Sunday, October 18, 2015

How Public And Private Security Operations Protect Celebrities, Big-Name Executives And Dignitaries

By Michael Fickes
End User Correspondent,

The Pope’s visit to the United States reminds us that protecting big-name executives, celebrities and dignitaries is a highly specialized security function. Public and private executive protection groups begin preparing for the visit of major world figures months ahead of time. “It is a task of massive proportions,” says Tom M. Conley, CPP, CISM, CMAS, president and CEO of The Conley Group, Inc. “The Pope, presidents, presidential candidates and others want to meet people, and they often plunge into crowds.” Then again, Conley notes that unlimited public and government assets become available to protect major public figures like the Pope. Their safety is of the utmost importance, and public agencies invest huge amounts of time and resources in their protection.

National Special Security Events

According to the Secret Service, dozens of federal, state and local agencies combined forces to protect the Pope in his visits to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. The Department of Homeland Security designated the Papal visit to New York City a National Special Security Event. For such an event, the Secret Service acts as the lead federal agency for the design, implementation and oversight of the operational security plan.

The plan creates and secures perimeters around events, sets up security checkpoints to screen people for admission to facilities as well as parade routes. The plan also includes a long list of prohibited items that screeners will confiscate from people passing through the checkpoints. In addition, there are airspace restrictions and maritime restrictions enforced by the U.S. Air Force, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security.

Public Agencies’ Combined Protection

“It is a huge task,” Conley says. “But public agencies have handled these kinds of security programs so often that they know how to do it well. Even more importantly, for high value individuals such as the Pope, agencies have access to unlimited public resources in terms of money and people.”

For example, every security operations force runs TTPs, an acronym for tactics, techniques and procedures, continues Conley. These are virtual toolboxes that combine surveillance and intelligence collection and analysis.

“The agencies combine assets and people to create a controlled environment — similar to battlefield dominance as it is called in the military,” says Conley. That is how public figures are protected. Protecting executives, celebrities and other private luminaries with private resources is quite different. “The private sector doesn’t have the manpower, technology or the government’s access to threat intelligence,” Conley says. “That can significantly hinder the effectiveness of a private protection detail.”

Private Executive Protection Challenges

Every private security company today must deal with the corporate demand to make some business contribution to the company. Executive protection firms are no different. “We have developed metrics to prove the business value that our corporate executive protection services provide,” says Robert Oatman, CPP, president of RL Oatman & Associates, Inc., and chair of the ASIS International Executive Protection Council.
Oatman’s new book, “Executive Protection: Smarter, Faster, Better,” makes a business case connected to travel time. “If we save an hour or more per day for the principal,” he says, “we can produce a true return on investment. “With that in mind, our firm’s mission is to provide executive protection as a security specialty focused on safeguarding the life, health, time, reputation and peace of mind of corporate executives and others who face elevated risk.”
Oatman also says that executive protection today no longer looks like bodyguards with guns. “No one wants in your- face protection,” he says. “Our clients want us to be more stealthy and under the radar — to get it done without any drama.” Oatman’s company provides executive protection and executive protection training for public and private companies as well as government entities.

“We recently established the first ASIS International Council on Executive Protection,” Oatman says. “Launched in October, 2014, the EP Council is now accepting membership.” Taking a cue from Oatman’s goal of serving corporate business purposes, the new ASIS Council aims to focus on executive protection as a business enabler to keep clients safe as well as productive.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Conley Group Security Officers Continue Critical Skills Education and Training at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy

A class of Conley Group’s Security Officers recently completed the law enforcement level Oleoresin Capsicum (OC Pepper Mace) Certification Course and phase one of the law enforcement Defensive Tactics Qualification Course (DTQC) at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy.

According to law enforcement training experts, whenever an officer has to fight a suspect to get him or her into custody, 85% of the time, the scuffle will result in ground fighting.  The objective is always for the police officer or security officer to get the suspect into custody without the officer or the suspect being hurt or killed.  The skills learned in defensive tactics, in conjunction with the weapons our officers carry, such a OC (Pepper) mace teach our officers the proper tactics, techniques, procedures and methods needed give them the highest probability of accomplishing the aforementioned objective safely.

Counter to the security industry standard where guards are not trained nor able to protect themselves or others because they are restricted to “observe and report” only in situations, The Conley Group’s Security Officers are actually able to protect themselves and others, and, are fully authorized to do so.  In fact, our security officers are trained and certified to law enforcement standards with all less-than-lethal as well as with lethal weapons (firearms) they carry.  Our security officers being trained in defensive tactics, OC (Pepper) mace and other weapons and tactics is a critical part of our overall education, training and qualification process.

Exposure (being sprayed) is a highly painful, but required, part of the law enforcement certification course.  Conley Group Security Officers are trained and certified to law enforcement standards on all non-lethal weapons they carry.

See all photos at:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Conley Group Security Officers complete the law enforcement Defensive Tactics Qualification Course (DTQC) at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy

Des Moines Senior Police Officer Sone Cam instructs Conley Group Security Officers on the proper use of grappling techniques

A class of Conley Group’s Security Officers completed the Defensive Tactics Qualification Course (DTQC) at the Des Moines Regional Police Academy on February 6, 2014.

According to law enforcement training experts, whenever an officer has to fight a suspect to get him or her into custody, 85% of the time, the scuffle will result in ground fighting.  The objective is always for the police officer or security officer to get the suspect into custody without the officer or the suspect being hurt or killed.  The skills learned in defensive tactics, in conjunction with the weapons our officers carry, teach our officers the proper tactics, techniques, procedures and methods needed give them the highest probability of accomplishing the aforementioned objective safely.

Counter to the security industry standard where guards are not trained nor able to protect themselves or others because they are restricted to “observe and report” only in situations, The Conley Group’s Security Officers are actually able to protect themselves and others, and, are fully authorized to do so.  In fact, our security officers are trained and certified to law enforcement standards with all less-than-lethal as well as with lethal weapons (firearms) they carry.  Our security officers being trained in defensive tactics is a critical part of our overall training and qualification process.

Police defensive tactics are actually broken down into two areas: arrest/detention and control tactics and self-defense tactics.  Overall, defensive tactics encompasses the following topic areas:
  • Striking and Close Quarter Defensive Tactics
  • Pressure Point Control Tactics
  • Weapon Retention
  • Takedowns
  • Ground Fighting and Defense
  • Injury Prevention
  • Edged Weapon Awareness
  • Use Of Force
While the arrest/detention and control tactics and self-defense tactics areas are completely different, they sometimes run together depending on the situation.  Arrest/Detention and Control Tactics are the techniques and skills a police or security officer needs to safely and effectively take a suspect into physical custody.  The idea behind arrest/detention and control techniques is to use minimal physical force to secure a person.  Defensive tactics can also be broken down into two different areas: the skills needed to deal with a person who is resisting arrest/detention or trying to escape from being arrested/detained and the actual fighting skills needed to defend against a person who is physically assaulting or attacking an officer.  Some suspects will physically fight an officer so they can avoid arrest/detention.  This resistance can be anything from simply pulling away from a control hold to striking the officer or even using a weapon.  Most of the time, such resistance is overcome by applying more control with a physical hold or using less-than-lethal weapons.

Before security officers are able to be enrolled in the DTQC, each officer must successfully complete and be certified in the following domains:

Once security officers complete the ASP Collapsible Baton Certification, Tactical Handcuffing Certification, Oleoresin Capsicum (O.C.) Spray Certification and DTQC, then and only they are then officially “Tactical Certified” at our company.

The Defensive Tactics Qualification Course is instructed by Des Moines Senior Police Officer Sone Cam.  Officer Cam is a state-certified police defensive tactics instructor and serves as a team leader of the Metro Special Tactics and Response (S.T.A.R.) Team.  He is also the lead defensive tactics instructor for all Des Moines Police recruits.

See all photos of the latest DTQC course completion by Conley Group Security Officers at:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Please see my comment after the end of this story.

Mall Security in the Spotlight in Wake of Shootings

By Jean Marbella
Source: The Baltimore Sun
Created: January 28, 2014

Experts say open, free-flowing facilities like malls are inherently difficult to protect

Stunned Shoppers Flee the Columbia Mall

Jan. 28--The security apparatus at a shopping center like The Mall in Columbia is designed to be as sophisticated as it is unobtrusive -- off-hours training and drills to prepare employees for shootings and other calamities, surveillance cameras that can capture in real time suspicious persons or behavior.

And yet, Darion Marcus Aguilar managed to arrive on Saturday morning at the Columbia mall with a shotgun in a bag and spend about an hour in the food court area before heading to the skate shop Zumiez where he would emerge from a dressing room to kill two employees and then himself.

"I don't think there's anything that could have prevented this from a security perspective," said Eric Oddo, a senior policy analyst with the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security.

"A mall has perhaps more challenges than any other institutions," Oddo said. "Unlike, for example, an airport, which has more controlled entrances, the only way a mall can work is if it is free-flowing."

Security experts say shopping centers face a dilemma when it comes to protecting customers and employees -- people want to be safe while they're at the mall, but anything too overt, from metal detectors at entrances to armed police at every turn, would vastly change the leisurely appeal of the mall experience.

"That just wouldn't be realistic given the shopping culture that we have in the U.S.," said Joseph LaRocca, a security consultant who previously headed loss prevention efforts of the National Retail Federation and the Walt Disney Co.'s retail division. "People going to the food court and the movies, or shopping -- the thought of having to stand in security lines ... would send even more people to online retailers."

As a result, LaRocca said, many malls have instead installed sophisticated camera systems and trained employees on how to react to emergencies. Their corridors and parking lots are patrolled by private security guards, uniformed and plainclothes, and off-duty police officers.

The Mall in Columbia's management was reluctant to speak specifically about its security systems or any changes in the aftermath of the shootings. The mall reopened Monday with additional security measures.

"You will see an increased security presence by uniformed police officers from the Police Department, working in close coordination" with mall security, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon told mall employees Monday.

"We want you to feel safe, we want your employees to feel safe," he said, "and we want our patrons here to feel safe."

McMahon praised the work of the mall's security staff as "absolutely phenomenal," saying surveillance cameras helped police determine when Aguilar arrived and how long he was at the mall before the killings.

Officials noted that the "active shooter" drills that police run for employees during the overnight hours when the mall is closed paid off this weekend when they were confronted with the real thing. For about five years now, most recently in April of last year, police have worked with the mall to provide this kind of guidance.

As shootings in malls, movie theaters and other public venues seem to occur with ever greater frequency, such drills are becoming standard practice, said security experts.

LaRocca points to the 2007 mass shooting at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., where a gunman killed eight people and then himself, as the turning point.

"There was a program put together by retailers, police and Homeland Security, and rolled out nationwide," he said of guidelines on how to handle active shooter incidents. "The retailers started to practice these drills. You never want to be the center that has the shooting, but if it happens, you want to be prepared."

The nation's largest shopping center, the Mall of America in Minnesota, has drawn criticism for a "behavior profiling program" based on Israeli airport techniques. Personnel scan the crowds, looking for suspicious, out-of-the-ordinary behavior that warrants further observation or questioning by security guards.

Reporters at the Center for Investigative Reporting and National Public Radio found that sometimes, information on shoppers deemed suspicious by mall security was forwarded to federal agencies, which then investigated them further.

At The Mall in Columbia, security cameras apparently picked up Aguilar's entrance and movements for about an hour at the mall, but it did not appear that anything he did prior to the 11:15 a.m. shootings raised suspicions.

LaRocca said that simply hanging around a food court is entirely normal mall behavior -- people can be waiting for rides or for a movie to start.

William Nesbitt, president of Security Management Services International, said one problem with preventing or handling mall shooters is that they don't fit a single profile.

"With school shooters, they're students usually. With hospital shootings, they're disgruntled with the care, or it might be a mercy killing," said Nesbitt, who began his security career in Baltimore in the 1970s working for a firm that provided services to stores, hospitals, companies and government agencies.

"With mall shooters, there doesn't seem to be one profile -- maybe they want to commit suicide, or capture the news of the day. That's why it's very hard to prevent. It's less predictable."

A mall shooting also can fall under another category: that of workplace violence. Mark Catlin, health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union, said this possibility is often overlooked by police and security when they are developing safety programs for shopping center employees.

"Often the focus is on what to do if an event happens," said Catlin, who coincidentally lives within walking distance of the Columbia mall. "What is less looked at is the work that can be done to prevent it."

Catlin said companies should have procedures in place for employees to report any threats to themselves -- such as from a domestic problem -- or to the store, perhaps from an angry customer.

"They should have a procedure in place so that if someone knows of a threat or some anger, there's a way to pass it on -- to the store manager and to the mall," Catlin said. He also said companies need to address issues such as the store's design, making sure employees have somewhere to run to, and adequate staffing levels, which can increase safety.

Time will likely quell anxiety about The Mall in Columbia shooting, said one veteran of a previous mall shooting.

Lt. Robert Wurpes is now the public information officer of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office in Oregon, but just over a year ago, he was among the responders to a shooting at the Clackamas County Town Center.

The mall, owned by General Growth Properties, which also owns the Columbia center, was the site of what appeared to be a random act of violence on Dec. 11, 2012. A 22-year-old gunman fired into the crowd, killing two shoppers and wounding a third before killing himself. Police never found a connection to the victims or a motive.

"We never got that bright light," Wurpes said, that illuminated why the shooter chose to open fire in the mall. "He didn't talk to friends or on social media about it."

Wurpes said police stepped up their presence in the mall after the shooting, something welcomed by shoppers. Police "developed a much more open communication" with mall managers as well, conducting exercises such as one in which officers tracked an "active shooter" through the shopping center.

Eventually, Wurpes said, people realized that despite the terrible incident, the mall was still a safe place.

"I go back to the mall myself with my wife. I've taken my kids there," Wurpes said. "I don't think we can live our lives in fear."

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.



Tom Conley Comment:

Sadly, most malls are undersecured.  Not only do they not have adequate security staffing, but the security personnel they do have are most commonly unarmed and untrained.  This results in a grossly inadequate security posture where shoppers and employees of business in the mall are simply not safe because the security staff is incapable of  confronting a deadly force threat.  As I point out in the Armed Security section of our website (, only professionally trained and armed on-site security officers can have a chance to confront and neutralize active shooters before they have a chance to kill innocent people.  It na├»ve and has repeatedly proven deadly to believe that law enforcement is physically capable of being on site in time to actually affect the outcome of an active shooter situation or similar incident.  As the old adage that states, “When seconds count the police are only minutes away.”  The fact is that close enough IS NOT good enough as we have witnessed yet again.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Man kills himself after shooting rampage at Florida hospital

Shooter reportedly fired at several cars, attacked nurses

By David Breen
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Created: January 7, 2014

A man shot himself to death at a Daytona Beach hospital early Sunday after firing at several cars and attacking a pair of nurses.

The shooting happened at about 4 a.m. at Halifax Health Medical Center, which is located on Clyde Morris Boulevard not far from Daytona International Speedway.

The shooter was identified as Jonathan G. Rodriguez-Jeff, 20. His last known address was in Deltona, according to Daytona Beach police.

Police were alerted to a man firing a shotgun at a vehicle on Clyde Morris, then to shots fired at the hospital.

According to police, Rodriguez-Jeff crashed his vehicle through the hospital's west gate, and fired at several vehicles in the hospital parking lot. No one was injured outside the hospital.

He then shot out the glass doors at the hospital entrance went to a second floor room where he confronted a nurse and a patient, reportedly asking them "do you guys want to die tonight?"

He then went to another room, confronting another patient and nurse, then shot himself in the head in that room.

During his rampage Rodriguez-Jeff also struck two nurses with the butt of the shotgun, according to police spokesman Jimmie Flynt. The nurses were treated for minor injuries and released.

Flynt said Daytona police had never previously had contact with the shooter.

"We may never know why he did this," Flynt said.

The 678-bed hospital was locked down for about 20 minutes during the incident, but has since reopened.

There is no known connection between Rodriguez-Jeff and the hospital, patients or staff, according to Halifax spokeswoman Tangela Boyd.

Tom Conley Comment:
The FBI recently stated that the number of active shooter incidences has tripled over the past ten years.  That trend is likely to continue.  It is important to note that organizational security is now a critical business function.  As a result, it is vital for organizations to not only have security, but for them to have quality security that can confront and neutralize an active shooter.  For more information, please visit:

Monday, January 6, 2014

U.S. Airport Security Is 'Just A Show,' Expert Says 

The Huffington Post | By Jillian Berman 

Posted: 12/23/2013 3:13 pm EST

You may be better off not reading this if you're one of the millions of Americans traveling this holiday season. However, one safety expert is desperate for you to know: Airport security in the U.S. is basically a sham.

“Checking luggage is very nice, it looks great, taking away the breast milk of the mother of a one month old baby, that looks great,” said Rafi Sela, the president of A.R. Challenges, a transportation consulting firm based in Israel. “It does nothing for security. It’s just a show.”

For years, Sela has been calling for the “Israel-ification” of America’s airports. Supporters of the tactic – which involves a great deal more face-time with passengers – say Israel’s airports effectively deal with much higher threat levels than American airports with way less hassle. At Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport, for example, passengers go through a series of screenings and interviews in lieu of dumping out their liquids and submitting to full body scanners. And Israeli airports' security is seldom breached. 

For their part, TSA representatives say the agency is constantly updating security procedures based on the latest intelligence and on customer feedback.

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is working to find and implement new ways to make travel not only more secure, but also more efficient,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein wrote in a statement. “These efforts are part of a system-wide shift away from the one-size-fits-all security model following the 9/11 attacks, and toward a transportation security system shaped by risk, and driven by the latest intelligence.”

But as Sela has argued in a variety of places, including The New York Times, The Toronto Star and most recently humor site Cracked, traveling through an Israeli airport is safer and less of a hassle than in America.

That’s because the system in place at American airports emphasizes checking every single piece of luggage over strategies like making direct eye contact when interviewing passengers, according to Sela, who has consulted with American airports. And there are a variety of political factors that make the agency hesitant to change, he said. 

“I don't want to frighten anybody, but today even the stupidest terrorist can circumvent the airport security in two seconds,” Sela said.

While America’s airport security system may not be ideal, there are a number of factors that prevent us from “Israel-ifying” our airports, critics of the tactic say. For one, the U.S. airport system is dealing with a much higher volume of passengers and aircrafts than in Israel. About 5.53 million people are expected to travel through America's airports just during this Christmas season. By comparison, Ben Gurion, Israel's largest airport, hit a record when 70,000 people passed through in one day in August, according to the Globes, an Israeli news site.

"The Israeli airport security model doesn't scale," security expert Bruce Schneier told The National Geographic.

In addition, Israeli airport security relies on a certain level of profiling, which some argue wouldn’t pass Fourth Amendment muster here in the U.S. By their own admission, Israeli airport security forces use what they describe as behavioral profiling – which hones in on things like where a traveler is from and how they're acting – as one strategy when screening passengers.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Online Thieves Also Stole PIN Numbers from Target

Dec 27, 2013 10:26 PM CST
By Ron Marasco |

Tom Conley Interviewed by ABC5
Online thieves not only "targeted" customers' credit and debit card numbers at the large retailer, we found out Friday they lifted encrypted PIN numbers also.
"Our concern right now is just to make sure that consumers know that is has happened, and that consumers need to be careful," said Geoff Greenwood, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General.

Target says as many as 40 million customers who used their cards between November 27th and December 15th may have been impacted.
"It appeared to be a batch breach, and that's the worst kind because you have just the sheer numbers of people you have to deal with," said security expert Tom Conley of the Conley Group, Inc.
Target says they're "confident that PIN numbers are safe and secure" and that their PIN data is "strongly encrypted."
"In other words, the bad guys can't use the PINs unless they have the encryption key, and that encryption key was not within Target's system.  That was on the other end," said Greenwood.
That other end is an outside payment processor.  But should we still feel safe?
"The answer is no," said Greenwood.  "So consumers should still assume that it's possible their credit card and debit card information has been compromised."
"That's absolutely right," said Conley.  "There's very, very sophisticated software out there that can decrypt."
Conley says identity theft is and has been the fastest growing crime in the U.S. for a number of years.  He says it affects 15 million people every year, and costs consumers and banks about $50 billion annually.
"I'm not sure if you ever totally recover from it," said Conley.
The experts say one of the best ways to protect yourself is to be aware and diligent.

"I can't stress enough, and not just because of the Target incident, you should be doing this all the time,  (and that is) you need to keep track of your records," said Greenwood.  "It's surprising how many people use their credit card, use their debit card, and they don't look at their financial records."
Greenwood says Iowa's working with other state attorneys general to ensure Target is doing everything possible to make sure any damage is minimized.
A helpful tip for consumers: federal law states each of the three big credit reporting agencies must give you one free report each year.  Tom Conley says the best way to check your credit is to order one report every four months from a different agency.  He says that'll allow you to better keep your finger on the pulse of your credit activity.

Friday, December 27, 2013

There’s No Clear Profile for Homegrown Terrorists, Experts Say

By Rick Plumlee
The Wichita Eagle | Mon, Dec. 23, 2013

When Terry Lee Loewen allegedly attempted to blow up Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, his case became part of a recent surge in homegrown jihad-inspired terrorist plots.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and through the end of August 2013, federal authorities say they have discovered 71 such plots that were planned to take place either on American or foreign soil.

Fifty of those have come since April 2009, according to a report titled “American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat” and written by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan branch of the Library of Congress.

Five of those 71 actually occurred, including April’s Boston Marathon bombing and the 2009 shooting at the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, the report says.

The uptick in discovering the plots is both real and the result of improved intelligence and sharing of that information between law enforcement jurisdictions, authorities and experts say.

Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI special agent who spent his 20-year career working in the bureau’s Kansas City field office, said better surveillance and cooperation has “enhanced the FBI’s ability to get involved in these investigations before they result in actual attacks.”

At the same time, he noted that the federal government in general – including the FBI and military – has destroyed a lot of the capabilities of international terrorist groups like al-Qaida to launch broad-scale attacks such as 9/11.

“So what the terrorists have left is the smaller attacks that can be undertaken by people in the United States, who can operate under the radar screen,” Lanza said. “They are already U.S. citizens who they can radicalize and use them to do these types of attacks.”

There are some people who become “self-radicalized,” he added. “They aren’t getting help from anybody else. They’re just doing it.”

The feds have a name for that: lone wolves.

Lone Wolf Terrorists

Seven of the 71 plots on the list are tagged as being those of lone wolf terrorists, including Nidal Hasan, the former Army major who was convicted of killing 13 people during the Fort Hood shooting rampage.

In Loewen’s detention hearing Friday, a prosecutor called the 58-year-old Wichita native the “definition of a lone wolf terrorist” in arguing that he should remain in jail because he could act on his own and continue to be a threat to the public.

Others say the lone-wolf tag is incorrect because it’s rare for someone to truly act alone, even if it’s no more than drawing information from terrorist sites on the Internet.

Inspire magazine has been singled out by authorities as a source for homegrown terrorists to find everything from information on how to make bombs to motivation to carry out their plans. An English-language online publication, Inspire is reportedly published by al-Qaida and is called a violent jihadist magazine by federal law enforcement.

Loewen and the accused Boston Marathon bombers are among those who have cited reading Inspire, according to reports and criminal complaints.

“Someone wrote Inspire magazine and placed it out there,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, who is on the House Intelligence Committee. “In my judgment, there’s nothing lone about that.”

Pompeo wasn’t weighing in on Loewen’s detention hearing but rather was addressing the broader use of the lone wolf term by the federal government. He said that term has become politicized as a way of stating the threat of terrorism has been reduced.

“This idea that these people all across America are acting alone fundamentally misunderstands the terrorist threat,” he said. “The tools to fuel the growth of terrorism don’t always come from home.”

Regardless, officials say the Internet and social media have played a role in people becoming familiar with terrorist networks and ideals and means to learn about tactics.

Those resources have helped spread the increase in homegrown terrorists, who often don’t have access to terrorist-training camps and other outside assistance, experts say.

“The ability to communicate, to search the Internet helps support your cause,” said Lanza, the ex-FBI agent. “If I’m a homegrown terrorist and decide to take out some revenge on the United States, it’s much easier to do that today under the radar than prior to the Internet and social media sites. People now can get and share more information readily.”

Mark Randol, a former director of counterterrorism policy for the Department of Homeland Security and a retired senior analyst for the Congressional Research Service, said recent congressional efforts to limit the public’s access to terrorist-oriented sites or to close down those sites are misguided.

“A lot of people get very upset with the Internet and its role in radicalization in terms of training and how to build bombs,” he said. “But the fact is the Internet is not a permissive environment for terrorists because that’s where the police are.

“Let me tell you who the first people are who are going to say, ‘Don’t do that.’ It’s the FBI, because that’s how they catch the terrorists.”

No Workable Definition

Federal authorities define homegrown terrorist activity as any plot initiated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents or visitors radicalized largely within the country, according to the CRS report.

Of the 71 on the most recent list, 31 plots involved individuals interested in becoming foreign fighters in conflicts that involved violent jihad. Forty-one had U.S. targets on their radar, and three were threatening both American and foreign targets.

Thirty of the 71 were described as Muslim converts.

Besides the Fort Hood shooting and Boston bombing, the two other homegrown terrorists on the list who carried out their plots on U.S. soil are:

·   Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, who in 2006 drove his SUV through the Pit, a popular student gathering spot near the University of North Carolina campus, and injured nine people. He told authorities he wanted to “avenge the deaths of murders of Muslims around the world.” He was sentenced in 2008 to 33 years in prison.

·   Abdulhakim Muhammad, the son of a Memphis businessman who was a converted Muslim, who in 2009 went to an Army-Navy recruiting center in Little Rock, where he shot and killed a soldier and wounded another. In a letter to the judge, he claimed ties to al-Qaida and dubbed himself a soldier for the organization.

The fifth homegrown plot that was carried out came in 2003 in Kuwait, where Hakan Akbar, a U.S. soldier, killed two Army officers and wounded others because he didn’t want to kill “my Muslim brothers fighting for Saddam Hussein.”

There isn’t a workable profile for a homegrown violent jihadist, experts say.

While one study has shown some broad trends, such as two-thirds of them are men and younger than 30, Lanza said, “I don’t think there is a typical profile.”

“Sometimes their motives are separate and distinct,” he added. “If there is a common thread, they are unhappy with their lives. They want to express their unhappiness against someone and ignite some sort of revenge.”

In the pre-9/11 days, the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was motivated by Timothy McVeigh’s anger over what he perceived as the government’s mishandling of the 1993 Waco siege and the Ruby Ridge incident a year earlier.

Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, who conducted a nationwide bombing campaign between 1978 and 1995, saw the growth of technology as restricting freedoms. There is uniform agreement among analysts and authorities that he truly was a lone wolf terrorist.

Prisons have often been cited as fertile ground for breeding homegrown terrorists, but the CRS report cites only one incident of the 71 plots coming as the result of the instigator being radicalized in prison.

Studies also show homegrown terrorists are less likely to die in the process of committing violent jihad. Of the 71 plots, 16 included plans for the terrorists to kill themselves, according to the CRS report.
Michael Ungar, an author, family therapist and social work professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, said homegrown terrorists “are looking for power,” and violent Jihadism seems to attract many.

“It’s the flavor of the day,” he said. “We’re all violent 2-year-olds, but we’re taught to control ourselves.”

Some don’t learn that as well, Ungar added.

But they can learn from what they see going on in the world, such as bombings and school shootings.

“Thirty years ago, you wouldn’t see a Sandy Hook,” Ungar said, referring to the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. “We have handed a script to these people.

“They are fishing around, and they think these jihadists have an answer. They want to get the biggest bang to get notoriety.”

Leonard Zeskind, president of the Kansas City-based Institute of Research and Education on Human Rights, said he’s concerned about what he considers the shifting definition of terrorism by the government.

“The KKK was killing people in the South under the same terms, which is no terms at all,” he said, “but they weren’t called terrorists.

“They’re paying more attention to this crap now than they used to, and I’m glad of that. But I’m still waiting for some firm lines in the sand. Historically, the definition has been loosey-goosey.”

Nearly 100 terrorist plots have been waged in America since 1995 by some of the more than 1,000 hate groups in the United States, according to a recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Finding Homegrown Terrorists

The inability to get a clear picture of what a homegrown violent jihadist looks like also creates problems for law enforcement.

It’s hard to defend against what you can’t identify, experts and authorities say.

“There are 320 million people in the United States,” ex-FBI agent Lanza said, “so you can fly under the radar very easily. You have a person come into this country on a student visa; they attract the attention of authorities for whatever reason. They’re going to have trouble being under the radar.

“But with someone who grows up in this country, how do you single these people out unless they commit an overt act? There are a lot of unhappy 22-year-olds. So if that’s the only common thread, you don’t have much to go on.”

Authorities are getting much better at figuring it out, though.

The FBI is the nation’s lead agency for investigating terrorism. Prior to 9/11, the bureau spent 30 percent of its time on national security issues and had 10,000 agents on the streets.

Now the FBI spends 50 percent of its efforts on terrorism and has added 4,000 agents since 9/11. The FBI also has greatly improved its ability at sorting through what to pursue.

Randol, the former Homeland Security official and senior CRS analyst, recalled that shortly after 9/11, his 8-year-old nephew went on the Internet to do research for a school project on the bubonic plague that wreaked havoc in Europe centuries ago. Somehow, that online search threw up a red flag for the FBI.

“Two FBI agents showed up at his door and wanted to talk to him,” Randol said.

The matter was quickly resolved, and the agents realized they had better things to do.

While Lanza wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the bureau’s surveillance tactics, he said, “Lots of things go into it besides sitting down and watching things.

“They have created software that spot key words, but they’re not going to sit on sites forever,” Randol said. “When it’s clear the guy isn’t doing anything, the FBI is gone. They can’t afford to waste time.”

Entrapment has been used as a defense for some homegrown jihad terrorists, saying the defendants wouldn’t have gone so far if not led along by agents. But such a defense isn’t going to get much traction with U.S. juries, he said.

“There’s not a jury in the country that has bought the entrapment theory,” Randol said. “There are two crimes in the United States that if the government gets evidence on you, you’re screwed: terrorism and anything related to child porn.”