Opinion

Situational awareness in Federal Way

Back in November 2007, I attended a terrorism awareness seminar presented by Ray Gross, Federal Way’s emergency preparedness manager.

Gross spent eight years in the U.S. Marines, obtained a degree in accounting and started out in the field of emergency management in Southern California. He made some important points that have really stuck with me in relation to domestic and foreign terrorism.

Those that would attack us cannot operate without a social groundwork to provide camouflage and support. Thinking for a while about such issues can lead to a great deal of insight. Such insight is called situational awareness.

Homeland Security is spending billions of dollars to get working people like those of us in Federal Way to be aware. The military creates opposing teams that work up plans, with one of the teams pretending to be a foreign terrorist, insurrectionists or homegrown organization bent on attacking military installations, pipelines, nuclear facilities, etc. Actual plans have been discovered; e.g., the young men of Middle-Eastern descent that were trying to acquire assault weapons from an “Al-Qaeda member” (actually a federal agent) for the purpose of attacking Fort Dix.

We should be asking questions like which Federal Way locations have “target value.” To a terrorist, one definition of target value is a location with a potential to create overwhelming bewilderment that causes the population to lose confidence in the ability of the government to protect us. The first point then is to make it clear that we are in a war. The concept of situational awareness is critical when preparing to confront an enemy or a potential disaster of any kind. The first step in developing situational awareness is to know that an enemy exists and to identify from where the enemy threat may develop.

The Pacific Northwest has had a tradition of aiding and abetting anarchy that goes back at least to the days when Eugene Debbs organized the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The “Wobblies” clashed with the U.S. government and local governments, especially after World War I began. While the IWW participated in armed violence and bombings that killed many people, distinguished members of the bar, including Clarence Darrow and local lawyers like Seattle’s own George Francis Vanderveer, came to the defense of the IWW anarchists and aggressively represented them.

The IWW was philosophically not far removed from the professional anarchists that terrorized Seattle during the WTO riots several years ago, and the misguided individuals that recently assaulted delegates and broke windows in Saint Paul, Minn.

The point is that Washington state and the whole West Coast is an environment in which violence-prone “activists” may be able to find a refuge. We live in a social sea that provides habitat for radical schools of fish to swim, with food, cover and places to blend into their surroundings.

One target in Federal Way that satisfies all the criteria for likely target selection is Weyerhauser Corporation. Located on its semi-wooded campus in Federal Way, Weyerhauser has visibility and value as a symbol of corporate interests that are antithetical to many in the radical extremes of the environmental movement. People arrive at Weyerhauser at predictable times via predictable routes and it is relatively accessible.

Nevertheless, Weyerhauser lacks one key criterion as a probable target: The management is aware of the threat, not unaware. Think about employees on their way to work, though (like the employees shot outside CIA headquarters in the early 1990s).

We also have a major pipeline for natural gas transmission that runs right through the boundary between our city and neighboring Auburn. It is relatively close to residential areas and Weyerhauser. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently featured an article about Communist terrorists in Mexico. They blew up pipelines that caused billions of dollars in damage and great loss of life. An ocean-going ship carrying liquefied natural gas and putting into the Port of Tacoma can be used in such a way as to create an explosion that will physically impact areas as far away as Federal Way.

The most likely way to assist in preventing explosions, deployment of chemical weapons and biological agents, or any of the other scenarios we have been thinking about, is by staying in an alert “code yellow” state of mind — i.e., relaxed but observant and ready!

When you are in The Commons mall in Federal Way, are you aware of the rooftops — and what and who is around you in the shopping areas and parking lot? Or at your local church or small business? Here I may sound alarmist again, but most of us have heard of atrocities perpetrated in Iraq and other countries by wanton killers dressed like police, service personnel or delivery truck drivers. The goal of any attacker is to get the first-responders “by the belt.” This means to infiltrate closely enough within secure perimeters that our response forces are afraid to shoot for fear of hitting innocent bystanders.

Remember the Chechens that murdered Russian school children in Beslan? The moral of the Beslan story is to know those that labor among you. Talk to your local police and get involved in a CERT program or some of the local volunteer law enforcement assistance programs. Block watches work, too. Some people even patrol their neighborhoods in order to suppress criminal activity and make it known that the residents are watching for any activities that are suspicious.

The federal government itself keeps telling us that its defense system depends on observant people like you and I that listen to our guts and make that phone call when we see suspicious activity at the local mall, freeway viaduct or intersection. People that are aware of “diversity” issues are often justifiably concerned about legal liability and could decide that acting on a suspicion is not worth the risk of a lawsuit.

But terrorists are known to test their prospective victims the same way a shark bumps a potential victim in the water. So if you see a ladder against your building, check on why it is there. A jihadist scout may be waiting to see how long it takes before someone checks to see whether there is someone on the roof.

Do not discount small-arms as potent weapons in the hands of terrorists. A few teams of shooters that are prepared to die can go into an intersection or mall and cause pain, death and fear that will shut down the American economy for years. At present, you cannot take a weapon into a school or many government buildings legally.

Nevertheless, it takes years to become proficient with use of a pistol or any other combat techniques, even if you already have some familiarity. There are more training programs than ever before for ordinary folks to learn about personal defense. We need trained people in every walk of life, including teachers and journalists that are willing to protect our children, families and way of life. All around the world, journalists have become targets for many varieties of violence-prone groups. You do not even need a concealed carry license to protect yourself with a pistol in your home and business.

The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted after the Civil War, was intended to prevent the situation in the formerly Confederate South (where federal troops constituted an occupational government perceived to threaten the Southern way of life). U.S. troops cannot carry their military weapons stateside (outside of military bases and reservations) without potentially running afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act.

In order to supplement the number of armed personnel available to respond to a situation that could develop at any time and any place, Congress provided a new level of protection that did not exist previously with the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act of 2004, allowing active and retired police officers to carry their personal weapons anywhere in the United States.

Nevertheless, civilians are really the first and last line of defense against disasters of any kind. We need to honor our law enforcement officers and military personnel. Most of us will never be equipped to adequately provide for our own protection and also go to work every day and watch over our little ones. We can all be vigilant, though, and report what we see and hear.

While some of the material herein was presented on Nov. 29, 2007, the conclusions are solely based on the author’s interpretation of situational dynamics gleaned from a variety of sources.

Federal Way resident Mark Knapp: knapp.m@comcast.net. Also visit http://firearmslawyer.net/.

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