Security Today

Comments, thoughts, and pet peeves about the application (or misapplication) of security today.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Eco-terrorism - Just what is it?

There has been some recent discussion concerning Eco-terrorism including Congressional hearings with testimony by the FBI and The Center for Consumer Freedom, along with attention by the Southern Poverty Law Center. So is there Eco-terrorism, is it a real threat, and what is the motivation of those engaging in it. Wow, that's an awful lot to look at so I'll just hit the high points.

Is there Eco-terrorism? The government, the private sector (at least the portion involved with animals) and the Environmental/Animal Rights movements certainly think so, but the question is in how it is defined. According to Paul Watson, founder of The Sea Shepards Conservation Society, explains in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters that the actions of the companies and governments that damage the environment are acts of terrorism; however the FBI (and likely all federal law enforcement) and those companies in the private sector that have been targeted see Eco-terrorism in a different light - as terrorism. Why the difference? Well, simply put, no one calls themselves a terrorist - at least not seriously. They are always something else because they have a cause, and they generally also have interpretation of morality that justifies their actions. In this case the Enviro-Animal Rights movement works around a couple of justifications that are essentially synonymous.

First is 'Biocentrism,' or the belief that all life is equally valuable. Second is Speciesism, which is similar to racism or sexism in that humans wrongfully mistreat other species rather than treating them as equals. What? You say this doesn't jive with your sense of morality? Well it doesn't have to at this point. There are, however, those that feel you need to change, and they are willing to use violence to affect that change. This, of course, depends on your definition of violence. The Animal Rights/Liberation folks argue that violence can only be committed against animals and not property, so they do not describe their actions as violent - because they only destroy property. Destruction in the form of arson, denial of service attacks, intimidation and open threats.

Yah, but they're only freeing animals from labs, you say? Take a reality check, now! I'm not talking about those that engage in legal protests or "relatively harmless" efforts to rescue animals. No I'm talking about the arson in San Diego costing over $50 million in damage - that's right $50,000,000. I'm talking about posting the names, addresses, and family information (children's schools, etc.) of executives for companies that have been targeted on the web for all to see. This may not seem so bad to you, but imagine if you were hated by a group of people - a group large enough to provide individual anonymity - and your information was posted at a website frequented by these members. Members that read such material as "Eco-defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" and other materials that discuss methods for intimidating individuals - threatening letters, phone calls and the like. Wouldn't you be just a bit concerned? I think so.

The goal with these movements are similar but not identical. The Environmental movement comes in several varieties that can be seen as a continuum. On one end are those that are focused on conservation, or protecting current wild lands, and leading to those that want to reintroduce wildlife - particularly predators - into these wildlands, which lead to others that want to reclaim wildlands - including displacing humans now in residence - and still others at the far, far extreme that want to reverse the technology clock altogether. So the goal is to protect the environment from human damage - often seen to be caused by technology and overpopulation - and to improve the environment. Some radicals argue against vaccines as inappropriate meddling with nature while she is trying to balance the ecology by reducing the populations. The Animal Rights movement, as it is generically called, can also be seen on a continuum. On one end is Animal Welfare, followed by Animal Rights, followed by Animal Liberation. Animal welfarists tend to argue specifically against cruelty to animals but may not elevate them to the same status as humans. Animal Rights folks argue that animals are equals and will work to rescue them with their fringe element, Animal Liberationists, being those willing to commit serious crimes to "liberate" animals and damage enterprises that are considered exploitative.

So is it a real threat? Sure. As much as any other movement can be when they are willing to break the law, destroy property, and threaten human lives. How far will their efforts go? Well that really depends on many things, but it's unreasonable to believe they will simply change their beliefs and go home - expect to see these folks around for some time now.

For some more information search such topics as: Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Earth First!, Animal Rights, and so on....

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Shoplifting - boosting, lifting - The five-fingered discount

In a recent article concerning a study on retail theft, Dr. Richard Hollinger of the University of Florida makes points that are no doubt interesting; however if you've ever worked in retail security it shouldn't be news.

Roughly 8% of people that enter a store will steal something. Sounds alarming, but there has long been an accepted honesty continuum in the retail loss prevention (LP). It's commonly called the 80/20 rule but it does not resemble Pareto's law very much. It goes something like this: 10% of your employees will steal, 80% may steal, and 10% will never steal. It is generally applied to any population. The purpose of the concept is to reinforce the need for internal controls. The consequence for a lack of internal controls can be found by searching news sources for 'embezzlement.' Controls provide an opportunity to encourage the fenceriders (the 80% that may steal) not to take assets without permission.

Getting back to shoplifters... They come in all shapes and sizes and profiling them is best done based on behavior rather than some cultural feature. From my own experience as an LP Officer over just three years I apprehended persons as young as 10 years old and as old as, yes I'm serious, 74 years old. What did they steal? Whatever they wanted from clothes to linen to pillows to lingerie to the silliest little knickknacks you can imagine (like refrigerator magnets). Some fought (and fought hard) but most just come back to the store when asked. Why do they steal? Now that is a question that draws much debate, but it's not generally because they lack the funds. By far the vast majority of those I apprehended had enough money on their person to pay for the items they had stolen. "They just forgot," you say? Some may have, but those I did not apprehend. Why? Because we had a policy of following those that had not concealed the merchandise (indicating their knowledge that they possessed the merchandise) until they did conceal it. Did some realize their mistake and go back to pay, yes, and they probably never knew we were behind them all the way back. Why apprehend when you can make a sale? The fact they returned without encouragement would indicate to me that they were sufficiently embarrassed by their own conscience.

As I said, all shapes and sizes - and so were the amounts of their thefts. Some take only one item and are quite difficult to catch, while others take considerable amounts for resale. Consider another continuum with amateur on one side and professional on the other. The pro's live off their thefts and the amateurs do not. Everyone in the middle supplement their lifestyles to differing degrees with stolen items.

What do shoplifters do? Well, first this is not to be construed as legal advice to go out and start putting your hands on people or accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but here are a few thoughts. Most SL's get nervous before their actual theft. The theft technically occurs (in many states within the U.S.) at the time of concealment. The SL must look around to ensure they are not being watched, or head to a very concealed place (like a fitting room or bathroom). Other times their nervousness causes them to act somewhat erratically - going from lingerie to tools, or women's dresses to men's jeans - as they try to determine if they are being followed. So the eyes give it away and the hands make the move. Those that are part of an organized theft team will typically steal in large quantities using bags, boxes or other "tools." What do they want - the good stuff - of course. They may be selling them to a fence (pawn shop or other illegal buyer) or they may be delivering them to re-pack houses for shipment to legitimate customers that are unknowingly buying stolen goods.

I can go on forever about shoplifters... Call it a perennial thorn in my side since my earliest days in security. Heck, we didn't mention refund-artists or credit fraud at all. One day we'll get to those as well.

Rob
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Are you safe with the new TSA guidelines????

From this Washington Post Article it might appear that the government has lost its mind. Just a few years ago we were led to believe that everyone was to be a suspect and that small bladed knifes were as dangerous as guns. What are we to do now? I don't know if I'll feel safe flying now!!! Will you???

If you are easily scared by reality, or if you are a constantly worry about what if, what if, or what if, then read no further. Remain ignorant - and as unsafe as you ever were.

Look folks this change is a good thing! Let me say this again: "We are only safe when we choose to be safe!" We are never safe when we relinquish our moral obligation to self-defense to a third-party. (This takes nothing away from those who - everyday - go to work and attempt to provide security for others... Military, law enforcement, correctional officers, and, well yes, security professionals.)

First of all, finding small blades can be very difficult, at best, during a screening process such as one finds at airports. Ask any security professional responsible for building security. Throughput is king! With that said... I remember shortly after September 11, 2001 (yes I was flying on the first day flights were permitted) a flight attendant asked me to move to the front of the plane near the cockpit door and then asked, "If anything happens will you help me?" What a disturbing question. If anything happens. What is supposed to happen? We've been carefully stripped of all tools that human development has provided us to make us able to defend ourselves better. What was really disturbing is that someone may have said 'no'. After answering in the affirmative, all I could think was what all those years of telling citizens to submit to crime, criminals, and miscreants had done to us. We lost our will to resist. Why do I say this now? Because if you think that a pocket knife is that big of a threat on a plane then you lack a certain amount of the survival drive (I deeply apologize if this offends anyone, but keep reading).

A pocket knife is of little use, if you understand how resilient the human body is, against a determined defender. A human an bleed a considerable amount before experiences a serious degradation in their capabilities. Some say that bleeding is the most over-treated injury. So a little slice here or there might be disturbing but not seriously damaging. Now a thrust could be deadly. A thrust of just about two inches into the torso will hit an organ - not good. So how do you fight back on a plane? Think man, think! (Woman too). Be creative - MacGyver creative - what is around you in the passenger cabin? Seat cushions, magazines, headphones (with wire), air sick bags, the armrest, seatback trays, soda cans, plastic utensils, plastic cups, and anything in your carry on bags - like hard plastic bookmarks and so on. Roll up a magazine and strike yourself (not your little brother or best friend - belated sorry Russ) and see how much that hurts. Striking major muscles can cause them to malfunction - also called fluid shock techniques - or use it a means to keep that little toy knife at bay. Throw water in someone's face (cocktails are better) to distract them. A soda can weighs roughly one pound. It can really hurt when used as a rock - thrown or striking. If it's empty, tear the top and bottom off and fold the long strip of metal into a very sharp edge. So I ask again, "What do you defend yourself with?" And the answer is the same as it has been for centuries - Your Mind! Do not panic - react. Do not submit - overcome. Oh, by the way, a pocket knife is very likely to fold onto your own figures if you try to use it as a thrusting weapon - a bad experience I do not recommend.

That all sounds great, I know. I've been spouting if for years, but practically speaking the bad guys to have advantages at the of attack - mainly coordinated action. So how then are these changes to security policies worthwhile?

The threat has changed significantly. I would venture to say that, unlike the 1970's, if someone were to yell this is a hijacking they would be picking their teeth up off the floor pretty fast. The bad guys thrive on control, and they get it by instilling fear (terror). The few affecting the many by affecting the few. They threaten one person to hold everyone at bay and so. Anyway, these policies reflect the fact that times have changed. It's time to focus on the next threat, whatever that may be.

Rob
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Thursday, August 18, 2005

On to other matters

Congratulations to the U.K. on their efforts on dealing with the terrorists among them, and now let's move on to other topics. That is, of course, until some other incident occurs that causes near 24-hour coverage.

Anyone ever hear of Eco-terrorism before? It is not new - although the most destructive efforts seem to appear in the 1970's (Animal Rights) and 1980's (Environmental) - but it is not often addressed. Why? Who knows exactly. Just ask a few people and the wide variety of answers says it all. We just don't seem to take the problem seriously as a nation. I sincerely hope no one feels that I don't think other domestic extremists are as serious a problem, or even more so. I don't tend to find too many individuals that are sympathetic to such causes as racial supremacy, racial separatists, religious militants - and that would be any that espouse violence as an acceptable means to convert or cleanse anyone else - or any other groups that can fall into categories that are often referred to in the media as hate groups. Oh by the way, there are quite a few good resources on the topic of hate (groups, violence, crime, etc.) but my favority is the Southern Poverty Law Center. They really do an excellent job of tracking activities and groups. Their Hatewatch newsletter is a free service that delivers convenient links to via email on hate activities in the news. Anyway the reason I brought them up specifically is a recent report concerning the current (and real threat) of "right-wing" domestic terrorism. So extremism of all kinds can be a threat, but back to the Eco stuff.

Although we can treat them separately, the Environmental Movement and the Animal Rights movement have drifted ever closer together in their efforts. So here's a snapshot at understanding their beliefs and motivations. Why is this important? Well, quite frankly, no one ever seems to call themselves a 'terrorist.' Instead this is a label that is applied externally. There are Jihadists (not Muslim terrorists), Animal Liberators rather than terrorists - you get the point. Understanding motivation goes a long way to understanding the "randomness" of any attack. This is not to say that it becomes any easier to predict the next target, but it does become possible to identify a class of targets. So off we go, first with two key terms for comprehending this are Biocentrism and Speciesism. In short, these terms state that humans are just one life form among many; standing no higher or lower than any other, and treating other species as other than equals is ethically wrong. This is a very simplistic way to look at this but the origins of this can, arguably, be traced back to Darwin and his writings on the Decent of Man. Peter Singer's book, Animal Liberation offers philosophical discussion on the topic, but for quite possibly the most interesting writing on the justifications for Animal Liberation by violent means there is Terrorists or Freedom Fighters and The Logic of Political Violence. To make a long argument short - Those that destroy property, threaten people and "liberate" animals are not terrorists because the animals our not ours to subjugate, and therefore it is morally correct to take action to free them in the face of illegal laws. These folks liken their efforts to the Nazi Resistance and the Underground Railroad. So there is their justification. Believe what you wish.

We can discuss this at some length - and you are probably getting bored with the topic as well - so we will come back a later time and look at the Animal Liberation and Environmental activities separtely. But if in the meantime take a look at just how many "direct actions" take place around the world.

Rob
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