Accuracy in Media

In the second episode of a Senate hearing about what can be learned from the Mumbai terrorist attacks, five senators and four witnesses discuss what has been done and what still needs to be done.

The first witness was Brian Michael Jenkins. He is the Senior Advisor at RAND Corporation. He argues that terrorists are smart: “Terrorists are dangerous when they kill; they’re even more dangerous when they think….The masterminds of the Mumbai attack displayed sophisticated strategic thinking in their meticulous planning, in their choice of targets, their tactics, their efforts to achieve multiple objectives.” He also says that their only really advanced technology is with regards to communications: “in Mumbai, the terrorists demonstrated that with simple tactics and low-tech weapons, they can produce vastly disproportionate results…. The attack was carried out by just ten men, armed with easily-obtained assault weapons, pistols, hand grenades, simple improvised assault explosive devices—little more than the arsenal of a 1940s infantryman. Except they had with them 21st Century communications technology—cell phones, satellite phones, Blackberrys, GPS locators.” Jenkins also asserts that terrorists want a high body count, and they go to places congested with people, like public transit areas, to get such a count.

The second witness was Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He starts by discussing the actual terrorist group they believed initiated the attacks—Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). He says that “LeT [is] a very close collaborator of Al-Qaeda, and it has collaborated with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan since at least 1987.” He claims that they are a threat to U.S. citizens although their threat is indirect, and they are a threat to the U.S. Homeland although the threats are latent—they raise funds and recruit in the U.S. He claims that LeT is a global terrorist group with the motivation and resources to attack the U.S. He argues that the U.S. has three tasks to do: “The first order of business is simply to work with India and Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the attacks in Bombay to justice…. The second task that we have is to compel Pakistan to roll up LeT’s vast infrastructure of terrorism…. The third and final task before us is to begin a high-level U.S.-Indian dialogue on Pakistan and to expand U.S.-Indian counterterrorism cooperation.”

The third witness, J. Alan Orlob, is the Vice President of Corporate Security at Marriott International, Inc. He argues, “As the U.S. government hardens buildings overseas, terrorists shift to softer targets,” and there needs to be an increase in security in high-risk area soft targets. He argues that attacks on hotels need to be studied, employees need to be trained to be aware of possible attackers, police need to have up-to-date information about hotels in their areas, and hotel design should consider security early in the design process.

Michael L. Norton, the last witness, is the Managing Director of Global Property Management and Operations at Tishman Speyer. He lists five areas that need the most change:

• “One, the need for ever-improved communications capabilities—both in-house and with local law enforcement and emergency response agencies;

• “Two, the still not fully tapped potential of employees at commercial office buildings to help law enforcement/homeland security officials detect threats and assess vulnerabilities;

• “Three, more fully addressing our interdependence and co-location with mass transit and other major soft-targets;

• “Four, acknowledging and improving our role as the first responders in the period between the initiation of an attack and the arrival of law enforcement; and

• “Fifth, acknowledging our dependence on well-informed and well–equipped law enforcement and homeland security/emergency officials for effective deterrence and response.”

He agrees with Orlob that employees need to be trained to watch for suspicious behavior. He also argues that because security personnel are usually unarmed, they need to be trained well. He points out that the attackers knew the hotel better than the responders and argues that that needs to change.

 




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