers across America to help keep them safe.

Many agencies are opting to stand up specialist units that employ new tactics based on intelligence and work to pre-empt issues by building dialogue and rapport with groups.

Others have relied solely on more “old school” confrontational tactics, which can often result in negative reaction and consequence that ends up having world-wide coverage.

Both sets of tactics have their place in the tool box of crowd management, but both options will always work better as part of a holistic approach. That more rounded approach is known as Public Order Management (POM).

A definition of Public Order Management:

“The systematic planning and steering of events in the public domain, or with a direct effect on this, where there is risk of public order disturbances, regardless of the number of people that are present at or involved with the disturbance”.

In literature they speak of maintaining order in public spaces and use the term “public order management”. This term is being used to describe organisations with the task of public order, their policies and programs, their individual and collective policing operations and the technology they use (McPhail, Schwingruber & McCarth, 1998).

POM was developed using the most current practices in Crowd Behaviors and Personal Identity; using TTP’s coming from the highest levels of experience of internationally recognized police practitioners, academics and scientific research in the field.

The focus and emphasis should therefore be on managing and maintaining the order and not get persuaded to focus on managing a disturbance; the preferred option should always be to allow peaceful protest.

Protesters start fires in Portland, Oregon. (Screenshot – YouTube Daniel V. Media)

 

The bedrock of this system is the gathering of information and intelligence to allow all parties involved to work to keep the peace. This affords agencies a way to plan, steer and act on what information is available to them ahead of the event.

Much of the information that is available is easily obtained and can make a significant difference not only when, but preferably before, it matters.

By properly setting up the POM, the organizations can start to structure their information gathering, registration and communication internally as well as between the parties involved and the public.

By utilizing these internationally recognized models, agencies can work to build the public’s confidence through relationship, thus providing a more positive image to both national and international media. 

Over the past years the growing gap between local government, police and the public has been a direct result of insufficient knowledge on how to deal with growing public unrest; which in turn has contributed to an acceleration of this disconnect and has led to some growing animosity between law enforcement and the public. This is why developing an effective Public Order Management Program is a must for agencies at all levels.

While there are multiple effective variations to setting up a Public Order Management Program, there are 3 primary sub categories that really encompass all the components of POM.  These three components are designed to; prevent, stabilize and de-escalate these potentially volatile situations.

Social Conditioned Hesitative Behavior

Baltimore riots 2015. (Photo courtesy Baltimore Police Department)

 

Public Order Management (POM) consists of:

  • Crowd Management
  • Crowd Control
  • Riot Control
  1. Crowd Management focuses on all measures that are taken to maintain order and safety during an event by all participants to include the event organizer, local or national government and law enforcement.
  2. Crowd Control, is where the emphasis lies on control and restraint of crowds. Tools for this include; fencing, gates and checkpoints. In cases where Crowd Control is insufficient to maintain Public Order, the option is only then escalated to Riot Control.
  3. Riot Control, is where the objective is to regain control of any disturbance by means of counter measure tactics and force in order to de-escalate the situation. This can require the police to wear protective clothing and carry shields which can be seen as more confrontational. Therefore Riot Control is the last resort of POM.

(Government Training Institute – GTItraining.org)

The first 5 Steps to take in developing a Public Order Management Program:

  1. The core principle of Public Order Management is that the vast majority ofcrowds that gather are law abiding citizens who are legally exercising their rights to protest and voice their concerns and beliefs. This understanding should be the basis of any lawful protest and we must remember that we all took an oath to “Serve and Protect” and that oath includes protecting protestors and their right to lawfully protest.
  2. Understanding that a group has a certain behaviour is one thing, but knowing “Why” it behaves the way it does is the key to understanding “how” to deal with these people not only as a group but as individuals. A group of any sort is made up of individuals; individuals with certain behaviours and characteristics. Understanding this allows us to use a variety of proven procedures and academic models such as the Elaborated Social Identity Model so we can begin to understand groups and start to predict how they may behave.
  3. Communication and information is and will always be the key to prevention; de-escalation or if needed; confrontation and containment. It is therefore imperative that we understand the best way to effectively communicate. We must ensure that we are using the right type of communication to successfully reach our goal of preventing the situation from escalating into violence. Far too often our Crowd Control Units are taught an ineffective way of communicating that ultimately has the opposite effect of what they are trying to accomplish. How we communicate is paramount and because of that we must “Change the Tune!”
  4. Appearance through a show of force vs less-visible response and actions should all be reviewed, altered and in many cases, redefined. Studies over the last few decades show that facing all these instances as threats and appearing as a hostile counter force often causes an escalation to violence and that ultimately is a failure. We however must protect our officers with every available option that we can but how do we do that without showing up as an adversarial force, no matter what the instance is? We have to consider the best practices of Public Order Management and the findings of the research and change our mind-sets; our overall approach and ultimately how we appear to the populous.
  5. Last but not least…why?! Well, we are living in an age where Law Enforcement is under constant observation and scrutiny from the public and the media.We are fighting to do our job, all the while everyone is ready to judge our every move; and whether we are right or wrong, we end up defending our actions against the internet and social media. Because of this, we have to change our approach but we cannot forget what we are there to do and still maintain the safety of our officers and the public we are there to protect. To make these changes we have to train our people from the top to the bottom and give them the tools they need to be successful in TODAY’s environment; not using antiquated techniques, equipment and procedures.  Let’s make sure we train to a standard that keeps everyone on the same level operationally and gives no one the ammunition to scrutinize our actions or our people who are just trying to do their job and return home safely to their families.

Masked protesters using pepper spray. (Screenshot – Andy Ngo Twitter)

Government Training Institute (GTI)is internationally known as a leader in SWAT and tactical training with training centers in South Carolina; it has created an alliance with a team of subject matter experts in the field of Public Order Management. 

Dr. Tamara D. Herold of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rene Gaemers of Batavae Training & Consultancy out of the Netherlands and Neil Pollock, retired Public Order Management Trainer and Tactical Advisor from The Metropolitan Police in London, UK.

The team is working with colleagues from around the US and abroad to set up a Public Order Management Academy at GTI’s South Carolina facilities.  The facility is expansive and allows for all levels of Public Order training: from the basic Field Force style training through specialist training such as role specific evidence capture and liaison officers to work with protest organizers before during and after an event; to classroom-based training for those who will command the POM events and the team who will assist and support them. The facility also allows for the option to recreate events to assist in debriefs or to develop new tactics. 

GTI will be holding Public Order Management Commanders courses starting on August 12 -16th.

GTI’S TRAINING CALENDAR CAN BE SEEN HERE

For more information on the Public Order Management courses, please contact GTI directly.  

Phone: 803-259-1935

Email: [email protected]

Visit our website for additional information on this and many other courses. www.gtitraining.org.