The Boston Marathon bombing was the first terror attack on a sporting event since the 1996 Olympic Games. It was a terrible reminder that violent extremists are constantly seeking targets that capture public attention but are difficult (if not impossible) to secure. Sporting events and venues are particularly attractive to violent extremists because they are inherently soft targets: impossible to completely secure with a potential for high casualties and a delayed or limited security response. Recognizing these vulnerabilities, in 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s Offices of SAFETY Act Implementation and University Programs launched an effort to determine how sport and entertainment venue owners and operators can protect their events from terrorist attack.
Led by the Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis at Rutgers University, a DHS Center of Excellence, the endeavor yielded the Best Practices in Anti-Terrorism Security (BPATS) for sporting and entertainment venues. It is the first of its kind, and it describes what all stakeholders (from the stadium owner to the hotdog vendor) can to do minimize risk and enhance resilience at American pastimes. It also gives venue owners and operators methods for using and testing counterterrorism processes and technologies. To be sure, this is an important step forward in the national effort to harden our communities against terrorist attack. Here is an article I wrote for Homeland Security Today on the BPATS guide.
Missiles are raining on Iraq and Syria, and terrorists are scurrying around the globe like cockroaches. Drone footage of massive explosions shows a global coalition is finally taking the fight to the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (ISIS). But while our military’s sights are turned on Middle Eastern targets, we must remain vigilant here in the United States. Terrorist calls for foreign fighters and despicable beheadings in the name of extremist ideology are whipping extremists— some of them American— into a frenzy. Scores of would-be terrorists have traveled to join ISIS and still others have acted within their home country, either through material support or direct violent action. It is imperative that we continue the essential counterterrorism work of the last 13 years and out-think and out-prepare our adversaries. That means thinking like a terrorist.
What is at the top of a terrorist’s wish list? Groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and their U.S. homegrown acolytes seek to conduct attacks that are shocking, diabolical and deadly. Attacks are meant to pressure public opinion through fear while also creating economic disruption and psychological stress, all to affect a change in the state’s political activity. The level of impact in these areas is called “attack utility;” effectively, the terrorists’ return on investment. Would a terrorist target America’s hardened aviation systems? Perhaps, but attacking soft targets – those that are vulnerable and more difficult to secure –yields far greater attack utility. One example of such a soft target is sporting venues and events. Sports draw crowds, and, as history has shown, they are impossible to completely secure.
Read the full article.