“We’re facing a new world” and consequently “we’re going to have to think differently,” said Terry Turchie, manager of the Laboratory’s Security Awareness for Employees (SAFE) Program.
In an Oct. 30 presentation, “How to Catch Terrorists,” Turchie sought to provide employees with a better “feel” for terrorism, insight on how past experience “prepares us for the present and future,” and offered measures people can take to protect themselves and their families.
Turchie, a former FBI agent, discussed his own extensive experience in investigating both domestic and international terrorists. He led the FBI team that investigated and eventually arrested “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Prior to coming to the Lab, Turchie had overall responsibility for managing the FBI’s counterterrorism program.
Terrorism in the United States had been a reality for more than a decade before the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, Turchie reminded employees, noting that until then, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people and injured 1,000, had been “the worst act of international terrorism on American soil. The first Trade Center bombing served as a major wake-up call for law enforcement,” he said. “This kind of threat hadn’t been seen before.”
Other attempts on New York City landmarks at that time were foiled by law enforcement. Terrorists operate in small groups that might be interconnected but often act independently, complicating law enforcement.
“We’re dealing with a very amorphous, hard-to-visualize adversary,” Turchie said. “Things aren’t always what they seem. In pursuing terrorists we need to be certain we’re reaching the right conclusions.”
The heightened awareness of law enforcement in the wake of the ’93 World Trade Center attack has served to help law enforcement agencies foil other plots, he said. An alert custom’s agent whose suspicions were aroused by the license plate on a car thwarted the “millennium plot” of New Year’s 2000 targeting Los Angeles airport. An Algerian national was arrested and the plot eventually revealed.
Domestic terrorists have also proven to be elusive though they operate as “lone wolf terrorists.” Turchie detailed the 16-year effort to track down the Unabomber and the ongoing effort to capture Eric Robert Rudolf, who has been indicted for the 1996 Centennial Park Olympic bombing, two other bombings in Atlanta in 1997, and a 1998 bombing in Birmingham in which a police officer was killed.
Closer to home, Turchie discussed the militia plot to blow up propane storage tanks near Sacramento and Fremont bomber Rodney Blach, two cases in which law enforcement enlisted the assistance of Laboratory experts.
“Domestic terror and international terror go hand in hand,” Turchie said. “We’ve had the recent anthrax attacks. Who knows where it is coming from. We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions.”
Turchie acknowledged we have a “huge learning curve” in combating terrorism, but remains “optimistic we can change course” and “get a handle on this problem.”
“Don’t get paranoid and don’t get anxious,” he said. “There are things you can do.
“Times have changed. Learn to be alert and more aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts,” Turchie said. “It’s OK to be suspicious. It’s good to report suspicious circumstances to law enforcement agencies.”
The following constitute suspicious activity:
• An unidentified vehicle parked outside LLNL’s gates with an occupant appearing to note down license numbers of vehicles entering the Lab.
• Cars parked in your neighborhood that you’ve never seen before with the occupant appearing to watch your house or another house.
• An acquaintance tells you someone asked them personal questions about you.
• Be extremely cautious when observing suspicious packages left on your property or near your work space.
• Do not open mail that is leaking or is stained, has odors, no return address or a hand-printed address where there is no identification of the sender.
• Packages standing alone and unattended at an airport, train, subway or bus station.
• Individuals observed in the vicinity of bridges, tunnels, power plants or chemical storage facilities taking photographs, carrying knapsacks or engaging in surveillance activities.
• A person wearing a heavy winter coat approaching the Lab in the middle of summer.
“As the president said, watch for people who are in the crop duster, who you’ve never seen before,” Turchie said.
People should also have an accountability plan to locate and account for members of their family during an emergency as well as maintaining a safe and secure place to store water, nonperishable food, portable radio, batteries, a thermal blanket and a first aid kit, he recommends.
Before official or unofficial travel, check with the SAFE office, Turchie said, and “ask for Bill Cleveland, travel agent.”
Videotapes of Turchie’s complete presentation are available for lone from the SAFE office. Call 2-5557.