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Commentary | Feb. 25, 2010

Reporting suspicious activity

By Special Agent Steve O'Brien OSI Detachment 201

Following every terrorist attack in recent history, post-attack investigations all reveal the attackers engaged in a sequence of events in preparation for the final attack. The sequence of events are known as observable planning activities.

As you read this, somewhere in the world terrorists are conducting these activities in preparation for a future attack. Although the time and place of future attacks are undetermined, recognition of the observable planning activities can prevent them.

The United States Air Force has put into place the Eagle Eyes program to assist the base and local community in the recognition of observable planning activities and ultimately the prevention of a catastrophic event. The program assists the base and local population to identify and report observable planning activities, by defining each step and providing clear avenues to report them.

What are observable planning activities? The following are stages of pre-attack coordination:
  • Surveillance- making observations, taking photographs, preparing notes or attempting to learn the patterns of base security or flight schedules
  • Elicitation- asking general and concealed questions about military operations, weapons systems, activities, etc. that are designed to draw out as much information as possible
  • Tests of security- attempting to access the base, military facilities or base housing areas, which can also be done by phoning in false emergencies to observe the base response
  • Acquiring supplies- buying and stealing uniforms, badges, weapons, etc., also look for large purchases of items such as fertilizer or chemicals
  • Suspicious persons- people who are out of place or clearly do not belong
  • Dry runs- this is the practice of the actual attack itself
  • Deployment of assets- moving the people and supplies into the correct position to carry out the attack
Every Airman is bound to report any indicators they may observe. Every post-attack investigation from the U.S.S. Cole bombing to 9/11 revealed that people noticed at least one indicator, but for a variety of reasons decided not to report them to law enforcement.

Even if the report turns out to be false, it is better to "safe than sorry". Don't assume something you witness is stupid or a waste of time, your report may be the one that saves lives.

If you feel you have observed pre-attack planning activities or suspect something might qualify as a pre-attack indicator, trust your instincts and call the 633d Security Forces Squadron Law Enforcement desk at 764-5091 or AFOSI Detachment 201 at 764-7971.

The USAF also has a toll-free line to report any suspicious activity from anywhere in the world at 877-246-1453. Inform the operator you need to speak to the Langley OSI Duty Agent and they will patch you through.

Do your part to stop terrorism and report any suspicious activity right away. If you would like more information about the Eagle Eyes Program or would like a briefing for your unit or organization, call OSI Detachment 201 at 764-7971. Other information is available at http://www.osi.andrews.af.mil/eagleyes/index.asp.