Posted 19 July 2011, by Michael McKee, EWI Risk Services, blog.ewiretx.com
2011 includes the 10 year anniversary of the tragic 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This milestone should be viewed by Risk Managers as an opportunity to remind your business units to be vigilant against terrorism threats and discuss ways to assist authorities in the recognition of threats to facilities. Terrorism may not be actively portrayed in the news media, but the threat is always among us (thus the reason this type of threat is called terrorism). In the US alone since 9/11, there have been multiple terrorism activities either thwarted by the authorities or which did occur and are publically known, including:
2003: American charged with plotting to use blowtorches to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge
2004: Plan to plant a bomb at NYC Penn Station during the Republican National Convention
2005: Los Angeles terrorists plot to attack National Guard, LAX, two synagogues and the Israeli consulate
2005: Plot to blow up natural gas refinery in Wyoming, the Transcontinental Pipeline, and a refinery in New Jersey
2006: Liquid Explosives Plot: Thwarted plot to explode 10 airliners over the US
2007: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: confessed in court in March 2007 to planning to destroy skyscrapers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago
2007: JFK Plot: Four men accused of plotting to blow up fuel arteries running through residential neighborhoods at JFK Airport in New York
2009: Radicalized Muslim US Army officer commits the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11 at Ft Hood, TX
2009: Nigerian man who claimed ties to al-Qaida attempts to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner
2010: Plot to detonate explosive device – Times Square, NY
2011: Khalid Aldawsari – plotted to blow up hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants.
2011: Killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan
Terrorist groups cannot be viewed strictly as political extremists. Other types of groups use terror as a means to compel target businesses to change their operations or philosophies. Terrorist groups are generally subtyped as politically, economically or socially motivated. Politically motivated terrorists will try to cause as much direct and collateral damage as possible on a target to sensationalize their aims. This includes injury to physical assets, to people and to the environment.
Economic terrorism is waged by groups who want to destabilize the economic and financial stability of individuals, organizations, societies or states. Many tend to view wealth as a communal asset which should be shared. Therefore, any individual ownership of wealth or business success can be a target.
With eco-terrorism (environmental), the picture is not so clear. Eco-terrorism exists in many forms. The US Federal Bureau of Investigations defines eco-terrorism as the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature. The intent of the group may be to cause direct property damage, but no resulting pollution or collateral damage to people or property. The theory being that the terrorists wish to punish a specific target organization, but not punish or harm unrelated businesses, or cause pollution that impacts the general public. These types of eco-terrorists seek to strike at night or on weekends or when there is minimal staff at the target location.
At the other end of the eco-terrorism spectrum is the radical group that seeks to cause as much direct and collateral damage as possible to both people and property. Their goals include sensationalizing what they perceive to be the evils of the target organization/location. Eco-groups may sabotage new construction or disrupt operations which are contrary to their cause. A classic example is tree spiking; utilized to injure employees of timber harvesting companies. Eco-terrorist groups may also employ tactics to deny businesses the resources they need to operate. This could involve picketing to keep employees from entering work-sites, or the erection of physical or human blockades at points of entry to interrupt the supply chain. Acts of eco-terrorist groups could involve blockades or industrial sabotage against third parties in order to secondarily impact your operations.
A major difference between the types of terrorist groups is that certain politically motivated terrorists are willing to die for their cause. Notwithstanding, in terms of potential damage to business, the radical eco-terrorist could be as disruptive and destructive as a political based terrorist. Accordingly, it should be assumed that either type of terrorist could cause significant damage. It should also be assumed that they are as well organized, sophisticated, and equipped as politically motivated terrorists. Under these guises, many facilities could be viewed as attractive or are near such targets due to the raw materials, process intermediates, or end products manufactured. Everyone should be vigilant to recognize this potential threat and look at existing and possible future actions that can be taken to minimize the risk. The US Department of Homeland Securities current awareness campaign is relevant to vigilance – “If You See Something, Say Something”. All it may take to avert a terrorist event is the observation of suspicious activity and to alert authorities to it.
Terrorist acts may take many forms. Risk Managers should take the time to review their organization’s particular situational exposures and contemplate controls that could be instituted to minimize the threat or the results of a terrorist attack. Some areas of specific analysis could include:
• Airborne pollution potential
• Onsite pollution potential
• Water pollution potential
• Population proximity and density in relation to your facility
• Risks associated with facility profile
• Property-collateral damage potential
• Facility vulnerability and security
• Emergency response planning and assessments
• Situational responses to outside events (what is the response the attacks on nearby facilities).
• Review of the vetting process for third party security providers
• Review of how local emergency response units (fire, police, etc) would respond to various types of terrorist events and how site specific plans could best dovetail with same.
Remember – “If You See Something, Say Something” (US Dept. of Homeland Security)