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Who Should Kill a Terrorist?

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Posted over 8 years ago


Who Should Kill a Terrorist?

The Best Defense is a Strong Offense

Posted: December 19th, 2008 07:12 AM EDT


Security Strategies Contributor

The Mumbai, India, terrorist attacks in November 2008 provided insight to the rest of the world into the evolving ambitions of terrorists. As if hotel security managers, along with their public safety counterparts, did not have enough to worry about, now they are tasked with trying to implement planning to counter a small contingent of heavily armed killers taking over a soft target and fighting a protracted battle with one aim in mind; kill as many innocents as possible. Men, women, and children, regardless of age and nationality shared one commonality to being slaughtered; how quickly their bodies fell into the sight alignment of the terrorists. Unlike the homicide bombings, IEDs or VBIED attacks that we have seen over the last ten years, this group by all accounts trained like Navy SEALs for a year, made a water-borne insertion into major metropolitan area and took on Indian law enforcement with tenacity. They were literally a commando unit on a homicidal and suicidal mission. If you were like me, you watched the enfolding battle live on the 24-hour news networks and witnessed the heroics of Indian police officers who died trying to do what law enforcement does best; saving lives.

8 to 1

The media seemed shocked when reporters asked how could ten terrorists take on and hold off hundreds of police officers for days. What the reporters and news anchors did not comprehend is the tactical math equation. For example, one person is not really a single person when that individual is highly trained in combatives, armed to the teeth, has a belief system that implores their death as desirable, and they know their battlefield, which happens to be a target rich environment. This shooter now is the equivalent of several men and when you add the component of a defensively fortified position, you enter the mathematical combat realm ratio of 8 to 1. This means that for every one bad guy possessing the above traits, you will need a minimum of eight operators assaulting him to take him out. This of course is a guide. You may need more or less depending on many factors. Understand that one committed terrorist is really not just one bad guy. That is why it took a combined element of Indian police and military special-forces several days to kill them.

The Task Ahead

Whose job is it to take the battle to the terrorists when they arrive in one of our cities to slug it out? Is it private security, law enforcement or the military?

Private Security:

Typically unarmed, they serve as more or less as a speed bump when faced with a determined attacker such as what was experienced in Mumbai. Their actual authority is convoluted from state to state, training is usually substandard, turnover is high, but the private security profession can offer what law enforcement cannot; huge numbers. Their services are used best as the multiple eyes and ears alerting authorities to suspicious activity. Terrorist attacks always begin as clandestine operations. Terrorists make dry runs, collect intelligence and make preparations during their planning stages. Who best to recognize the out-of-the-ordinary during an ordinary day at their facility than private security?

Law Enforcement:

A multitude of factors in our policing profession are really good at teaching street cops how to die. Policies and procedures the size of a phone book, Use of Force diagrams, matrix, continuums, Federal Civil Rights Act recovery concerns, special interest groups, political pressures, etc., makes a cop think twice, three times or more, before using reasonable force. How many officers do you know who are so afraid of being investigated by their own agency for laying their hands on someone, they would rather take the chance of being seriously injured, or worse, by a perpetrator? Still not convinced? How many agencies are you aware of who still haves not fielded patrol rifles to their officers?

True combat is 90% mental. Whoever wants it the most wins. Police officers have been conditioned, due to the legalities of the profession, to save lives first, put their lives in jeopardy second doing the first, and use force only as a last resort. Even SWAT, generally, has not metamorphisized tactically to deal with terrorists. The typical patrol protocol of Surround and Call Out does not work with a terrorist. While there are merits to our current policing ideology in a democratic society, this is not a mindset you want to have when facing an adversary who does not follow any rules when actively killing.

The police are best used to combat terrorism by finding them before they strike. Developing informants, collecting investigative data, conducting surveillance are all traditional police crime fighting strategies. Disrupting the planning stage of a domestic terrorism strike is how law enforcement should be used, and this must be the focus of every officer. Engaging terrorists in Direct Action (DA) encounters requires that the police approach the threat with an entirely different mind-set. American policing has not adopted the appropriate attitude yet.


Soldiers conquer by killing; plain and simple. Police actions, Humanitarian Missions, and the like, is not the job of a professional soldier. Unlike the force-as-a-last-resort attitude of law enforcement, the military way of thinking is more desirable when confronting terrorism targets in a DA manner during the terrorists stage of execution. The military should not investigate anti-terrorism cases. That is the job of the police. The military should not stand guard for observational purposes. The police and private security share those traits. The military should, however, pursue terrorists with DA missions throughout the world as they do, to include domestic operations too. Erroneously, the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385) has been viewed as the historical inhibitor to deployment of military assets for a civil emergency. Since its original passage into law in 1878, it has undergone numerous revisions and addendums, which purposely allow usage of DoD elements (see document below).

The military is best used for force-on-force encounters. Homicidal maniacs armed with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and no will to live? Horrendous incident for the police, but it’s a normal day to the military frame of mind.

Putting It All Together

So, who best to handle a terrorist cell? Depends on the type of cell and what stage of operations they are in. Basically, everyone plays a role. Those terrorists serving in a support (logistics) role who secure financing through illicit means, or intelligence, should be the focus of the police and private security. Operational cell members rapidly approaching their execution phase of an attack must meet preemptive neutralization by our armed forces who are not overly concerned with preserving the life of a terrorist for judicial prosecution.


Web Links:

* The Myth of Posse Comitatus

Keith R. Lavery, M.A., is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching secondary education and having taught law enforcement, criminal justice and security courses at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career for over 17 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, and to stay current in the field, works part-time as a patrol officer in Northeastern Ohio. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.


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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


Answering the original question: Anyone who loves Freedom over tyranny.

You can't cure stupid.

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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


very good article regarding capabilties of American "security forces."
We police officers are indeed at a disadvantage when it comes to mindset regarding us vs. terrorism. Terrorist have a psychology that is much more violent and most cops dont walk around with the "kill the enemy at any cost" type mindset. That really is something for the military.

I personally think each state needs to keep a certain amount of combat arms Guard units on duty, or on a 24 hour call basis, to respond to a potential terrorist attack. Guard units are just as experienced and trained as acgive duty Army units now that for the last 7 years, Guard/Reserve units have comprised 40% of combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


psd is right on, even though I find the original article suspect. We dont have the mindset to fight terrorism domestically. It is not the fault of the individual officer, its police leaders who see tickets instead of initiative, budgets instead of courage and discipline instead of building sound inter regional planning. If you left the average officer with the problme he would figure it out. When we talk about it adminstratively, politics and budgets and "doing it like we always have" gets in the way.

Police leaders dont talk about crime rates in t hier community much less terrorism. Gang warfare in many large cities is close to terrorism, do you see a plan? A concentrated, courageous effort by leaders using initiative? I have been in many meetings with many chiefs and Ill tell you what they talk about, that is budgets, discipline and maybe, just maybe training. But not training is the sense we think of it, training as to how to avoid a lawsuit.

Maybe Im too suspect of authority, but police leadership needs a healthy shot of courage to move into any ideas of fighting terrorism. Not only in the major cities, but in surburbia and the farming communities as well. its going to take all of us, not just one or two who make the effort to read and train.

I read that article about the actor giving 100 large to a town so they could buy long guns, and a lot of you rejoiced at that. Its nice, dont get me wrong, but its shameful that the chief in that town, didnt see the need 1) and didnt bang up his city council so that his officers get the tools they need to protect themselves. Thats what Im talking about, its takes courage to be the boss, see the problme and act on it, as unpopular and expensive as it might be.

Complancy kills more than anything else.


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Rate This | Posted about 8 years ago


ajsdaddy says ...

Answering the original question: Anyone who loves Freedom over tyranny.

Good answer.  I might even go so far as to say "Anyone who can." 


Go out today and preach the gospel, and if you must, use words. St. Francis of Assisi

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Rate This | Posted about 8 years ago


I will, with no conscience either!

Also, that was Phoenix and David Spade is who bought them!


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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago


Anyone who sees any form terrorism happening and knowing it has a responsibility to help fight it in

any manner they can. I will also.