Homeland Security Community Threat Assessment Jesse Anderson Boston University Abstract The purpose of this brief is to provide Homeland Security with a terrorist threat assessment of the local community. It is suspected that an eco-terrorist organization is forming in the area. The organization’s structure, typology and force multipliers are analyzed. The primary goal of Homeland Security as listed in the National Strategy for Homeland Security is the prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks (Department of Homeland Security, 2007, p. ). Despite the fact that the largest terrorist threat comes from Islamic extremist groups, other organizations that pose a threat to the Homeland must be monitored by federal, state and local governments as well. As a nation, “we confront an ongoing threat posed by domestic terrorists based and operating strictly within the United States. Often referred to as ‘single-issue’ groups, they include white supremacist groups, animal rights extremists, and eco-terrorist groups, among others” (Department of Homeland Security, 2007, p. 10).
Since September 11th, radical environmental groups engaged in eco-terrorism have been identified as the leading domestic terrorist threat (Vanderheiden, 2005, p. 425). It is my opinion that this type of organization is forming in the local community. Their actions thus far fall under the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism, and their organization can be classified under a domestic geographical typology and a cause-based mode of attack typology. The organization utilizes a pyramidal structure with command, support, intelligence and tactical divisions.
Technological and media force multipliers may be used to increase the striking power of the small organization. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as “the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2005, p. v).
Recently, vandalism and arson were committed at a local construction site in which trees needed to be cut down to make room for a new housing development. This unlawful use of violence in the name of an environmental cause meant to intimidate the company funding the housing development falls under the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism. According to Ash (as cited in Kegley, Jr. , 2003), there are four things to look at when deciding whether someone is a terrorist: biography, goals, methods, and context (p. 62). Graffiti at the scene suggests that the offenders are associated with the Earth Liberation Front.
In the past, this organization has had similar incidents of violence and vandalism to intimidate anti-environmental companies all over the nation. The goal of E. L. F “is to cause targeted economic harm to anti-environmental offenders in order to remove the profit motive from killing the earth and all life on it” (Vanderheiden, 2005, p. 426). This goal is achieved through property attacks using methods of vandalism, arson, and bombings. Members are not oppressed, and have the ability to air their grievances and make their cause known peacefully.
Thus, instilling fear in the public through violent property attacks with the aim of achieving political and social objectives can not be justified. Therefore, using the FBI definition and through examination of biography, goals, methods and context, it is determined that the local E. L. F. group is a terrorist organization. This organization can be classified through geographical or modes of attack typologies. Since the attack was committed within this country by residents of this country, the organization is classified as domestic (Goldstein, 2008, Typologies of Terrorism section).
Under the modes of attack typology, this organization is classified as “cause-based”. This is because the group is devoted to an environmental social cause, and is using violence and vandalism to “address their grievances” (Goldstein, 2008, Typologies of Terrorism section). As the case with most terrorist organizations, the group’s structure is most likely pyramidal with command, support, tactical and intelligence subsections (Goldstein, 2008, Organization of a Terrorist Group section). The person in command is at the tip of the pyramid and oversees all aspects of the operation.
The support section is responsible for the materials necessary for the attacks. Surveillance, planning, and target assessment is the responsibility of the intelligence section. Finally, the tactical section carries out the actual terrorist action. Although the local E. L. F. group is estimated to be small in number, force multipliers allow for the “increase in striking power without increasing the strength of the unit” (White, 2009, pp. 98-99). This organization will most likely utilize technology and the media as force multipliers. Eco-terrorists like the E. L. F. re careful to cause damage only to property and not people. Therefore, the use of weapons of mass destruction is unlikely. Cyberterrorism, however, is a possibility. “Cyberterrorism refers to the use of computers to attack technological targets or physical attacks on computer networks” (White, 2009, p. 101). Many companies in this area that could be targets for this local E. L. F. group rely heavily on computer networks. The use of computer viruses to attack the information structures of these companies would cause a great deal of harm, making it a very attractive option.
Additionally, media reports on arsons and bombings committed by the organization gives “recognition to their causes, grievances and demands” and can also serve as a “psychological weapon” (White, 2009, p. 205). As such, the use of cyberterrorism and the media as force multipliers should be anticipated. In conclusion, Homeland Security’s dedication to preventing and disrupting terrorist attacks in America has led to an analysis of suspected terrorist activity in the local community. Islamic extremist groups may pose the greatest terrorist threat to America, but there are still domestic terrorist organizations that need to be confronted.
It is suspected that an eco-terrorist organization affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front has formed in the local community. This local E. L. F. group can be determined as a terrorist organization through application of the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism and the examination of its biography, goals, context, and violent methods. The organization can be classified as domestic or cause-based under geographical or modes of attack typologies. Furthermore, a pyramid structure with command, support, intelligence and tactical subsections is most likely being used.
Along with traditional modes of attack, media and technological force multipliers might be used by the organization to increase their striking power.