You may make the difference: Countering terrorism requires your help

  • Published
  • By Air Force Office of Special Investigations
  • Detachment 204
Only you know who or what belongs, or doesn't belong, in your building, neighborhood or work center. Recognition of this fact is behind one of the Air Force antiterrorism initiatives, a program known as "Eagle Eyes." The program is similar to a typical neighborhood-watch program and Air Force officials consider it a key piece in the service's antiterrorism strategy.

According to Special Agent Donnell E. Arnold, Eagle Eyes program manager, Detachment 204 of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations here, the program takes its cue from the experiences of British and Israeli authorities, who have significant experience dealing with urban terrorism.

"They make it their business to pay a lot of attention to small things that, in combination, can indicate they're being targeted," Agent Arnold said. "Eagle Eyes is our model for doing just that. The simple act of recognizing suspicious behavior and reporting it to base authorities could thwart terrorist acts and save lives."

At Offutt, anyone with something to report should immediately call the 55th Security Forces Squadron Law Enforcement Desk at 294-6110. From there, security forces will respond as appropriate to the situation and immediately pass the report to OSI Det 204. From there, OSI will begin appropriate follow-up action, which may include an agent talking with the person who made the report to gain additional information on what happened. At the same time, the information will be quickly upchanneled to OSI's central analytical center at Andrews AFB, Md., to compare with other Air Force reports, as well as information from the Army, Navy and other federal agencies.

But all this begins at the local level, Agent Arnold said, where terrorists conduct operational planning activities.

"Every terrorist operation is preceded by precursor events that people need to recognize and report," Agent Arnold said. "Terrorist acts don't just happen - they are carefully planned and rehearsed many, many times in advance."

Agent Arnold stressed the key to preventing terrorist acts is public awareness, knowing what to look for and take note of - both on and off base.

"This is something the whole community needs to be involved in," Agent Arnold said. "Anyone - from active-duty military members to family members, to government civilians, contractors and even off-base business proprietors - could see something out of the ordinary, report it and make the difference between a terrorist act occurring or not. Our best chance to detect and prevent a terrorist act in our community is to vigilantly report it. The more eyes and ears we can enlist to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, the more difficult we can make it for terrorists to act."

Agent Arnold also said people shouldn't be gun-shy about reporting incidents that could turn out to be innocent behavior.

"That's bound to happen from time to time, but you don't know if it's innocent until you report it and have it checked out," he said. "We're much less concerned about too much reporting than we are with too little. When lives are at stake, it's better to be safe than sorry. If in doubt, report it. Your call could make the difference. The bottom line is if something bothers you or doesn't seem right, tell someone."

Activity that should be reported can be classified into six broad categories:

- Specific threats: Any threat received by any means that contains a specific time, location or area for an attack. 

- Instances of any suspicious person or persons monitoring activities or recording information. Such activity may include the use of cameras, note taking, notes on maps or drawings, hand-drawn maps or diagrams and the use of binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices. It could also be simply seeing the same suspicious vehicle parked in your area without for an extended period of time. 

- Any attempt to obtain security-related information or even basic information about the base - by anyone who doesn't have the appropriate security clearance and the need-to-know. Known as "elicitation," these attempts may be made by e-mail, fax, telephone, in person or through the mail. 

- Any attempt to measure security reaction times or strengths and weaknesses; any attempt to test or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures; any attempt to acquire or duplicate uniforms, badges, passes or other security-related documents. 

- Repetitive activities: Any two or more suspicious activities by the same person or vehicle in a one-month period. 

- Suspicious activities or incidents: Any activity that doesn't specifically fit into the previous categories yet is a concern to you. Some examples of this are theft of uniforms, identification cards or vehicle decals.

55th Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, said that "Eagle Eyes is a crucial component of our base Integrated Defense Plan." He also stressed the importance of remaining vigilant at all times, noting that "history is full of examples of terrorist attacks and crimes that were averted by aware individuals connecting the dots."

On the other hand he said, "there are also far too many examples where an attack happened because somebody shrugged off the warning signs."