Vigilance remains key to preventing terrorist activity

  • Published
  • By Maj. Will Nichols
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Air Force members and their families are vital assets to law enforcement authorities who identify and assess potential threats in the area to help safeguard people and other resources.

"Vigilance at home is a phrase that's been used time and again since Sept. 11," said Special Agent Robert Hicks, special agent-in-charge of Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 401 here. "Vigilance by military and civilian Air Force members and their families is the primary component and is critical in our efforts to protect our people and resources in the war on terrorism."

The Eagle Eyes program was established at the direction of the Air Force chief of staff after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to improve the timely collection of information about suspicious activity. The AFOSI and security forces support it through reporting, analysis and investigations. The program relies on all members of the Air Force -- military, civilian and family members, on and off base -- to quickly pass information to the proper law enforcement authorities who will then distribute it appropriately for assessment, investigation and action as necessary.

"People here in the United States are potentially at risk for other types of attacks just as military members are who are deployed around the world," said Hicks. "Our need to identify and report suspicious activity is more important than ever, and our operational security actually depends on it. Terrorists and other criminals can use personal information to plan criminal activity or, worst case, attacks against American service members and their families."

People know what is normal in their areas at work and home and are the best source for spotting something that is unusual or suspicious, Hicks said.

"Only (you) know who and what does or doesn't belong in your building, neighborhood or work center, to include people and packages," he said. "Also, be alert for unusual requests for information from people who may be posing as telemarketers over the telephone or Internet. There is a line you don't want a telemarketer to cross and that is when the conversation moves from an attempt to sell a product to an attempt to gain personal information about you or your family.

"Personal information about yourself, your family, your home, daily routines and whereabouts of other family members is strictly that: personal," said Hicks. "Treat it that way and don't release it to anyone if you have the slightest doubt about its potential use."

For example, if a family member received a suspicious telephone call from a person who represented himself as a telemarketer and began to ask personal questions and wanted information about floor plans and sizes of housing units on military installations, that would be very suspicious and warrant investigation by law enforcement authorities, Hicks said.

Air Force members and their families who notice unusual or suspicious activity should immediately contact the local security forces squadron, law enforcement office or 911 in situations where emergency assistance is needed immediately.

The AFOSI categorizes suspicious activity into these broad categories:

-- Elicitation. Attempts to gain information about military operations, capabilities or people through mail, fax, telephone, the Internet or in person.

-- Surveillance. Someone recording or monitoring activities. This may include the use of still or video cameras, note taking, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices.

-- Tests of security. Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures.

-- Acquiring supplies. Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, military uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes or badges.

-- Suspicious persons out of place. People who do not seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business or other areas.

-- Dry run. Putting people into position and moving them around without actually committing the terrorist act. This includes mapping routes and determining the traffic flow.

-- Deploying assets. People and supplies getting into position to commit the act may be a person's last chance to alert authorities before a terrorist act occurs. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)