As reported in the JTA Daily Briefing, 19 Jewish organizations (mostly JCC’s) received an email threat yesterday (Sunday) morning. The threat alleged that the writer was concerned about an immigration issue and threatened to remotely detonate bombs if a certain demand was not met. The Community Security Initiative (a joint program of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY) immediately communicated with our local and federal partners. The consensus was that the threat was not credible.
Do you have a threat procedure? Do you regularly review your procedures and/or drill? Should we be worried?
At this time the experts conclude that incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses are not likely t0 represent a credible terrorist threat for two reasons:
- terrorists’ rarely provide operational insight into their planning, and
- the fact that nearly all hoaxes in the United States are conducted by criminal actors or those instigating a nuisance prank.
Consider yesterday’s incidents to be a drill
Now is a good time to review your threat protocols. Of course you call 911, but are the right people authorized to do so. Who else needs to be notified? Should you evacuate? Who makes the decision? Learn more about bomb threats and more on our dedicated webpage: www.jcrcny.org/bomb
Evacuations can be tricky. Review our post, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question. Triggering an evacuation could be an effective part of an active threat plan, with an attacker waiting outside to shoot, stab, bomb or ram those fleeing the building.
Bottom line. Consider identifying a relatively safe haven within your building (e.g., a gym or auditorium). Create a protocol to ensure that the safe haven in inspected every day to confirm that there are no suspicious objects present. If a threat is delivered, the safe haven can be quickly checked and the building occupants can temporarily be moved into that room. After the police arrive, they should check the immediate surroundings for possible threats before the people are allowed to exit.
Of course, there’s an old Army saying (sometimes attributed to Gen. Eisenhower) that, “Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.” May we never need to implement those plans.
Recent Propaganda Releases by ISIS and Al-Qa’ida Promote Intensified Attacks by Supporters in the West
This assessment from NYPD has information that can be used to support both the federal and New York State grant applications. We highlighted issues concerning the Jewish community.
Open Source Assessment/February 10, 2020
Two recent extremist propaganda releases disseminated by ISIS’s al-Furqan Media and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Al-Malahem Media called on Salafi-jihadist supporters to intensify attacks as part of a retaliatory campaign of violence against the West, which may resonate with homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) based in the U.S. Both media campaigns referenced a broad variety of tactics, with ISIS’s statement promoting the use of conventional and chemical weapons, and AQAP’s message promoting simple, low-tech methods, as well as cyberwarfare campaigns.
- While both propaganda statements called for an escalation in attack efforts, ISIS’s propaganda release notably emphasized a “new phase” geared specifically towards targeting Israeli and Jewish interests. ISIS previously referenced chemical weapons tactics in numerous propaganda graphics, demonstrating the group’s persistent support and interest in this attack method. While the NYPD is not aware of any credible, active, or specific threats at this time, this statement, coupled with an already heightened threat environment, may serve as a catalyst for increased violence against Jewish communities.
- Additionally, AQAP’s latest propaganda release may potentially have a stronger resonance with al-Qa’ida-aligned HVEs in the West following the recently confirmed death of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, who was killed in a targeted U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
- On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s official media apparatus published a 37-minute Arabic-language audio statement attributed to its new spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, marking his second speech since the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in separate U.S. counterterrorism operations. While much of the statement—titled “God Destroyed Them and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”—revisited ISIS’s narrative of survivability and endurance despite strategic setbacks, al-Qurayshi notably declared war on Israel, and called for ISIS supporters to broadly intensify their attack efforts worldwide.
- Throughout the speech, al-Qurayshi claimed that U.S. narratives about ISIS’s defeat in the Middle East are false and that the U.S. has historically been unable to defeat its adversaries, specifically referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. He asserted that ISIS will persist despite al-Baghdadi’s death. The statement appears to have been recorded in recent weeks, as it also referenced the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in early January 2020.
- After congratulating ISIS militants for waging a retaliatory campaign of violence in response to the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, al-Qurayshi encouraged supporters to continue the revenge efforts by increasing the frequency of attacks. This specific statement could potentially resonate with lone offenders as a call to arms from core ISIS leadership.
- Al-Qurayshi announced the beginning of a new stage for ISIS aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem. He specifically urged ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria to turn Israeli “settlements and markets into a proving ground for your rockets and chemical weapons.” He also ordered Muslims to thwart the U.S. peace plan referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” and implored Palestinians and Muslims worldwide to target Jews. While previous ISIS messaging also emphasized the targeting of Jewish and Israeli interests in an effort to inspire attacks by established ISIS affiliates and lone offender supporters, the emphasis on these targets in this audio message likely coincides with the latest proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.
- On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Qasim al-Rimi, the emir of AQAP and potential heir to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. military counterterrorism operation. Al-Rimi was previously featured in a propaganda video disseminated by AQAP on February 2 that claimed responsibility for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, praised global al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, and emphasized the importance of continued retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests. Given al-Rimi’s death, his latest message urging lone offender attacks against the U.S. may also catalyze HVEs to conduct retaliatory attacks.
- AQAP’s propaganda video featured Qasim al-Rimi, often pairing his image with other al-Qa’ida ideologues. He declared that AQAP was responsible for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was conducted by Saudi aviation student Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who he claimed was a sleeper agent for AQAP. Similar to the retaliatory narrative in past AQAP propaganda messages, he stated that the shooting was in revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Additionally, on February 4, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Shabaab echoed this narrative by congratulating AQAP for its role in the Pensacola attack and encouraged continued lone offender operations in the West.
- Al-Rimi connected the Pensacola shooting to other al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, stating that it was part of a series of global attacks. He compared al-Shamrani to the group’s other perceived “heroes,” such as Nidal Malik Hassan, the November 2019 Fort Hood shooter, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in a likely attempt to encourage similar operations by HVEs in the West.
- Most significantly, al-Rimi explicitly called for lone offender attacks in the U.S and told supporters to make sure their “chief concern” is “America.” He urged students, journalists, doctors, engineers, merchants, workers, Arab and non-Arabs to use low-tech, simple tactics, including vehicle ramming, firearms, and explosives. He also encourages viewers to consult AQAP’s Inspire magazine for tactical guidance.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW YORK CITY
There is currently no direct, credible or specific threat to New York City following these recent propaganda releases by ISIS and AQAP media entities; however, ISIS’s calls for attacks against Jewish communities highlights the importance of vigilance for suspicious activity indicators at similar locations, houses of worship, and Jewish faith community gatherings throughout the five boroughs. In recent months, authorities have disrupted numerous plots by malicious actors from across the violent extremist ideological spectrum who espoused anti-Semitic views and targeted the Jewish community.
Security personnel are advised to be on alert for suspicious behavior that could indicate pre-operational surveillance for an attack. Such behavior could include individuals taking photographs of security procedures in place, and asking probing questions of security/law enforcement officers stationed outside such locations.
Information sharing and prompt reporting of suspicious behavior indicators between the public, private-sector security personnel, faith community leaders, and law enforcement authorities remains vital to the deterrence, detection, and disruption of terrorist activity and the prevention of attacks.
If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)
New resource guide. Take a look at DHS’ new resource guide, Security of Soft Targets and Crowded Places. It’s essentially a one-stop table of contents for DHS’s free materials, including links for help on identifying suspicious activity, access control and screening, active assailants (they’re not just shooters anymore) and bomb threats. Follow the supplied links for an introduction to facility security that can serve as a good first step for houses of worship, schools and other soft targets. Resources include fact sheets, guidance, and online training and education courses.
Mail screening poster. Thanks to the world’s leading geopolitical intelligence platform, Stratfor, for its timely reminder about mail and package screening after an attempted bombing.
- While many questions remain in the case of a parcel bomb sent to a Mexican senator, the largest is why the mail of such a high-level official was not screened.
- While politicians and large corporations clearly must take significant measures to screen their mail, even ordinary people (and Jewish organizations) should open their mail cautiously.
- Simple steps can help everyone from the largest entities to the average citizen.
Note that Cesar Sayoc, 57, admitted in court to having mailed 16 explosive devices to a variety of officials and to CNN’s offices in October 2018. He allegedly said he would “eradicate the Jews” if he had the power to, along with lesbians, black people and Hispanic people.
We urge you to download the tips found on the Stratfor graphic and share it with your staff and others.
Rosh Chodesh Elul includes clarion calls indicating that the High Holidays are coming soon. So, now is a good time to check out a recent presentation on synagogue security or to take a deeper dive into the library of documents available on the JCRC-NY Security Resources pages. Here are some relevant selections:
High Holiday Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning Library
- High Holidays: Are you ready to get out if you have to?
- JCRC-NY High Holiday Security Thinkplate
- Access control considerations during High Holiday services (PDF)
- Houses of Worship and the High Holidays
- Planning for the Unexpected – High Holiday Edition 2010 (PDF)
- Are you prepared? 5 steps to make your facility safer and more secure
- Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures (PDF)
- Bomb Threat Guidance resources. See also Hoax threats can be scary, too, To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question., DHS’ Introduction to Bomb Threat Management, Manhattan bomb threat: lessons learned, Bomb threat training video.
- Active Shooter Resources Page (DHS, FBI and NYPD)
- Cybersecurity Resources Page
- US Postal Inspection Service Guide to Mail Center Security (PDF)
Vulnerability, Risk and Safety Assessments and Planning
- FEMA: Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings
- FEMA, Emergency Operations Planning
- Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities (Updated)
- Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship
- K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting against Gun Violence (2nd ed., 2018) provides preventive and protective measures to address the threat of gun violence in schools. The Guide is delivered in two parts: the first portion is a PDF with general security best practices and considerations in narrative format; while the second portion is a Microsoft Excel-based security survey. Together, these documents outline action-oriented security practices and options for consideration based on the results of the individual school’s responses to the survey. While the primary audience for the Guide is the K-12 community, institutions of higher education or pre-K schools may also benefit from the information presented.
- NYPD: Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings
- OSHA: Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool. This expert system will help you to create a basic Emergency Action Plan. This basic plan likely will be adequate for needs of many small and medium-sized entities. Most small and medium-sized entities can create basic plans using this system in 10 to 15 minutes. Larger, more complex organizations will require more work.
- Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Drug Free and Safe Schools. Taking action now can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage in the moments of a crisis. The importance of reviewing and revising school and district plans cannot be underscored enough, and Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities is designed to help you navigate this process. The Guide is intended to give schools, districts, and communities the critical concepts and components of good crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process, and provide examples of promising practices.
- Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide for Childcare Centers. From the Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children (a collaborative program between the Illinois Department of Public Health and Loyola University Chicago). Lots of ideas to keep toddlers safe.
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center, U.S. Department of Education
- REMS: Conducting a Safety Audit
- California STAS: Protective Measures for Enhanced Facilities Security
- New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Critical Infrastructure Protection Bureau: Facility Self-Assessment Tool (updated) and other tools here.
The National Explosives Task Force (NETF) coordinates rapid integration of explosives expertise with intelligence and law enforcement information to support operational activities. Products are peer-reviewed by explosives experts from participating agencies.
National Explosives Task Force
Suspicious Package Indicators and Recommended Response Procedures
Package bombs, which include letters, parcels, and anything delivered by postal or courier service, are not a new technique and have been used by terrorists and anarchist groups. Many of these bombs are triggered when victims handle or open the packages, although they can be initiated in other ways.
Package bombs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they may look harmless. There are a number of characteristics that may lead you to become suspicious of a letter or package.
If you believe a letter or package is suspicious:
- Stop. Do not handle or open.
- Do not use cell phones, pagers, or two-way radios near suspected devices.
- Be aware of secondary devices.
- Evacuate and isolate the immediate area.
- If applicable, activate the facility’s emergency plan.
- Make note of the characteristics that caused suspicion.
- Call 911.
Formal Screening Procedures
Commercial or government entities with mail screening procedures are advised to review existing procedures for screening packages, identifying suspicious items, and instituting the appropriate safety protocols.
If no current procedures are in place, guidance should be sought from local, state, and/or federal resources. Planning considerations should include (but not be limited to) recurring training for screeners, an understanding of the standards and limitations for operating times, and regularly scheduled maintenance of screening equipment, such as calibration, updates, and testing.
The NETF prepared this document to raise awareness of package bombs and the need for diligence and safety procedures in evaluating suspected improvised explosive devices. If a suspicious package is found, call 911. Any diagnostic or render safe actions should be performed only by the appropriate experts.
The U.S. government has resources on mail security available to citizens and businesses. More
information can be found at http://about.usps.com/securing-the-mail/mail-security-center.htm. Click here to download a PDF copy of this notice.