The Eight Signs of Terrorism

Ohio Homeland Security suggest that eight signs of terrorism are:

  1. The elicitation of information.
  2. The testing or probing of security.
  3. Recruiting and financing.
  4. Photography.
  5. Observation and surveillance.
  6. Acquisition of materials and storage.
  7. Acquisition of expertise.
  8. Weapons collection.

Yet Utah Department of Public Safety suggest the eight signs of terrorism to be:

  1. Surveillance.
  2. Information gathering.
  3. Testing security.
  4. Funding.
  5. Acquiring supplies.
  6. Impersonation.
  7. Rehearsing.
  8. Deployment.

Note: No acquisition of expertise or focus on recruitment as compared with the Ohio Homeland Security videos.

Note: The Ohio Homeland Security videos do not include rehearsal or deployment in their signs of terrorism even though there factors are clear indicators of terrorism.

And yet the Virginia Beach video suggest that there are seven signs of terrorism:

  1. Surveillance.
  2. Elicitation.
  3. Tests of security.
  4. Acquiring supplies.
  5. Suspicious behavior.
  6. Trial runs or dry runs.
  7. Deploying assets.

Now there are numerous other videos on the signs of terrorism out there. Most seem to have similarities and crossover. It is interesting how these signs are not consistent state-to-state. But more importantly, let me try to break down each point and clarify the behaviour of a terrorist as associated with each point.

  1. Eliciting information or information-gathering:
    • Attempting to gain information relevant to and vital for terrorist activities.
    • Technical information is probed such as flying under-the-radar when conducting flying practice or identification cards associated with access to restricted areas.
    • Research on plants, military facilities, et cetera, may be of vital important. As is bridge and tunnel usage, incoming shipments, supply storage and other information.
    • Fax, email, mail, phone, in person – the terrorist may attempt any form of communication to access such information. Hacking, stealing documents and other – more overtly criminal – methods included.
    • Probing questions are often used. These questions may seem strange, direct or inappropriate.
    • Examples include critical infrastructure information (e.g. that of power plant, water treatment plant or oil refinery), access to rooftops and other restricted areas of a building or security routines and change-overs.
  2. Impersonation:
    • May accompany the attempt to elicit information.
    • Posing as a photographer or other person to gain access to a restricted area or information relevant to their future activities. This may also include doctored company employee, first responder or security official uniforms.
    • Imposters may be wearing non-official uniforms that are missing signature details associated with that role. For example a missing badge or different pattern of uniform – this is called an incomplete uniform.
    • Terrorists may use aliases – some of which do not correspond with their identification cards.
    • They may be using fraudulent identification cards and have on them keys or other access equipment that does not correspond with their role – or that does not work as intended (e.g. unable to access a security gate or door).
  3. Recruiting:
    • Recruitment videos may be sourced online or stored on a personal computer. In fact, their personal computer may be very heavily-laden with security measures with access to external drives and auto-corruptible drives.
    • Propaganda material may be present such as flags, patches, pictures, et cetera.
  4. Financing:
    • Suspicious fundraising including mock charities, soliciting drugs – narcoterrorism – or even human trafficking. Siphoning money off legal and illegal activities
    • Transferring money through illegal means or gambling. This includes funneling money from or through charities and legitimate businesses
    • Large transactions of material paid for with cash, gift cards or pre-paid credit cards, without identification.
    • Raising money in a way that does not bring attention.
    • Backers and financiers of terrorism may lead a double-life in this regard. They may be running out of money quickly or spending money as soon as they earn it.
  5. Surveillance:
    • Pre-planning stage – reconnaissance – often involves a terrorist determining strengths and weaknesses of a target, how well the target is protected.
    • What are they taking a picture of? Scenery or security? Are they using vision-enhancing devices? Why?
    • Prolonged observation of a facility, restricted areas, guard routines and patrols. This includes staff rotations.
    • Crowd movements, access points., security cameras. You name it.
    • They may record times, map out routes, take notes.
  6. Probing security:
    • They test security by setting off fire alarms or phoning the police (e.g. reporting fake emergencies). Purposefully tampering with security safeguards.
    • This allows the terrorist to surveil and monitor the response times of the facility and those involved (e.g. police dogs, sniffer dogs, et cetera).
    • This also may include: leaving items in a location to gauge a response, plotting route to and from target and timing it, trespassing – walking or driving into restricted areas, engaging with staff to note their level of suspicion and alertness or parking vehicles for long periods of time (e.g. in no parking areas).
  7. Suspicious photography:
    • The use of long-range surveillance equipment and photography equipment (e.g. binoculars) is highly suspicious, especially in urban areas.
    • Recording activities, drawing diagrams, taking notes on maps, examining floor plans may raise your suspicion.
    • They try not to draw attention – discrete picture-taking. Staying away from crowds when taking probing pictures. Sometimes they even use the crowd as concealment to take pictures.
    • The subjects of their photographs may be security cameras, security officials or other relevant factors to their planning. Pictures of security apparatus including CCTV equipment, guard routines, patterns and change-overs.
  8. Acquiring expertise:
    • Training with fellow terrorists. This may include practicing bomb-making.
    • Those with degrees are targeted. For example engineering or chemical-related degrees for bomb-making.
    • Technical questions are probed relating to the points of probing security and eliciting information. This is also true in regards to what expertise people have – what certain people know about a target.
  9. Acquiring materials and storing materials:
    • May set up caches or stockpiles. Odd machinery and large collections of suspicious material in a garage may raise suspicion. Terrorists have also been known to house such material in storage centers and units.
    • They may need transportation and inquire into or rent a vehicle prior to committing an attack.
    • Suspicious  material may include large stockpiles of household cleaners, fertilizers, beauty supplies, forged passports, airline boarding passes, uniforms, decals, badges.
    • Terrorists may also need communication devices e.g. personal radios, one-time use cellphones or radio interceptors.
    • Chemicals and other destructive materials are top priority to be on the lookout for.
  10. Acquiring weapons, ammunition and explosives:
    • Large quantity of weapons are not uncommon in America but may rouse suspicion.
    • Unusual amounts of fertilizer or harmful chemicals should definitely rouse suspicion.
    • Purchasing or stealing weapons, especially through false or misleading means, is an indicator of potential future criminal activity.
  11. Rehearsing and trial runs:
    • To ensure operation runs smoothly and workout any flaws terrorists train.
    • They may test weapons and film it. They may map routes and move people around from place to place.
    • Closer to the deployment they may measure traffic flow or monitor police and emergency frequencies.
  12. Deployment or deploying assets:
    • Deployment includes arranging and deploying assets, planting weapons, team members waiting in a given area – ignoring those around them, who may seem nervous or preoccupied.
    • It may include terrorists getting into position, with firearms in the open or hastily concealed on their persons or in their luggage.
    • In midst of conducting terrorist operation – active shooter or other situation.
  13. Other suspicious behaviour:
    • Identifying the behaviour rather than profiling an individual – profile the behaviour.
    • People who do not belong in the area.
    • Their demeanor may be off, unusual questions they ask may raise suspicious, as might unusual statements they make.

As this blog mainly discusses religious terrorism, I thought I might add on. There is an association between becoming involved with more radical strains of religious interpretations and groups – and terrorism.

People may become more religious but in a very strict and aggressive way, relating such to geopolitical and political ongoing events. They may even become sinful but wish to be redeemed, falling into the trap and attractiveness of radical religious interpretations.

Below are the aforementioned videos in relation to this topic.











































































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