The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth about counter-terrorism preparedness
Geoffrey Williams reports on what he sees as woeful inadequacies in security arrangements and unilateral response to dealing with catastrophic terrorist attacks.
When you pause to consider the many different types of terrorist attacks that happen every day and the different elements and conditions that terrorists will apply, the thought that we might ever achieve an effective and efficient coordinated counter response seems impossible. As the world faces a large array of escalating terrorist threats, from suicide bombers, chemical, biological and radioactive attacks, the need for governments, agencies, businesses and communities to coordinate their response is greater than ever before.
In spite of this fact, many leaders of police and civil defence/fire and rescue departments believe their 'data procedures, plans, policies' and technology systems put them ahead of the curve when it comes to managing any terrorist attack, even one causing a catastrophic disaster. Across the UK and US, many of these organisations and their communities data are spread across many enterprises and often in incompatible formats.
Publicly used facilities and organisations also incorrectly believe their policies, procedures and IT systems are acceptable when managing the terrorist threat. Across the world, complexities such as effectively managing the asymmetric terrorist threat results in many 'blue light' services and commercial company boards being only able to deal with certain truths - and if necessary, they will have distort them. They like them simplistic and providing they can show that they have 'ticked the box', and produced a security plan, some prefer to then adopt the 'ostrich management methodology'.
I term this denying the 'inconvenient and uncomfortable truth.' Police and civil defence/fire and rescue need to integrate and become joined at the hip with businesses under the threat of attack. Security and response mechanisms need to ensure they are all working to the same objectives.
Failure to do so, especially in security, response and recovery, will cost lives. The blue light leaders must now reassess their own readiness, response and recovery operations and lead their social and business communities in becoming really prepared and able to counter the terrorist threat. When businesses manipulate security as a cover to progress other hidden agendas, where appropriate, they should stand up and decry their actions as being willfully dangerous and unnecessary.
Security or Stitch-up?
As a starting point, let us consider the events of 9/11. We were told that no-one could have foreseen this coming. Nothing could have stopped it. Naturally airport security could have been tighter but the question is: have we really learned the reality of such heinous attacks?
The point is not to make the question, could anyone have physically prevented it happening? But more to say that could we have predicted it and most importantly, have we really learned from it? Having travelled the world, I can now say categorically that the majority of airport security is appallingly ineffective and at times, absurd.
It is highly costly, time wasting and should be now completely reviewed. Management should be open, honest and transparently address these crucial issues. Equally, in many cases airport (and airline) passenger business continuity is amateurish, dangerous and bordering on illegal. For those who want to counter my claims let us take a snapshot look at 'security at airports' and review some of the evidence.
1) A three-inch plastic replica machine gun off a model soldier was refused to be carried in the cabin whilst in the same assessment a woman with 10-inch knitting needles was allowed to pass through.
2) Immediately proceeding the Glasgow airport attack - for over eight hours, passengers were held on the tarmac in a plane that had just landed. Wrongful imprisonment?
3) Airport authorities have been spending thousands of dollars on expensive technology scanners to show hidden weapons, explosives, etc, even though they know they cannot identify in-borne explosives, ie, surgically implanted explosives on suicide bombers, eg, breast implants made with explosive. They know this is a growing threat and that technology exists which can detect such devices but ignore this fact.
4) One UK airport now charges passengers £1 to be dropped off at the undercover airport entrance - all in the name of security. They have used the name of 'security' to create a money-making machine. Even though it does not improve the security of the passengers - in fact, it could be argued, they have made the situation far more dangerous by their eagerness to make money. They now let unchecked vehicles come into a section of the building that sits below the multi-story car park building. They have now increased the possibility of an IED vehicle being located in a prime position to explode and collapse main load bearing members of the building. One dare not imagine if other forms of 'transport authorities' adopted 'rip-off policies?' For example it costs £1 to enter the taxi rank, £1 to enter the bus station, and £2 to enter the train station.
5) Equally, some now charge extra for passengers to be 'fast tracked' through long lines of people waiting caused directly by their ineffective, security crowd monitoring. It is yet another way to make money under the cover of security. Yes, another inconvenient and uncomfortable truth.
More examples of such incompetent security preparedness are vividly seen when one looks at other major public used facilities such as train stations (above and below ground level), large city based hotels, etc. All of these have been successfully attacked by terrorist groups. Specifically, the London Underground has experienced unprecedented attacks on its critical network. The Mumbai Taj hotel was also subjected to a different style of terrorist attack which resulted in a major loss of life. The uncomfortable truth about counter-terrorism preparedness in all of these areas is that major flaws still exist and very few really effective improvements have been actually achieved in all of these industries.
Way back in 2001, the then titled International Emergency Technical Rescue Institute authored an in-depth report into predicting the effects of terrorist attacks on underground railway systems. It researched the UK, USA, France and Australian underground railway facilities and examined their policies and procedures for managing such terrorist events.
The report was titled TAURUS (Terrorist Attacks Urban Rescue in Underground Systems). It made many predictions and subsequent recommendations on how to improve the counter-terrorist management of such attacks. The attacks on London Underground in July of 2005 realised their worst fears and finally, the 7/7 inquiry is now starting to uncover what a lot of people already knew, ie, they were inadequately prepared even though the predictions had been known and ignored.
When these types of attack were cross-referenced with the TAURUS report's predictions, it was overwhelming how accurate the report had been. Six years on since the attacks and ten years since the report was first published, have the authorities of these facilities learned from these events and improved their systems to improve the safety of their travelling public customers? Sadly, the inconvenient and uncomfortable truth, is no.
Improving Safety, Coordination, Response and Recovery
One of the primary faults is that for every attack to be either thwarted (or at least diluted), is for all stakeholders to be working from a combined plan that dynamically takes them logically through all aspects of the developing incident. These are not just procedures to be followed but 'dynamic' systems which actually predict new outcomes that will arise at some juncture during these events. This is the only way they can keep efficiently ahead of the curve. Their systems must allow them to look around corners and allow them to share their data to the maximum effect.
A major common drawback among all these bodies is that critical data is often spread across many enterprises and often in incompatible formats. These data 'stove pipes' or 'silos' are not shared with other related businesses, emergency services, key government departments and other involved stakeholders; even during an extreme emergency.
One of the most disruptive elements to mismanagement, especially at the pinnacle of a terrorist attack, is lack of access to vital information and intelligence. Information and intelligence flow, along with key distribution are crucial sharing tasks among the variety of different organisations' different data bases and telecommunication platforms.
Current common operating platforms are limited in scope and often unable to share relevant facts, recognition of their mutual relationships and interdependence, and the understanding of their individual and collective impact. The problems that have evolved are now clear for everyone to see. For example, if the manager of the local taxi firm comes forward to offer information on a specific matter, their information is normally passed to the people who are managing the incident. In certain instances, this is where the sharing of this information stops and is not comprehensively disseminated.
Where people share data on numerous open sources, it's highly likely that critical elements will be missed. That is why an open platform system must do a great deal more than just provide an open-site for people to share views, opinions, observations and comments. During a terrorist attack this can be the difference between life or death.
They have sickeningly used the name of 'security' to create a money-making machine. Even though it does not improve the security of the passengers - in fact, it could be argued, they have made the situation far more dangerous by their eagerness to make money. They now let unchecked vehicles come into a section of the building that sits below the multi-story car park building. In doing so they have now increased the possibility of an IED vehicle being located in a prime position to explode and collapse main load-bearing members of the building.
During a terrorist attack is where an iCOM Informatics™ management tool acts as the glue to keep everyone working on the same page and most importantly within the right structured format so nothing gets missed.
Network of Networks
Creating a common operating platform for an incident control-centric system is to provide operational access to all the relevant elements contained within a network-centric enabled system. This provides a more efficient approach than the numerous individual agencies (silo systems). Creating a 'network of networks' between all businesses and specific government agencies enhances the development of 'bottom-up' dissemination of knowledge and good practices between the crisis and disaster management communities, thus facilitating a more efficient and effective collaborative approach to managing problems.
The much demanded tight security issues are also more easily managed within this secure but controlled environment. The term used when manipulating the internet to become a fundamental centric1 tool for providing a crisis and disaster management 'network-enabled capability', is Inter-Centric Operations© and commercially called: iCOM Informatics™. This is utilised in preparing, during and post crisis and knows very few boundaries.
Pre-event recognition of these common factors is particularly important when response plans are being developed. If an inter-centric system is in operation, most of the critical variables can be extracted at the time of the disaster from integrated web-based resources that are readily available to crisis management teams. This can provide instant access to fluctuating data eg, links to CCTV systems showing real-time crowd movements in airport terminals, shopping malls, sports stadiums, weather centre information sites displaying flood levels and even road transport congestion blockages. This dynamic data is updated either in real, or near real-time and accessible by crisis management teams.
In making an iCOM Informatics™ system really effective, one also needs to logically address each phase of a developing event. 3Ci Global Solutions research has recognised and identified the universal occurrences that habitually arise during any crises or disasters. Within iCOM Informatics™ these have been isolated into independent 'phases or steps' - of which there are now six. These are referred to as: the 6R's Total Risk Management Solution for Confronting Catastrophic Disasters and National Security Issues©.
Each phase when activated within the system demonstrates all those areas that need specific attention for that particular period of the event.
Competitive pressures are forcing all blue light and commercial organisations and businesses worldwide to reassess their preparedness in effectively managing a terrorist attack that may escalate to a disaster level if not managed in an effective and controlled manner. People, processes and IT systems all need to survive the event. The financial aspects of such crises could threaten the whole existence of a company and even cause unnecessary injuries or deaths.
iCOM Informatics™ is therefore an essential key to safeguarding an organisation's existence. This system creates a whole new, 'super-charged' approach to efficiently managing any terrorist attack more effectively. All organisations need to radically rethink how to make a quantum leap in efficiency. 3Ci Global Solutions now assist many organisations with their expertise and combined with their iCOM Informatics™ system provide one extremely vitally important, critical part to the total solution.
For more information visit: www.3ciglobalsolutions.co.uk; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or email@example.com; tel: +11 (0) 7817-692181; or: +11 (0)1786-480-203.
Posted: 09.25am, 24.02.11
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