Know your enemy: It's the first step in mounting an effective defense

Jul 22, 2002 12:00 PM, STEPHEN ZIMMERMAN


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Do you know who your enemies are? When setting up security plans, do you envision fighting off groups of armed international terrorists? If so, you may be making a big mistake. You’re more likely to face threats closer to home, and your security plans will be flawed until you know your enemies.

Whether experienced in threat assessments and security planning or not, it’s impossible to mount an effective defense without knowing the enemy. Following is a guide to the five broad categories of aggressors, a “rogue’s gallery of bad guys” who may be targeting a facility. Their acts can range from crimes such as burglary, embezzlement or fraud, to “low-intensity conflict threats” such as unconventional warfare.

  • Criminals

Consider criminals by their degree of sophistication: unsophisticated, sophisticated and organized groups. While they share the common objective of stealing valuable assets, what they target, the quantities they seek, their efficiency and the finesse of their actions vary significantly. In some cases, vandals and activists may be included under this category.

  • Vandals and Activists

While the degree of damage they seek to cause will vary with their sophistication and motivation, they typically cause destruction to achieve publicity, notoriety and a reputation. These groups are typically made up of protesters who are politically or issue-oriented. They may act out of frustration, discontent or anger against the actions or stated position of a company in regard to a particular issue. They may also be acting for or against other social or political groups. Their selection of targets will vary based on the risk associated with attacking them.

  • Extremists

Often fanatical in their political beliefs, extremists take radical, violent actions to gain support for their beliefs or causes.

  • Protesters

This group is considered a threat only when violent. While lawful protests are a fact of life (remember the First Amendment?), protesters must be taken into account in security planning and threat assessments. Typically, significant protective measures beyond basic crowd control are not normally needed to address their actions. However, there is the possibility that extremists or vandals/activists in the crowd will incite violence.

  • Terrorists

As recent events illustrate, terrorists are almost always ideologically, politically or issue-oriented. They commonly work in small, well-organized groups (cells). They are sophisticated, skilled with tools and weapons and possess an efficient planning capability. Terrorists are not homogeneous, but rather fall into one of several types:

  • CONUS (inside the continental United States). These homegrown terrorists are typically right or left-wing extremists operating in distinct areas of America.

  • OCONUS (outside the continental United States). These international terrorists are generally more organized than CONUS terrorists. They are usually ethnically or religiously-oriented.

  • Paramilitary OCONUS (military groups outside the continental United States). These military-oriented international terrorist groups show some martial capability with a broad range of military and improvised weapons. Attacks by paramilitary OCONUS terrorists are typically the most severe.



Which types of aggressors may be targeting a facility? To find out, contact local responders – police (local, state, county), fire department and emergency medical services. It’s likely they have knowledge of who’s who in the area. Similarly, get in touch with the nearest FBI field office. Their extensive intelligence gathering activities can provide comprehensive information about who is operating in the area and the intensity level of their activity. Make it a habit to check in with all of these agencies on at least a quarterly basis.

Similarly, take time to do your own monitoring. Reading local newspapers and magazines, along with listening to local talk radio, can ensure awareness of hot-button issues and the people or groups involved with them. Checking the Web sites of groups identified by the FBI and local law enforcement can provide information about the players and their philosophies. Security pros should take a moment to re-think their assumptions about their facility’s enemies. Don’t overlook the obvious. Don’t spend too much time on the esoteric. Shake up your thinking to improve threat assessments and subsequent response planning. Security novices should also remember to take the time to understand the various enemies they could be facing. Planning effectively depends on knowing who you’re up against.

The bottom line is that knowledge of a facility’s potential enemies means improved intelligence gathering and smarter security solutions. Remember the lesson of war master Sun Tzu: If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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