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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Terrorism 101: Information for Writers with Corporal Allen Norton

DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.

This article is the first article in a planned series on terrorism with ThrillWriting's guest, Corporal Allen Norton. I was so excited to have met the very knowledgeable and entertaining Cpl. Norton at a lecture on terrorism. He had the room transfixed. 

Fiona - 
Corporal Allen Norton

Corporal Allen, thank you so much for sharing your information with us. Can we start with an introduction of your background? How did you come to be an anti-terrorism instructor?

Cpl. Norton - 
In 2007, I graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a certification in Homeland Security and also graduated from Columbia Southern University with a degree in Criminal Justice. I've attended the National Center for Bio-medical Research and Training through Louisiana State University and recently graduated from the University of St. Andrews, where I obtained a Global Certification as a Terrorism Specialist. In addition, I am a recognized Certified Homeland Protection Professional (C.H.P.P.) I obtained this certification through the National Sheriffs Association and the National Domestic Preparedness Coalition.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has employed me for 11 years. In my time with the Commonwealth, I served as a Task Force Officer for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for 2 years.  I currently teach an Evolution of Terrorism program, other various terrorism classes, that includes Sovereign Citizens, and History of Islam class, at the local and regional police academies. I personally designed all of the classes. In addition, I own GDSI Intelligence and Training.


GDSI Intelligence and Training - website link
and on Facebook - click here


Fiona - 
You had a very personal brush with terror.

Cpl. Norton - 
I was supposed to be in the World Trade Center on 9/11 for a meeting. At the time, I served as Director of Security for three resorts in the Poconos. Fortunately, I overslept that morning.

Fiona - 
Very fortunate!

We met at a lecture, and the very first thing that you pointed out was that every government agency has their own definition of terrorism. Is there a reason that we do not have a national definition? How does this pose problems in working across agencies? 

Cpl. Norton - 
I cannot give a 100% definite reason as to why each agency and state has their own definition. My guess would be that each government agency wants to be the one to determine what it is. Like the rivalry between police and fire, each wants to be in control of the scene. 

The major issue is that working for an agency, you have to be able to enforce the laws of that agency. It is hard for individuals that serve on different task forces. They have to be very mindful of the capacity that they are serving in, and enforce that agencies definition. 

Fiona - 
Can you sift the definition down to one so that we can get a basic understanding as it applies to the U.S.?

Cpl. Norton - 
My personal favorite is the one offered by the Department of Defense, which states: 
Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives. 
This definition is my favorite because it lists religious, something that most of the others fail to list. The significance is that in this day and age, there is probably a 5:1 ratio of religious groups to political groups. 

Amazingly, there is only one definition for domestic terrorism, which is:
Extreme force and violence perpetrated by residents of a country, within that country, for the purpose of coercing its government and population into modifying its behavior.

Fiona
How do they decide who has control over the case? Who maintains jurisdiction?

Cpl. Norton - 
The problem with most terrorist activities here in the U.S. we list the activities as criminal acts. Only once we've established a link between an event and a terrorist organization, are the FBI usually involved. In all terrorism cases here in the U.S., the FBI gets the lead. All terrorism cases that affect U.S. interests overseas the CIA gets the lead. 

Another issue that makes it difficult to determine who has jurisdiction is that we see gangs using terrorist tactics, and terrorists using gang tactics. The FBI, however, does do a good job serving as a go-to resource to help determine what agencies have jurisdiction.

Fiona - 
I was fascinated to learn that terrorism runs on a business plan and provides benefits. I am not talking about the virgins-in-the-sky kind of benefits either, I am talking about vacation pay. Can you talk about terrorism - both domestic and foreign as a business model?

Cpl. Norton -
One of the definitions of business is "an occupation, profession or trade." For most terrorist organizations what they are trying to accomplish, whether it be religious or political, they see as an occupation for God or the people. They are doing their work. Therefore, they are working for them. Domestic terrorism is less of a business than the international terrorist groups. Practically all of the domestic terrorists have regular jobs that they do.

Al-Qaeda, for example, does operate as a business. They, as well as other organizations, still promise 72 virgins, the chance to live in the lands of milk and honey, and they get to touch the face of God. 

These perks are only for males though; women get family redemption.

Fiona - 
Family redemption? I mean that is a nice gesture and everything... but there are other things that might entice me a bit more.

Cpl. Norton - 
Understand that family redemption for women is very important in the Islamic religion. 

Most of these women are raped into the organizations, therefore, making them impure. The only way they can purify themselves, and be right for God, is to do His bidding (as they are told).

There are many ways to entice women, but the most popular are:
* They are raped-in 
* They want family redemption 
* They have lost family to the enemy and want revenge 
* Or in many cases, they want to prove that they can fight and die
    just as well as a man can. 
* Some women are romantically involved with members of the
    organization, and it is just natural that they join.

Fiona - 
Let's do a little myth-busting. 

Cpl. Norton - 
Myths of Terrorism -

1. Terrorism is a new tactic.
    Terrorism can be traced to biblical times, but the first time it was
     used in the context we use it today was 1792 during the French
     Revolution. A British scholar said, "What is
     happening in France is terroristic."

2. One person’s terrorist is another person’s liberator. 
    That statement is in the eye of the beholder. If you ask a terrorist
     group if they are terrorists 9 out of 10 times they will say no.
     They will call themselves Freedom Fighters or Liberators. 
     Therefore the term is very political loaded. 

    Terrorism itself is part of a strategy. No one goes out and says, "I
    am going to terrorize people." It is a tactic that is used to reach
    one's goals.
   
3. Historically, terrorism has been assumed to be a left
    wing/revolutionary phenomena
    Right wing wants a return to a previous time.
    Left wing wants to  create a new reality.
    The reality is that there is a 5:1 Right wing to left wing terrorist
    ratio right now  

4. Terrorism is highly effective 
     No, it is part of a strategy. It is also important to realize that
     when terrorists receive what they are asking for, they will not
     stop and be happy. They will continue to do what they do, but
     next time ask for more. 

5. Terrorists are idealistic – 
    Terrorists use their ideology to gain power.

6. Humane behavior is sacrificed for revolutionary goals.
    The goal is power. 

7. Terrorism is for the poor.
    In reality, the people with high status within and organization
    come from very wealthy families.


Fiona -     
You have a list of the planning stage steps that all terror acts follow. 

Cpl. Norton - 
Yes, every terrorist organization uses this planning cycle:

Planning cycle  

• Broad target selection 
• Intelligence and surveillance 
• Specific target selection 
• Pre-attack surveillance and planning 
• Attack rehearsal  
• Actions on the objective 
• Escape and exploitation

Fiona - 
What is the point of no return? Where do the good guys usually catch the cell's planning?

Cpl. Norton - 
Catching a terrorist event before it happens is the ultimate goal. However, for the good guys to completely disrupt the event, it has to be caught before the attack rehearsal. Once the terrorists have all of the information, it's almost impossible to stop,  If we are able to disrupt the attack during the rehearsal stage, the terrorists already have all the information they need. If we arrest a group, then the terrorist organization simply finds others to train. Anytime you can foil it before then; they have to start all over. They have to be lucky once, we have to be lucky always.

Fiona - 
Can we talk about ideology and how they get the message out to possible followers?

Cpl. Norton -
Ideology is at the heart of all major decisions and choices the terrorist group makes. The avenues terrorist use to spread their ideology are: 
* Mass media
* Internet 
* Political fronts
* Literature dissemination 
One of the biggest recruiting tools is Social Media. Moreover, there are no laws against that.

Fiona - 
What are the usual tactics that terrorists use? Also, who are the targets? 

Cpl. Norton - 

The 6 Traditional Tactics: 

* Arson 
* Assault 
* Bombing 
* Hijacking 
* Hostage taking 
* Kidnapping 


Newer Tactics: 

* Threat-Hoax 
* Raid or Ambush 
* Seizure 
* Assassination 
* Weapons of Mass Destruction

Targets: 

* Governments 
* People 
* Other countries and their people


Fiona - 
Thank you so much, Cpl. Norton. I am so looking forward to learning more in this series. 

Also, thanks to you writers who do their research here on ThrillWriting. Hopefully, this has given you some plotting points for your WIP. While this article is only the first in a series, if you have a question or comment, please leave it below. The comments are moderated to block SPAM, so it will go up ASAP. In the meantime, if you find this resource to be helpful, I would appreciate your spreading the word. I've placed some handy-dandy social media buttons below.

Cheers,
Fiona