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[COMMENT: And meanwhile, our borders are KEPT open,
deliberately. Bush is quite aware of the circumstances, and yet does
nothing. Why should that not be called treason?
By Chuck Remsberg
Senior PoliceOne Contributor
Part 1 of 3
Probably the last place you want to think of terrorists striking is your
kids' school. But according to two trainers at an anti-terrorism conference
on the East Coast, preparations for attacks on American schools that will
bring rivers of blood and staggering body counts are well underway in
Islamic terrorist camps.
* The intended attackers have bluntly warned us they're going to do it.
* They're already begun testing school-related targets here.They've
given us a catastrophic model to train against, which we've largely ignored
and they've learned more deadly tactics from.
"We don't know for sure what they will do. No one knows the future. But by
definition, a successful attack is one we are not ready for," declared one
of the instructors, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Our schools fit that description
to a "T"-as in Terrorism and Threat.
Grossman, the popular law enforcement motivational speaker, and Todd Rassa,
a trainer with the SigArms Academy and an advisory board member for The
Police Marksman magazine, shared a full day's agenda on the danger to U.S.
schools at a recent three-day conference on terrorist issues, sponsored by
the International Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) in
They reminded the audience that patrol officers, including perhaps some with
their own children involved, will inevitably be the first responders when
terrorists hit. And they documented chilling descriptions of the
life-or-death challenges that likely will be faced.
In Part 1 of this three-part report on highlights of their presentations we
focus on what's
known about the threat to our schools to date, why terrorists have selected
them as targets, and what tactics you're likely to be up against in
responding to a sudden strike.
In Parts 2 and 3, we'll explore Grossman's and Rassa's recommendations for
practical measures you and your agency can take now to get ready, including
some defensive actions that don't require any budget allocations.
Why schools? Two reasons:
1. Our values. "The most sacred thing to us is our children, our babies,"
Rassa said. Killing hundreds of them at a time would significantly "boost
Islamic morale and lower that of the enemy" (us). In Grossman's words,
terrorists see this effort as "an attempt to defile our nation" by leaving
it "stunned to its soul."
2. Our lack of preparation. Police agencies "aren't used to this," Rassa
said. "We deal with acts of a criminal nature. This is an act of war," but
because of our laws "we can't depend on the military to help us," at least
at the outset.
Indeed, Grossman claimed, "the U.S. in the one nation in the world where the
military is not the first line of defense against domestic terrorist
attacks. By law, you the police officer are our Delta Force. It is your job
to go in, while in most other nations cops will wait for the military to
come save their kids."
School personnel, Rassa said, "are not even close" to being either mentally
or physically prepared. "Most don't even have response plans for handling a
single active shooter. Their world is taught to nurture and care for people.
They don't want to deal with this."
The American public, "sticking their heads in the sand, can't be mentally
prepared," he said. "They're going to freak when it happens," their stubborn
denial making the crisis "all the more shocking."
Noting that "sheep have two speeds: 'graze' and 'stampede,'" Grossman
predicted that "not a parent in the nation will send their kids to school
the next day"-perhaps for many days-after a large-scale terrorist massacre.
If day-care centers-"also on the terrorists' list"-are hit as well, "parents
will drop out of the work force" en masse to protect their children and "our
economy will be devastated."
How we know they're coming.
Al-Qaeda has publicly asserted the "right" to kill 2,000,000 American
children, Rassa explained, and has warned that "operations are in stages of
preparation" now. He played vivid videotapes confiscated in Afghanistan,
showing al-Qaeda terrorists practicing the takeover of a school. The
trainees issue commands in English, rehearse separating youngsters into
manageable groups and meeting any resistance with violence. Some "hostages"
are taken to the rooftop, dangled over the edge, then "shot."
"Any place that has given [Islamic terrorists] trouble, they've come after
the kids," Grossman said. Muslim religious literature, according to Rassa,
states clearly that the killing of children not only is "permitted" in Islam
but is "approved" by Mohammed, so long as the perpetrators "are striving for
the general good" as interpreted by that religion.
He cited instances in Indonesia where girls on their way to school have been
beheaded and in other countries where children have been shot, mutilated,
raped or burned alive.
In this country this year ['06], Rassa said, there have been several school
bus-related incidents involving Middle Eastern males that raise suspicion of
terrorist activity. These include the surprise boarding of a school bus in
Florida by two men in trench coats, who may have been on a canvassing
mission, and the attempt in New York State by an Arab male to obtain a job
as a school bus driver using fraudulent Social Security documents. The
latter gave an address in Detroit, home to a large colony of fundamentalist
Rassa claimed that floor plans for half a dozen schools in Virginia, Texas
and New Jersey have been recovered from terrorist hands in Iraq.
The terrorists' tactical model.
A "dress rehearsal for what terrorists plan to do to us" has already taken
place, Rassa and Grossman agreed. That was the brutal takedown in 2004 of a
school that served children from 6 to 17 years old in Beslan, Russia.
Some 100 terrorists were involved, nearly half of whom were discreetly
embedded in the large crowd of parents, staff and kids who showed up for the
first day of school; the rest arrived for the surprise attack in SUVs, troop
carriers and big sedans. Across a three-day siege, 700 people were wounded
and 338 killed, including 172 youngsters.
If a similar assault were launched against a school in your jurisdiction,
how would you and your agency respond? Consider this modest sampling of
challenges that were deliberately planned or arose from the ensuing chaos at
Beslan, as outlined by Rassa:
* The school was chosen because it was one of the taller buildings in
the area and had a very complicated floor plan, making a rapid and effective
counter-assault by responders extremely difficult. Offender weaponry
included AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPGs and explosives, with everything the
terrorists needed carried in on their backs. RPGs were fired at a responding
military helicopter and at troops.
* More than 1,000 men, women and children, including babies, were penned
in an unventilated gym and a cafeteria. As the days passed without food or
water and inside temperatures rose to 115 degrees, survivors were eating
flowers they'd brought for teachers and fighting for urine to drink out of
their shoes in desperation. Women and some children were repeatedly and
* Adult males and larger male students were used as "forced labor" to
help fortify the building, then shot to death. Bodies were thrown out of an
upper-story window, down onto a courtyard. Attempts at negotiation by
responders were used by the terrorists strictly as an opportunity to buy
time to solidify their fortifications.
* Surviving hostages were surrounded by armed guards standing on deadman
switches, wired to explosives. All entrances to the building as well as
stairwells and some interior doorways were booby-trapped. Youngsters were
forced to sit on window sills to serve as shields for snipers. "Black
widows" (potential suicide bombers) were rigged so their bomb belts could be
detonated by remote control when leaders considered the timing was right.
The terrorists stayed cranked up on some type of amphetamine to keep awake.
* Armed, outraged parents and other civilians, some of them drunk,
showed up and started "rolling gunfights" outside in a futile effort to
defeat the takeover. The crowd identified one embedded terrorist and
"literally ripped him apart." The media was everywhere, unrestrained. So
many people were milling around that responders often could not establish a
clear field of fire.
* When troops finally stormed the school in a counter-assault on the
third day, "pure pandemonium" reigned. Soldiers and the kids they were
trying to rescue were gunned down mercilessly. Explosions touched off inside
started multiple fires.
* Responders who made it inside had to jump over trip wires as they
"ran" up stairs under fire from above. By then terrorists were holding
hostages in virtually every room. Rescue teams were subjected to continual
ambushes. Gunfights occurred predominately within a 6-ft. range, with some
responders having to fight for their lives in places so cramped they
couldn't get off their hands and knees.
* Some children successfully rescued from the building were so crazed by
thirst that they ran to an outdoor spigot and were killed by a grenade as
they filled their hands with water.
* Terrorists who escaped during the melee ran to homes of embedded
sympathizers who hid them successfully and were not immediately suspected
because they were considered "non-strangers" in the community. Some
townspeople who volunteered to help as stretcher bearers for the injured
were, in fact, embedded terrorists.
* During the siege "at least four people or agencies claimed to be in
charge. Actually, no one was in charge and no one wanted to be."
"Osama bin Laden has promised that what has happened in Russia will happen
to us many times over," Grossman warned. "And Osama tries very hard never to
lie to us."
What's likely here.
Probably not so many terrorists involved at a single location. Moving that
big a contingent into place would likely attract too much attention and
thwart the attack. Grossman describes a more likely possibility, in his
Terrorist cells of four operatives each might strike simultaneously at four
different schools. They may pick elementary schools, or middle schools with
no police officers on site, where the girls are "old enough to rape" but
students are not big enough to fight back effectively.
The targets may be in states "with no concealed-carry laws and no hunting
culture" and in communities where "police do not have rifles." Rural areas
could be favored, where 30 minutes or more might be required for responders
to arrive in force.
The attackers will probably "mow down every kid and teacher they see" as
they move in to seize the school. They may plant bombs throughout the
buildings, and "rape, murder and throw out bodies like they did in Russia."
Emergency vehicles responding and children fleeing will be blown up by car
bombs in the parking lot.
In all, 100 to 300 children could be slaughtered in a first strike.
Terrorists capable of this are already embedded in communities "all over
America," Grossman and Rassa agreed. More will probably gain entry
surreptitiously from Mexico, making southern California potentially a prime
No time for despair.
It's a grim picture, for certain. "But if we think there's nothing we can do
to prepare, that is a defeatist mentality," Rassa said. "We ought to be
trying. If we're not trying, we're failing. We may as well give up our guns
and surrender now.
"I can't think of a better thing to train up for than protecting our kids.
If we try but fall short, look at how much else we'll still be able to
handle than we can now.
"What made most of us do active-shooter training? The killings at Columbine.
Are we going to wait for something far worse than that before we do the most
that we can to stop the terrorists who are coming for our schools?"
Part 2 of 3
"4 Ds" For Thwarting Terrorists' Plans To Massacre Our School Children
[Editor's Note: In Part 1, we documented the plans of Islamic terrorists to
strike U.S. schools in murderous raids, claiming the lives of hundreds of
children, as reported at a recent anti-terrorism conference, sponsored by
the International Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI). In
Part 2, we summarize countermeasures proposed by one of the conference
instructors, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of the popular books On Killing
and On Combat.]
As Instructor Todd Rassa pointed out in our first installment, if we are not
trying to prepare for and thwart the daunting terrorist threat to our
schools and children, we are, in effect, conceding defeat and surrendering
without a battle to those who would obliterate us.
There is no simple master plan for an easy victory. But the cumulative
effect of many seemingly small countermeasures, effectively applied on a
large scale by individual officers and their agencies, can have a powerful
Here are some of the practicalities that Trainer Dave Grossman suggested we
consider in beginning to address the critical problem of terrorists coming
for our kids.
That's overcoming denial. And where schools and terrorist attacks are
concerned, denial abounds.
U.S. schools continue to take extensive and overt measures to guard students
against the threat of fire, with drills, alarms, sprinkler systems, building
codes, etc.-even though there has not been a single child killed by fire in
any American school in the last 25 years, Grossman declared.
In contrast, well over 200 deaths have occurred from school violence by
active shooters and other non-terrorist offenders over the last dozen years,
and Islamic fundamentalists are believed to be plotting attacks that will
claim hundreds of child casualties in a single blow. Yet efforts to
significantly harden schools as a target of violence have, for the most
part, been slow, timid or nonexistent.
"We need to treat the threat of violence like the threat of fire. But if you
try to prepare for violence, people think you're crazy, paranoid," Grossman
"Denial is the enemy. It's a big, fluffy white blanket we pull up over our
eyes to convince ourselves the bad men are never going to come. And while we
pull that blanket up, bad guys come and kick us in the crotch.
"Let's face the lessons terrorists have already taught us in blood and
lives. They are coming, and they may well come for our schools, our kids.
We've had all the warning in the world. And if we continue living in denial,
then all the lives they've claimed to date have been sacrificed for
Grossman's 4 Ds.
Besides working to eliminate the big D (denial), Grossman cited four others
we need to focus on:
An armed police presence in a school can provide strong deterrence against
attack, Grossman argued. "Terrorists are willing to die, but they
desperately don't want to die for nothing, without completing their tactical
objective. They want a body count."
To squelch would-be attackers, many Israeli schools deploy on-site police at
squad-level strength, and armed guards accompany all class fieldtrips,
usually one per 10 students. But even with a single armed officer in a
school, "the prospects of a massacre go way down," Grossman said.
Having unarmed security in or around schools is both pointless and ethically
derelict, in his opinion. "Don't give someone responsibility for human lives
and not give them the tools to do the job. You wouldn't give a firefighter
just a hat, uniform and badge, and no hose or water."
Should teachers be armed? At least two states (Utah and New Hampshire) now
authorize concealed-carry permits in schools, according to Grossman, and the
Federal Safe Schools Act allows for it. Faculty with military experience and
a willingness to receive additional training could be a starting point.
"Even one or two armed teachers in a school can make a difference," Grossman
said. But given the current American mind-set, "you have to push this
envelope very gently."
"The ultimate achievement is a terrorist takeover that doesn't start,"
Grossman said. And officers being suspicious-"doing what cops do"-are well
positioned to interrupt attack plans before they culminate.
Follow good criminal patrol procedures on traffic stops, for instance, by
asking probing questions and being alert for contradictions,
inconsistencies, irrationalities, unduly nervous behavior and other
indicators of deceit and guilty behavior. Be aware of what you can see
inside vehicles or on subjects that may merit closer investigation.
Watch for signs of static or mobile surveillance of potential targets.
Terrorists "always conduct a recon," which may involve photographing or
videotaping a prospective site, Grossman said. Don't limit your suspicions
just to persons who fit the stereotypical terrorist profile. "There are
terrorists who are blond and blue eyed."
Inform schools to report any calls from people inquiring about security.
Someone claiming to be a concerned parent wanting to know if any armed
officers are on the premises may in fact be an operative gauging the
vulnerability of the location. The staffer taking the call should jot down
the caller ID number and note the precise time and the phone line the call
came in on to facilitate follow up checking by police. "Any time terrorists
bounce off a hard target is a chance to catch them."
If terrorists do strike, "one man or woman with effective fire from behind
cover inside the school can hold off a group of attackers for 5 minutes,"
saving lives by buying time until police responders "can get in the door,"
Meantime, at the first hint of trouble, teachers and children should kick in
to a preplanned and frequently rehearsed three-step "lock-down model," he
recommended. "Sheltering" children in place, as has been attempted in
various school shootings, is more likely to be dangerous than protective.
Instead, Grossman advises potential victims to:
* Move away from violence, which otherwise tends to be "mesmerizing and
* Move to a pre-selected secure location, someplace "secure enough to
keep the bad guys out until the cops come in"
* Move again if you have reason to feel threatened at that spot.
"Lock-down does not mean hunker down and die," Grossman said.
"As a last resort," there may be times when a teacher would need the courage
to "go toward an attacker." Grossman cited a case in which an active shooter
broke a window in a classroom door and reached through to release the locked
knob. Teacher and students cowered inside and just waited, whereas a teacher
might have "grabbed a chair and attacked his hand" and possibly have delayed
or deterred a fatal assault.
Plans on paper "mean nothing," Grossman reminded. "You have to get the
schools to rehearse" anti-terrorist scenarios. "Principals have been fired
for not doing fire drills," and yet the terrorist threat these days is so
much greater. Where are our priorities?
As a responding officer, you have to be fully prepared, mentally and
physically, to use deadly force to stop the threat. "It is your job to put a
chunk of steel in your fist and kill the sons-of-bitches who are coming to
kill your kids," Grossman declared in an emotional crescendo in his
"Fight from the very beginning. Don't wait, thinking you'll fight later."
Referring to the terrorist massacre at the school in Beslan, Russia, which
we described in Part 1 of this series, Grossman said: "Every minute the
Russians waited, the target got harder." If you hesitate in responding,
"you'll die with a bullet in the back of your head in front of children."
Part 3 of 3
How To Prepare Yourself For Terrorist Attacks On Our Schools
[Editor's note: In previous installments, we documented the plans of Islamic
terrorists to murder hundreds of U.S. school children, as reported at a
recent anti-terrorism conference sponsored by the International Assn. of Law
Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), and we summarized counter
measures proposed by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
In this final report, we explore recommendations of another conference
speaker, Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy and a member of the
advisory board for The Police Marksman magazine. We conclude with Grossman's
suggestions of what LE agencies can do to defend our schools despite current
Trainer Todd Rassa considers active-shooter training, which is now being
embraced by more and more departments, as "a good start," but he warned that
much more is needed to adequately protect our children from terrorist
attacks on schools.
Here are some of the items he enumerated for a conscientious "to do" list:
1. Train every patrol officer in bomb awareness, crowd management, riot
control, ballistic shield tactics, team firing drills and other response
skills likely to be needed for a mass school takedown. Responsibility for an
immediate effective response will most probably fall heavily on street cops,
given the activation time for most SWAT teams.
2. Proper equipment needs to be readied. "Patrol rifles are needed now-as
many as possible with as much ammunition as possible," Rassa stressed. Also
ballistic shields, helmets and other protective devices for every officer.
Have a plan in place to get large amounts of additional ammo to the scene
Soft body armor may prove inadequate, but extras should be available anyway
in a better-than-nothing effort to protect fleeing hostages by draping vests
and ballistic blankets over them. Armored transport vehicles may prove
crucial. Less-lethal rounds may be useful for crowd control, but will be
futile to attempt against terrorists.
3. Work with school officials to anticipate problems and realistically
rewrite their emergency plans. "They are not going to fix themselves," Rassa
predicted. Cross-train with school personnel and consider involving
community leaders with training on crowd-control tactics and intel
collection. Manpower and tactics will be needed to handle "outraged, violent
parents" if a siege develops.
SROs, who likely will be targeted by terrorists as first casualties, need
training on "surveillance awareness, including real-life testing of school
security" by would-be invaders.
4. Expand your active-shooter training to include "large, complicated,
multi-adversary scenarios and exercises," Rassa urged. Practice against a
booby-trapped environment, simultaneous attacks from multiple levels,
ambushes from the rear. Rehearse tactics for CQB with both pistol and rifle.
Also practice counter-assaults on school buses. "What if terrorists hijacked
a couple of buses and drove them into a school? What if they hijacked
several and spread them out across your town?"
5. Incorporate suicide-bomber shooting drills into your firearms training
for every officer. That should include "practicing head shots from a
distance with a pistol after running." Build the ability to shoot while
moving into your qualifications. Also integrate self-defense DT into
firearms training-"blending two important worlds that usually never meet."
Even consider training with AK-47s and other "exotic" weapons that may be in
your property room, on the chance you may have to use the weapons of
neutralized terrorists if yours run empty.
6. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with your schools. Videotape them inside
and out and collect and review floor plans, making sure they are kept up to
date as remodeling projects take place. Work with schools to get classroom
numbers put on street signs and mounted on the exterior. Also check to see
if computers in your squad cars can be made compatible with CCTV cameras
inside the building, so you can tie in to what's going inside in event of
7. As a parent, you may want to falsify your occupation (as a police office)
on school records so your child will not be easily identified as a desirable
8. And, of course, stage frequent incident-command training and exercises,
so multiple jurisdictions and multiple disciplines (fire, police, EMS, city
services, etc.) learn the importance of putting political egos and turf wars
aside in the interest of saving children's lives.
Agency actions that don't take $$$
Dave Grossman, the well-known author of On Killing and On Combat, concluded
IALEFI's excellent conference with suggestions of how LE agencies can
improve their protection of schools without further straining already tight
1. Encourage officers always to carry off-duty. Always.
No one can predict where a given officer might be when terrorists strike.
What if you were off-duty on a visit to your child's school; would you have
the primary life-saving tool of your profession with you? Remember, Grossman
said, "One person behind cover with effective fire can hold down a whole
company of invaders for 5 minutes" while help arrives.
" If we stop them dead in one school and kill them before they kill kids,
that will convince the country that we can fight back. If they fail in one
school, that will undermine their plan.
" If you walk out off-duty without your gun, every time you pass a fire exit
or see a fire extinguisher, say to yourself, 'Firefighters have made more
preparations than I have.' Plant the seed with other officers. Once you tell
them, they can't not think about it."
2. Exploit opportunities to expand your equipment inventory.
* Many cash-strapped agencies now encourage officers to buy and carry
their own rifles on duty. If certain standards and training are maintained,
that's a quick way to strengthen your counter-force.
* Officers should also be encouraged to prepare and ride with "go bags"
that can be slung over their shoulder as they head into a crisis. Loaded
with backup boxes of pistol and rifle ammo, these can be comforting
safeguards against running dry in a firefight, where "three magazines can
easily be burned up in less than a minute."
* Get the name and phone number of every private owner of a helicopter
in your area and coordinate with them ahead of time a plan for pressing
their chopper into service in an emergency. Even news agencies might be
willing to cooperate if promised "great footage" in exchange for
transporting officers to a siege site. As medivac helicopters go in, they
should come in full of armed police, and go out full of wounded.
" There will be gridlock chaos on the ground within moments wherever
an attack comes," Grossman said. "Helicopters can be great for getting
firepower in and wounded out." Practice hovering over schools and landing
personnel on the flat roofs that most have.
* Envision fire hoses as "crew-served weapons." At a terrorist scene,
hoses can be used not only "to put out fires that may be caused by booby
traps" but can also "knock a combatant out of a window 50 yards away-an
incredibly effective weapon."
A firefighter directing the hose can be protected behind two officers
holding ballistic shields and two officers behind the shields with rifles,
Grossman suggested. Obviously, this tactic requires practice well before
3. Build the right mind-set in your troops.
As a police officer, "you have to have your heart and mind ready," Grossman
said. "In our nation, the military is not coming to save your kids. You are
the Delta Force. It's your job to go in like thunder when they come to kill
your kids and destroy your way of life.
" Get training-all you can. Advance steadily along the warrior path. Live
life in Condition Yellow, vigilant readiness. Cultivate hobbies that
reinforce your survival skills."
He conjured a bumper sticker that says, Piss on golf. Real Americans go to
the range. "We don't have time for childish pursuits," he declared.
" Most people in our society are sheep. Wolves will feed on them without
hesitation. Anyone who thinks there are no wolves is in denial.
" You are the sheepdog, the protector. When bad stuff comes, the sheepdog is
prepared, even eager. If you are not ready, who is?"
About Charles Remsberg
Chuck co-founded the original Street Survival Seminar and the Street
Survival Newsline, authored three of the best-selling law enforcement
training textbooks, and helped produce numerous award-winning training
videos. His nearly three decades of work earned him the prestigious O.W.
Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to law enforcement and the
American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in
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