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Raising Public Awareness in the Fight Against Extremism

It has become customary to fault intelligence and law enforcement agencies regarding security lapses after high profile incidents occur. The next steps after such lapses in security are predictable: Congressional hearings follow, and politicians posture before the public with staged indignation and finger pointing. Frankly, we are seeing a strategic smoke and mirrors approach by the Obama administration used to both divert and assign blame. Lives are in the balance, and now more than ever, Americans need to take responsibility for their safety and their neighbors’. Staying safe requires watchfulness. And it is important to learn what to look for and how to arrive at actionable intelligence without creating paranoia and scapegoats.

Actionable intelligence is real time information that allows security professionals to intervene. It is intelligence that is on hand and available to people who are in a position to do something. Such information is used to prevent incidents like the failed Christmas Day bombing by 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Christmas day terrorist act was the reality that information was available via Umar’s father, but nothing was done with it. Now and far into the foreseeable future, Americans will need circumspectness from both public servants and private citizens. People will need tools beyond reactionary intelligence.

Reactionary intelligence is in the moment decision-making based on observation. It is important. After all, it’s the brave people of Northwest Flight 253 that took matters into their own hands, averting catastrophe in the process. Citizen defense aboard planes was highlighted during the September 11 attacks when the people aboard United Airlines Flight 93 overcame the hijackers and sacrificed their lives in the process. The resilient passengers of American Airline Flight 63 restrained Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and saved their lives in the process. Reactionary intelligence was used appropriately in all situations, and lives were saved. But there is a better way.

Discovering actionable intelligence (through techniques that couple statement analysis with various open interview methods) is not as difficult as it may seem. Actionable intelligence is something members of the public can gather on their own with some training. This should be encouraged in a self-directed learning format. If citizens become more skilled in this, they will be able to report things in an unbiased way.

The C.O.N.F.I.R.M model is something Relevant Now has used as a research tool since 1993. Some preparation and study is required before the model can be implemented. Anyone interested in using this approach should follow the basic structure below:

• Become familiar with emerging trends in crime and ask a series of questions: What networks, organizations and lone wolves are likely to emerge? What types of crimes and targets will they select? Study the doctrines and belief systems of the organizations.
• Use personal experience, areas of interest, and expertise when assessing what groups to focus on.
• Use an open ended question format if or when one is fortunate enough to come across someone online or in person who fits a radical or criminal profile. Appear friendly, competent, nonjudgmental, and curious when asking questions.
• Apply the C.O.N.F.I.R.M model to the organizations and individuals under study or observation by asking the following questions in the order below:

Convictions: What are the stated beliefs and intentions of the organization or individual? Is there a history of criminal or terrorist acts?

Orientation: Are the motivations primarily external or internal? (Lone wolf probabilities may be evident for some, while others may appear group dependent.)

Nexus points: Who are they associated with? What are the commonalities between them and similar organizations or individuals?

Functionality: Applied Behavioral Analysis: What do they get from the behavior?

Integration: How connected are they to the group. How does the society/community they are a part of view the group? Do people revere and respect, or despise them?

Relativity: Are mores and rule of law irrelevant to them and secondary to their pursuits? Do they follow a different code of conduct, ethics, and doctrine? If so, what are they?

Mission: How strong is their sense of mission and purpose? Are they willing to die?

The C.O.N.F.I.R.M approach is a simple model that can be effective if people are willing to put the time in and learn. Extremism cannot be contained by government officials and security personnel alone. There is a definite uptick in the activities of radicals and their intent is clear, kill as many as possible. Reporting is essential and mandatory in this conflict. Since citizens are targets, they must become part of the solution. It is time to become educated, empowered and effective in this battle.

By Hakim Hazim and Charles Holmes

OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

OODA is comprised of a unique team of international experts capable of providing advanced intelligence and analysis, strategy and planning support, risk and threat management, training, decision support, crisis response, and security services to global corporations and governments.