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Lone wolf threat pales next to complacency

Lone wolf terrorism is being predicted to be the next biggest threat to Homeland Security. As an offshoot of Homegrown Terrorism (formerly known as Domestic Terrorism), the lone wolf scenarios are seen as impossible to predict and difficult to defend against. The lone wolf is an individual who shares an ideation but is not formally connected to an “official” terrorist network. Ted Kaczynski, Eric Robert Rudolph, and Timothy McVeigh fit the lone wolf definition. These individuals conduct surveillance and plan independently. The interest in lone wolf terrorism comes from an assumption that the internet is providing a portal for radicalization. As if the internet itself is recruiting terrorists. Citizen radicals and idealists who intend to do harm on our soil has been growing for some time. Interest in domestic hate groups and political extremists has grown in recent years. Case study may show that their targets are typically high visibility and public locations. Although active shooter scenarios seem to be popular, the lone wolf cases cited above have made explosives their weapon of choice.

Lone wolf and domestic terrorism are serious threats. This type of attack is difficult to defend against or predict and should give us reason to conduct meaningful threat assessments especially on soft targets in our communities. Some refuse to believe it.

There is a threat far greater than the lone wolf or domestic terrorist: complacency. Complacency is the enemy that blinds us to our only all-hazards defense: resiliency.

In December 2010, I wrote on what I thought were biggest planning problems for the new year; intentional attacks on civilian soft targets, attacks on critical infrastructure, and the threat of increasingly virulent naturally occurring biological events.

Two of the three biggest problems included situations or at-risk locations for a lone wolf and domestic terrorist event.

There is more to soft targets than malls and coffee shops. Our national power grid, for instance, is a brittle system that shows its vulnerability with each stretch of extreme heat or cold. Emergency medical agencies remain understaffed and outside much of the grant funding circle. Fire and police departments continue to flail with ever-shrinking budgets and “what have you done for me lately” attitude from politicians and citizens. The economy of resiliency is making it difficult for local governments and civilians to adequately prepare. With today's level of complacency, even a “fun-size” terrorist event could yield a major impact.

Lone wolf and domestic terrorism is a threat. The threat is growing because of nuts with access to firearms and bomb materials...not because of internet radicalization. The threat also continues to increase because of our complacency and lack of resilience.

The all-hazards solution is to harden our weak areas through assessment and planning to create resilience. While not simple, those two actions would reduce the impact of natural, intentional (terrorist), technological, or accidental events. 

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