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June 5, 2014

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Keep Airport Security Active

I recently spent several hours in a major California airport. Unfortunately, my time spent in the airport was for naught, since my flight was cancelled. However, in spite of my traveling woes, I was able to reflect a bit on airport security. I can’t say that I am a very frequent traveler, but I’ve probably flown through U.S. airports well over one hundred times. I’ve also had the opportunity to fly internationally several times as well. This hardly puts me in a frequent flyer category, but I’ve spent my fair share of time in airports and probably have the same frustrations as most other travelers with airport security personnel, procedures, airlines, small seats, bad food, etc.

What I want to reflect on now is the use of security personnel in U.S. airports. Here’s a comparative anecdote. In my more than one hundred trips through U.S. airports, outside of the usual procedures at security checkpoints, I’ve never once been approached or engaged by an airport security agent. I’ve never been questioned, spoken to, or greeted. In contrast, I’ve had a significantly different experience flying out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. I’ve only traveled to Israel once, and so my experience is minimal. However, my experience at Ben Gurion is also significantly different than my hundreds of experiences in U.S. airports. I traveled to Israel to participate in an archaeological excavation and to tour. After five weeks of excavating, I flew my wife out to tour the country. We spent a week visiting historic sites, eating great food, and meeting splendid people. However, because our trips were purchased at different times, we had different flights out of the country. My wife flew back to the U.S. one day before I did. I didn’t just drop my wife off at the airport. I parked the rental car, walked in with her, and waited as she made it through the ticketing and baggage check procedures. As she was going through the line, I sat on a bench facing toward the entrance and exit doors of the airport, looking out at the sky and minding my own business. In the, perhaps, twenty minutes that I sat on that bench, I was approached by plain clothes security agents at two different times. Each of these agents asked me a series of questions. Questions such as: What are you doing sitting by yourself? Why don’t you have any bags? When are you flying out? Who are you waiting for? What are you doing in Israel?

The next day, when I flew out of Israel, I was asked a very similar set of questions by uniformed agent checking my passport prior to even checking my baggage. What did I do in Israel? Who was I with? Why wasn’t I with them any longer? Etc.

According to the Ben Gurion website, in 2013, more than 13 million international passengers flew through the airport on almost 97,000 flights. The airport also served more than 760,000 domestic passengers on nearly 8,000 flights. Many U.S. airports are much busier than Ben Gurion. In 2012, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport boarded more than 45 million passengers. That’s more than three times the number of passengers that fly out of Ben Gurion. When stacked up against U.S. airports, Ben Gurion would be the twentieth busiest airport.

There can be no doubt that in many ways the security personnel at the busiest U.S. airports have a much more difficult job than do Ben Gurion airport security agents. Of course, there are many

April 22, 2014

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Emergency Messages

Emergency messages or notifications are common means by which organizations, states, and even countries inform their members of critical incidents that may affect their safety and security. In the best cases, these messages are prompted by credible and reliable information about a potential future attack—and therefore are left of bang. In the worst cases, these messages let people know of an attack that has already occurred but may still affect their safety. Recently, I was sent an emergency message by a campus that I’m associated with; a message that spurred my thoughts about how to effectively inform people of potential safety and security risks. I have removed location specific information. I received the following message via email in January of this year:

“Suspicious activity was recently reported to [the] [c]ampus. [Local] Police officers patrolling the [c]ampus have said this is a very low-level threat.

We are continuing to monitor the report of this suspicious activity and will update you with more at a later time. This is a good reminder to be aware and to report any suspicious activity to xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

The above message was all that was sent out by the organization’s security department. I would like to take a look at this brief message to discuss how to effectively inform people of emergency situations so that they can stay safe and make good decisions.

While it may not be clear, this is a left of bang message. Nothing had happened yet; only someone had been reported to security officials that something may happen. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the language of this message.

January 31, 2013

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Training Beyond The Physical Terrain

A response to “Defining The Human Terrain – Revealing Core Patterns.”  

What is the “human terrain”? As Pat notes in his article, although the word has been thrown about for the past few years, it has not been clearly defined. A recent thesis written at the Naval Postgraduate School puts the matter plainly:

The term “human terrain” encompasses a wide variety of concepts and meanings.  It came  into widespread use following the events of September 11th as a catch all phrase to describe the human dimension of the operational environment, including groups’ and individuals’ feelings and inclinations. However, as a stand alone term, human terrain has not been officially defined by the DoD. Although its use is widely prevalent, human terrain is currently an imprecise term, which is vague and nebulous.

Human terrain implies two specific requirements based upon its name. First, the activity, action, behavior, or trait originates from an individual human or a group of humans. Secondly, the trait must be tied to a geographic location. These traits may be an observable action as well as cognitive (examples: identity, motivation, values) or not readily observable (examples: family affiliations, language, education level).

(E. B. Eldridge and A. J. Neboshynsky, “Quantifying the Human Terrain” [Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2008], 18-19.)

Our military forces have excelled at defining, categorizing, reading, navigating, and maneuvering the physical terrain. We’ve incorporated aspects of the physical terrain into every element of our military training. We have done this both because we operate in physical environments, and because we know that whoever controls the ground has a critical advantage in any conflict. Our Marines and soldiers, enlisted and officers, are trained in land navigation and map reading. Our leaders are able to conduct detailed #6assessments of the terrain in order to plan operations. We can easily categorize the accessibility of a piece of terrain by a quick look at a map, and can identify key terrain without much effort.

Unfortunately, we have neglected a critical piece of our operations, the human terrain. Since Sept. 11th, our military has been in a scramble to understand one of the most basic elements of human life—people. As the authors of the aforementioned thesis describe, the human terrain is basically a look at human activity and interaction within a particular geographic environment. But even this definition is almost too broad to be useful. One of the issues is that the human terrain, like the physical terrain, can be viewed from various perspectives. A pilot sees the ground differently than a rifleman. A squad leader sees an area different than a company commander. The same is true for the human terrain. A Marine rifleman sees the populace and their activity different than does a Psyops officer. However, while physical terrain is described using common terminology, which every military person should know, the human terrain has not been given the same common language. This is unfortunate because a lack of a common “human terrain” lexicon slows down communication, causes misunderstanding, and keeps our forces from effectively collaborating. The Six-Domains of Combat Profiling (Biometrics, Kinesics, Proxemics, Geographics, Iconography, and Atmospherics) provide the terminology which all levels of operators can use to speak about the human terrain. As Pat argues, the Six Domains provide our military forces with the ability to easily quantify the human terrain, and enables cross-communication. We encourage soldiers, Marines, commanders, and everyone operating overseas to make the Six Domains “household” terminology. Not only will doing so help communication, but will also begin to build a Combat Profiling mindset among everyone in the military. This will enable proactive thinking and the type of situational awareness necessary in the types of irregular warfare our military fights in the modern era.

This article has become part of an e-book that can be downloaded here

December 18, 2012

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From Science To The Streets – Territoriality and Anchor Points

Like animals, humans are territorial. Territoriality is rooted in our DNA. On a daily basis we make a claim to the space around us. We protect our “personal space.” We place pictures and other personalizing items on our desks and workspaces to ensure that other people know this is our space. If we are students, we sit in the same seat on a daily basis and then get upset if someone sits in that seat one day, because it is “my seat.” We place “no trespassing” signs on our property. We look at people strange if they get too close to our cars. Territoriality has been defined as: “an individual’s behavioral expression of his or her feelings of ownership toward a physical or social object” (Brown, Lawrence, and Robinson, 2004). In other words, humans develop feelings of ownership over the space around them and objects they normally interact with, and they express this ownership through subtle and overt signs—through aggressive postures, explicit warning signs, proxemic behavior, and other such indicators.

November 24, 2011

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Behavioral Profiling on a Daily Basis

I was recently in San Francisco for an academic conference. Hundreds of book publishing companies come to the conference to sell their most recent publications related to the various fields of study connected to the conference. Because the publishing companies and reps are there, this means two main opportunities for students and scholars: buy books at a discount and pitch ideas to publishers for their next book. Well, I just so happened to be sitting at a table by myself, minding my own business, when an aspiring scholar and a book representative sat down to talk. From the get-go, it was apparent that the scholar was attempting to pitch an idea to the publishing representative. And, from the get-go, it was also apparent that he was headed for rejection, and possibly disaster.

November 3, 2011

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Is Predictive Profiling Legal?

One question which may be on the mind of law enforcement personnel is, “Is combat profiling (or predictive profiling) legal? This is a topic which I would like to address briefly in this post.

As PVH has discussed in a previous post, combat profiling is basically an application of predictive profiling. We give it particular terminology, and form applications which relate directly to combat and law enforcement situations. In regard to the legality of observing behavior to identify potential threats, I would like to address a few issues.

August 31, 2011

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Naturally acting or acting natural?

How do you determine whether someone is doing something naturally or whether they are simply trying to act natural? For Marines on patrol, the question would be, how do you know if the farmer is actually a farmer working his field, or if the person is observing you and collection information on you but is trying to act like a farmer? For cops, the question would be, how can you tell the difference between the guy who is standing on the corner, smoking a cigarette, and minding his own business and the guy who is a lookout for the local gang and is trying to act like he is “doing nothing?”

Well, one of the principles of human nature that combat profiling uses to its advantage is this: Humans only look natural when you are naturally focused on doing one thing.

When your attention is divided, and your concentrating on doing more than one thing, your behavior and speech will appear unnatural. For instance, if someone is actually reading a paper then their attention and mental energy will be focused on reading the paper. If, however, that person is only acting as if they are reading the paper and instead are attempting to conduct surveillance, then their behavior will not look natural. Or imagine, for instance, having a conversation with someone who is attempting to discreetly watch someone in the crowd of people around you in an attempt to get some type of subtle direction from that person. The person you are talking to will not be focused on the conversation. Instead, his mental energy will be divided. His action will be “jerky” and his speech will seem choppy, broken, or slower than normal. His brain will have to switch back and forth between activities (Brain Rules, 84-88). As Alex Pentland, a researcher at MIT, explains, “When there are several conflicting “commands” coming down from our higher brain centers, each requiring our body to take different sorts of actions, this interferes with our ability to act in a smooth, consistent manner” (Honest Signals, 15).

August 29, 2011

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Establishing a baseline, for the first time

This post is very similar to one of PVH’s post entitled Establishing a Baseline? Step One.

You enter a new area. A new village. A new marketplace. And you need to establish a baseline fast, and you need to figure out if anyone wants to or is going to try to do you harm. Your first thoughts, “oh crap, what’s going on? Who is who? Who wants to hurt me? What is that person doing?” Recently I took some instructors out to do some instructor development. We went to an area that I’m only partially familiar with. As soon as we got there, and stepped out of the car, my first thoughts were, “What is going on? Do I even know what I’m doing?” So, what do you do when you’re in a new area and you need to begin establishing a baseline?

Establishing a baseline for the first time in a new area is not self-evident. An untrained individual may be able to do a decent job identifying certain things–the obvious things–but is going to miss important behaviors and patterns, and will focus on the wrong things.

August 28, 2011

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What Behavioral Profiling is NOT

Behavioral Profiling is, first and foremost, NOT racial profiling. When identifying threats, we shouldn’t focus on race, religion, or ethnicity, but instead on behavior within a given situation. Unfortunately, since 2001, most Americans, including military and law enforcement personnel, have fallen victim to Islamophobia. We constantly look for people who look like “terrorists.” By this we implicitly mean young to middle-aged middle-eastern Muslim males. The problems with this mentality are numerous. First, only a very small percentage of Muslims are extremists, and only a small percentage of those individuals conduct violent acts. Second, criminals and terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, and ages; from all races, ethnicities, and religions; and can be either male or female.  The United States has suffered enough from its fair share of home-grown terrorists, such as Timothy McVeigh, that we should know not to assume that a person is a terrorist because of the way the person looks. Third, by focusing on unimportant things such as race or ethnicity, we miss out on the important behavioral indicators that are necessary in identifying threats. Additionally, when we allow our false pre-conceived notions to give us tunnel vision, we do not see the dangerous individuals who do not fit our “racial profile.”

August 25, 2011

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Combat vs. Criminal Profiling

What’s the difference between combat profiling and criminal profiling?

I had a conversation today with an FBI profiler from the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. During our conversation it became clear just how different criminal profiling is from combat profiling. The main difference is that criminal profiling is reactive, while combat profiling is proactive. What follows is a comparison and contrast between combat profiling and criminal profiling.

Definition:
Combat profiling: This is a method of proactively identifying threats based on human behavior.
Criminal profiling: Also called psychological profiling or Criminal Investigative Analysis, is a method of developing a personality profile about a criminal based on the characteristics of the perpetrators crime or series of crimes (Criminal Profiling by Brent Turvey).

Comparison and Contrast:
Combat profiling: Proactively identifies threats based on behavior to prevent a crime or attack.
Criminal profiling: Reactively identifies likely characteristics of an offender based on a crime already committed.