Mall Terror Propaganda

Title: L.A. Officials Issue Terrorism Alert For Local Malls 
Date: April 29, 2004
Source: MSNBC

AbstractA terrorism task force was investigating an “uncorroborated” threat to a Los Angeles-area shopping mall, and federal officials say an attack may have been planned for Thursday.

“As of now, the information is uncorroborated and the credibility of the source is unknown,” Los Angeles police said in a statement.

No specific shopping mall was named, but an anonymous telephone call to federal officials several days ago indicated a mall near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles, Police Chief William Bratton said. The caller provided no further details about a possible attack.

The warning was analyzed for several days along with other information that Bratton declined to specify. Malls were notified and police were placed on citywide alert before the public warning was made.

The alert was “strictly precautionary,” Bratton said at a news conference at The Grove, an open shopping mall in the Fairfax District.

Bratton Calls for ‘Eyes, Ears’ of Public 

The alert was “strictly precautionary,” Bratton said at a news conference.


“We need the eyes, the ears” of the public because such scrutiny can deter terrorists, he added.

Bratton said police and the FBI were trying to identify the caller. Police had already been investigating several other threats that weren’t as specific.

The Los Angeles Police Department increased patrols at shopping malls and asked mall operators to beef up security while a joint terrorism task force investigates.

Thursday morning, pairs of LAPD officers on foot patrolled all three levels of the Westside Pavilion, about 2½ miles away from the Federal Building.

Liliana Restrepo, 24, who operates a jewelry cart in the mall, said she wasn’t worried herself but was afraid the threat would scare away customers. “It will be a horrible day,” she said.

Crew members putting up sets for a Tim Allen movie called “Skipping Christmas” also shrugged off the warning. “We can’t let it bother us. We can’t live in fear,” said Alex Barnoya.

4,000 Similar Threats 

FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said that because the "reliability of the source is unknown" and exact details were "unsubstantiated," officials decided that as the date drew nearer and "out of an abundance of caution" they would enlist the public's help.

He added that seeking public help is done "in cases all the time." The FBI says 4,000 similar, unsubstantiated threats have been received in the United States over the last year.

An advisory issued late Wednesday asks the public and mall security to look for:

  1. People or activities that don't "fit" into the mall environment.
  2. People sitting in a parked vehicle for a long time.
  3. People sketching or taking notes, photographing or videotaping areas not normally associated with tourism.
  4. Someone wearing a heavy coat in hot weather.
  5. Anyone carrying unusually heavy bags or backpacks.
  6. Vehicles improperly parked or in spots not normally used for deliveries (MSNBC, 2004)
Title: Terror At The Mall?
January 24, 2010
American Thinker

Abstract: The shopping malls of America will be among the next major terrorist targets.

Malls make such obvious high-value targets that it's difficult to grasp why they haven't been hit up until now. Shopping malls are America's marketplaces, constantly packed with people, with uncontrolled entry, and openly vulnerable to any given form of attack. We need only consider the darkest days of the Iraqi terror campaign of 2006-2007 to grasp how the jihadis view marketplaces. Scarcely a week went by without another Iraqi marketplace bombing, with casualties largely consisting of women and children, mounting from the dozens to the hundreds. We need only add the fact that the mall in many ways symbolizes the United States to people across the world, acting as kind of American Horn of Plenty, to see the inevitability of the threat. Such attacks will come, and they will be ugly.

It's not as if the jihadis haven't tried. In late 2003, Nuradin Abdi, a Somali native, was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky while in the midst of plans to attack a mall in Columbus, Ohio. Abdi was closely associated with al-Qaeda member Iyman Faris, arrested for planning a bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge. (A personal side note: Two weeks after 9/11, I was in Columbus itself, speaking to acquaintances about what I'd seen in lower Manhattan. "Well, at least they'll never attack us here," one of them said. "I wouldn't be too sure of that," I told him. "If I were an educated terrorist, I'd be very interested in hitting a town called Columbus.")

Late last year, Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury, Massachusetts was arrested for, among other things, conspiring with Ahmad Abousamra and Daniel Maldonado to attack unidentified malls with automatic weapons. (Abousamra and Maldonado, who had received training in al-Qaeda camps, were evidently already in custody).

On at least two occasions in 2004 and 2007, the FBI circulated warnings of potential mall attacks during the holiday season, when they would present what is known as a "target-rich environment." The 2004 warning involved a mall in central Los Angeles, while the later incident involved malls in both L.A. and Chicago. While no attacks occurred, it remains unknown how far jihadi plans were actually taken.

In Europe, the action has been even hotter. Last week, a Palestinian named Wissam Freijeh was sentenced to ten years for shooting up a Danish mall on December 31, 2008. Freijeh's target was a kiosk selling Israeli products. Two people were injured.

So malls have definitely been on the jihadis' minds. Why no more than one-off attacks? If malls were such an obvious target, wouldn't they have been hit before this? Counter-terror specialists are convinced (as was ably expressed here by Bruce Hoffman) that after a lengthy hiatus recovering from the losses sustained during the Bush years, the jihadis have emerged with a new strategy. This could be called the "wasp" strategy, a method well-known to guerrilla fighters and special-operations forces. Rather than concentrate on massive operations of the 9/11 type, Islamist terrorists will instead carry out endless pinprick attacks, much as a swarm of wasps might harry an elephant (so okay, we'll make it a rhino), maddening the beast to a point where it finally plunges off a cliff. The Fort Hood attack, the Underwear Kid, and the Afghanistan CIA bombing act as evidence of just such a strategy. And there we might well have our answer: the jihadis may have put the malls aside to wait for a moment such as this, when a series of attacks would pay off the most.

How would such attacks occur? As with all Islamist efforts, the goal will be to account for the highest number of casualties in the most horrific manner possible. With this in mind, the first scenario that arises is the truck bomb. With their broad parking lots, enabling a vehicle to build up a high terminal velocity, and their wide glass entrances, malls almost appear to have been designed for this style of attack. The truck payload could be conventional explosives, or in the case of a stolen tanker truck, a supernapalm mixture. (Some readers have understandably protested over my providing the actual formula for supernapalm the last time I dealt with the topic, so we'll elide that this time.) In either case, the casualty level would be appalling, the images horrifying, and the impact impossible to negate. While some malls and shopping complexes have blocked their entrances with concrete barriers or planters, many others have ignored this cheap and simple safeguard. All such establishments should be encouraged to emplace such obstacles as soon as possible.

A secondary threat is the bomb vest, which we most recently saw deployed against a CIA unit in Afghanistan. While not as destructive as the vehicle bomb, the bomb vest has probably claimed more victims overall. It was a favored weapon for striking the markets of Iraq, and as the CIA assassination clearly reveals, it remains extremely effective. Countermeasures could be difficult. In Iraq, the jihadis showed no hesitation in utilizing small children, the retarded, and even animals in carrying out bomb attacks. A coatroom in which heavy coats and other items could be checked could aid in curtailing such attacks. But this leaves us with the problem of large handbags, baby carriages, and packages. Eventually, it may be necessary to adopt the Israeli practice of bag searches and metal detectors.

A related method would involve nerve gas, as successfully used by the Aum Shinryko cult to strike the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The Tokyo attacks killed twelve people and wounded several dozen others. A supply of atropine injectors, the standard first aid for nerve-gas poisoning, should be stored in each mall's pharmacy or medical clinic -- no rarity today in malls across the country.

Finally, we reach the trusty firearm, the easiest threat to smuggle in, and in some ways the hardest to deal with. Mall security is almost exclusively unarmed, with little training in dealing with firearm threats. While some large malls feature police substations, most rely on a warning system to call in the police in the event of an emergency. A well-armed jihadi death squad could cause considerable loss of life before local police could respond, and they might conceivably escape to strike elsewhere. Perhaps the most effective tactic would be to come in through one entrance, race through the mall firing at all available targets, and exit through another entrance where a car or van would be waiting with engine running. It's difficult to see how any official countermeasure short of a police tactical squad could handle this type of attack.

What defensive measures have been taken by mall operators? Apart from the previously mentioned entrance barriers, next to nothing. Security experts have suggested a number of cheap countermeasures, such as utilizing transparent trash buckets to prevent use by bombers, but in large part, these have not been taken up. The general response of owners and operators has been a claim that "no credible threat" to malls has been demonstrated, much the same attitude that preceded the 9/11 attack, but with much less in the way of excuse.

No small number of malls have gone out of their way to increase their vulnerability through participation in the "gun-free zone" movement.  In 1990, Congress, in what many observers consider to have been an incremental attempt at a national firearms ban, passed a "Gun Free School Zones" act as part of that year's Crime Control bill. The law forbade ownership or possession of a firearm, apart from strictly limited conditions, anywhere within a thousand feet of a school or related institution. The attempt was ill-fated, being overturned by the Supreme Court and then reinstated in a thoroughly unenforceable form.

Congressional meddling triggered a kind of low-key craze among schools and other institutions -- including malls -- in which administrations eagerly adapted the "gun-free" pledge, often ostentatiously announcing it with signs containing menacing threats against anyone caught with a gun.

As a result, school shootings, a rarity prior to the '90s, became a commonplace. "Gun-free zones" served to attract armed loons the way that honey attracts bears. Firearms-affairs specialist John R. Lott, Jr. has gone on record to state that every major recent shooting has occurred in a declared gun-free area. This includes Virginia Tech, where in September 2007 an insane undergraduate murdered over thirty students.

Malls have not been immune. Mall shootings, unheard of before the "gun-free" movement, are today no rarity. They have occurred in recent years at Kingston, N.Y.; Tacoma, Washington; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; and Salt Lake City, Utah. In each case, the "gun-free" policy was in place and widely advertised.

We can assume that jihadi terrorists are as well-informed as the average American psychotic. "Gun-free" malls are simply informing our enemies where the easiest targets can be found. These malls will be the first ones hit.

As is often the case with the P.C. crowd, the exact opposite action would produce the desired results. In the Salt Lake City incident of February 12, 2007, a gunman entered the mall with the intention of shooting shoppers at random. Fortunately, an off-duty policeman, Keith Hammond, had also disobeyed the anti-gun admonition. The shooter had already shot nine and killed five when Hammond brought him under fire and held him at bay until responding officers ended the attack by killing the gunman.

Salt Lake City reveals the solution to the mall terror problem. It is clear that the best method of negating the threat would be to enlist customers themselves in defending and protecting their malls. Operators and owners should meet with qualified locals -- ex-police officers and soldiers in particular -- to set up an armed patrol system. Local police cooperation would be necessary to assure proper training and liaison. The goal would be to have one or more patrols present at all times during opening hours. A communications system could be established (no real challenge in the age of the cell phone), both to assure regular contact and to alert members of potential threats. Regular mall security would continue handling everyday problems. By such a means we could avoid a terror-related Virginia Tech, Salt Lake City, or, for that matter, Fort Hood.

Another possibility would be to organize and train mall workers who own guns, assuring that their firearms would be available at work in case of an emergency. While many retail franchises and chains have strict rules against interfering with criminal activities (workers are supposed to wait for the cops), certainly this should be set aside in dealing with terror attempts.

There's little hope of such concepts being put into effect under prevailing conditions. Experience teaches us that P.C. notions of the "gun-free" variety are the hardest weeds to dig up once they've taken root. But it is undeniable that the "bureaucratic" strategy of meeting the terror threat -- Homeland Defense, a centralized National Intelligence Directorate, and so forth -- has proven to be an abject failure. The latest attacks over Detroit, at Fort Hood, and in Afghanistan occurred because the oversized bureaucracies had been put in place, creating a system of endless filters to prevent urgent and necessary information from getting where it was needed. The federal government has merely provided a larger rhino to be stung by jihadi attacks.

On the other hand, all three failed airliner attacks were prevented by the passengers themselves, with no help from air marshals, anti-terror specialists, or Homeland Security bureaucrats. (We're counting Flight 93 here as a defeat for terror -- the attack was curtailed, even though the heroic passengers lost their lives doing it.) In the end, it's the individuals on the spot who make the difference. Even the hapless Janet Napolitano has admitted that passengers comprise the last line of defense.

To combat a swarm of wasps, you don't call up a herd of rhinos. You gather a lot of people with rolled-up newspapers. At this point, our efforts against terror are reactive -- we may well have to endure a mall attack, with casualties possibly reaching the hundreds, before the federal government is forced to rethink its approach. When the time comes, the alternative strategy must be considered. With the American people, this country has a resource unparalleled across the wide world. It's about time we put it to use (American Thinker, 2010).

Title: US Malls Brace For Terrorist Attacks
 August 7, 2011
Source: ABC News 

A janitor spots an abandoned diaper bag lying on a table in the sprawling food court at the Mall of America. A bomb-sniffing dog and a security officer are there within minutes, examining the package while nearby shoppers are held a safe distance away.

No bomb. Case closed. But that scene is repeated at the nation's largest shopping center 150 times a month.

Years ago, lost purses or shopping bags would just go to the lost and found. But after the Sept. 11 attacks and a series of terror threats against malls, "we realized that bad guys don't write 'explosives' on the side of packages," said Maj. Douglas Reynolds.

He heads a 150-officer security force trained in Krav Maga, the official self-defense system of Israeli security forces. A plainclothes unit is solely devoted to behavioral profiling.

Terror threats against U.S. malls — federal authorities have charged suspects in at least three terror plots since the Sept. 11 attacks — have made huge behind-the-scenes changes to one of the most treasured American experiences — going to the mall.

Shoppers say they hardly notice the closed-circuit cameras, plainclothes officers and trained dogs, and believe the risk of getting attacked at a shopping center is remote.

"The average shopper, they don't walk in and think 'this could be the end,' " said Don Heinzman, 77, of Elk River, Minn., having coffee with two friends at the Minnesota mall.

But overseas, especially in places like Israel and Turkey, terror attacks in malls occur with frightening regularity. Experts are worried that similar acts will eventually become commonplace in the U.S. In 2004, an anonymous call threatening a Los Angeles plot sent more than 100 officers to protect various shopping centers.

Two Ohio men — originally from Somalia and Pakistan — are serving prison terms in a 2003 threat to bomb Columbus-area malls. Another suspect is serving a prison term for a similar plot against a mall 90 miles north of Chicago. A Massachusetts pharmacist is awaiting trial on terror charges; prosecutors said he conspired with others to shoot down shoppers in U.S. malls and kill U.S. troops in Iraq.

In a 2006 report, the nonprofit RAND Corporation think tank found that there were 60 shopping mall attacks in 21 countries between 1998 and 2005 and that U.S. malls may not be well-prepared for them.

The International Council of Shopping Centers trained some 10,000 mall officers between 2003 and 2009 to better recognize terrorists and other threats. Experts at George Washington University designed the $3 million program, which was discontinued because of a lack of funding.

Paul Maniscalco, a senior research scientist at the university who was involved in developing the program, called shopping malls "soft targets."

"I think they're as safe as any place else in the U.S.," he said. "Unfortunately in an open and free democratic society there's certain trade-offs. The concept of a shopping center is a pretty complex social icon within our society. You can't turn them into armed camps."

Malachy Kavanagh, the spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said the latest threat to public places in the U.S. is not from organized terrorist groups, but "lone wolf" individuals.

"A big part is to be aware of who may be watching your center," he said. Officers have to watch for people trying to engage guards in conversation, checking for security cameras, he said.

Reynolds said his officers need to cultivate a balance between securing a center and cultivating an open, family-friendly atmosphere (shoppers at the Mall of America can stop to ride rollercoasters at the mall's in-house amusement park).

"We're not designed to be Fort Knox," said Reynolds. "We need to be accessible and make people feel welcome — but still protected."

Christine Kimbrough 66, of Upper Marlboro, Md., stopped to look at a tall metal monument that resembles two doorways and a door.

The somber monument is a tribute to Bloomington resident Tom Burnett Jr., a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.

Kimbrough read the monument's plaque and shook her head.

"You're always on alert," she said. "You have to be now."

Reynolds hopes shoppers think like Kimbrough. With 4.2 million square feet of space and more than 20,000 parking spots, it's difficult for his officers to see everything. He's instituted the so-called "RAM Unit" — short for Risk Assessment and Mitigation — which is a team of plainclothes officers who perform behavior profiling and who look for suspicious objects.

His officers don't carry guns but can make citizens' arrests under Minnesota law. There haven't been any terror arrests; most calls are about shoplifters, missing children and abandoned packages. Occasionally, the officers will confront a drunk and rowdy customer.

Reynolds said his officers must also be on the alert not just for terrorists, but for volatile workplace or domestic arguments that could result in a mass shooting.

The mall has a control center where dispatchers monitor 12 closed-circuit televisions and field the 120,000 calls for service each year.

Nearby, the bomb-sniffing dogs are in a separate office. Reynolds explained that he's transitioning from tough-looking Belgian Malinois dogs (similar to German Shepherds) to English Springer Spaniels and flat-coated retrievers, so that the dogs are perceived by shoppers as less aggressive and police-like.

"These dogs break hearts all day," he said, while patting Chuck, a four-year-old black and white spaniel.

If the client-friendly tactics sound like something out of Disney, that's because they are.

Reynolds has visited Orlando to learn from security experts there, and even uses some phrases similar to Disney's security force.

Officers who are patrolling the mall are "on stage," and inside the training room, there's a large word above the door that leads to the mall: "SHOWTIME" (ABC News, 2011).

Title: Feds: Holidays Could Tempt Terrorists -- But U.S. 'Not Aware Of Credible Threats'
November 24, 2011

Abstract: Terrorists could decide to launch attacks during the holiday season but the United States has no evidence any plots are being planned, according to a federal law enforcement intelligence bulletin issued Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI joint notice to local law enforcement partners says federal officials "are not aware of any credible threats to the Homeland specifically timed to coincide with the 2011 holiday season. " CNN obtained a copy of the document, which goes on to say intelligence received in the last year suggests "terrorists recognize that the large gatherings occurring during the holiday season provide an opportunity for mass casualty attacks."

During the May raid that killed Osama bin Laden, information was retrieved saying that as recently as February of 2010 al Qaeda was considering the merits of launching U.S. attacks on holidays such as Christmas. But officials don't know if that idea was broadly shared with al Qaeda foot soldiers and, if so, whether they were receptive to the idea. Some al Qaeda affiliates were reported to be more interested in launching attacks in their local regions and less inclined to attack the U.S.

The bulletin reminds law enforcement officers the U.S. stopped an alleged plot last year to set off a vehicle bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon. Mohamed Osman Mohamud goes on trial next year and has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The DHS/FBI intelligence document says the Oregon incident is the first known plot by an alleged "homegrown violent extremist" that was planned to take place at a U.S. holiday event.

President Barack Obama and other officials have repeatedly said they are extremely concerned about so-called lone wolf offenders because their plots don't involve co-conspirators and are therefore extremely difficult to detect and stop. "We remain concerned that violent extremists could seek to conduct small-scale attacks during this year's holiday season," according to the DHS/FBI bulletin.

Officials warn that past al Qaeda propaganda has encouraged individuals to carry out terror strikes in their home countries involving simple improvised explosive devices or small arms. The intelligence document says such attacks "would not require overseas travel for training or communication with known terrorists."

The document advises local law enforcement to be vigilant and watch out for certain types of activity such as people buying commonly available chemicals that could be used to make bombs, or conducting surveillance of possible targets.

Federal authorities have issued warnings in the past about possible terrorist activity at holiday time. This year marks the first Thanksgiving and Christmas season since the death of bin Laden (CNN, 2011).