Radical Islamic Terrorism – An Update on the Threat

Charles E. Goslin, senior security consultant with Butchko, Inc., provided the Houston Chapter of ASIS International with an update on the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism following recent ISIS defeats in Mosul. Goslin’s central thesis is that traditional military defeats of ISIS on the battlefield will not eradicate its lethality and spread as a terrorist organization. The front lines of this war are fluid, and can be expected to shift from the trenches in Iraq and Syria to cities and communities in the west and even within the U.S. Aside from trends that point to this shift in the terrorist group’s strategy, he emphasized that the intractable nature of Islamic terrorism lies not in the external territory or capitals it holds, but rather the iron grip it establishes within the minds of individuals radicalized by its extreme ideology. So long as this form of radicalization is left unaddressed or minimized, the potency of terrorism from these groups will remain undiminished.

ISIS can be expected to become a more virulent threat for three reasons:

  1. The expectation by ISIS leaders regarding the inevitability of being attacked and destroyed on the ground by the west. With this in mind, plans were made to infiltrate massive refugee flows into Europe.
  2. The nature of the terrorists themselves who have filled the ranks of ISIS.  A significant number of them are EU passport holders, and can easily blend back into the west.
  3. The resilient nature of radicalization that maintains a grip on its followers no matter where they are.  The “duty and obligation” to commit acts of violent jihad remain with them, whether it is in a straight-up fight with military forces in Iraq or Syria, or on the “civilized” streets of Paris, Brussels, London, or New York.

The bottom line emphasized by Goslin is that this threat is real, and security professionals need to prepare. His recommendations for blunting this threat within organizations include the following:

  • Addressing the tough issue of Insider Threat.   Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of radicalization.
  • Expecting Tactic Replication.  Islamic Extremist groups have shown, time and again, that they will replicate a tactic if it works.
  • Developing good Threat Intelligence. It is not enough to rely strictly on one source of intelligence, particularly if it is only “tactical” lists of events or incidents.    Develop working level relationships with local police, intelligence services, and community leaders.
  • Adjusting Journey Management and Traveler Security Awareness briefings for the threat environment.
  • Developing discreet reporting channels for individuals who have concerns about behavior or incidents within the workplace.  “See something, say something” is nice, but follow-through with clear mechanisms must be in place  to deal with the information when someone “says something.”

Charles Goslin provides regular seminars and presentations on this topic, as well as other “over-the-horizon” threats and security risks for Butchko clients and the Greater Houston community.