Tactical Concerns: The Partnership between, and threat from, Gangs, Extremists and Terrorists.

April 13, 2011 By Lou Savelli

As our borders receive more scrutiny and terrorists develop stronger partnerships with gang members, criminal adversaries become more adept at countering law enforcement and military tactics. In light of the more prevalent threat from 'homegrown' terrorists, these adversaries may even come from within our own ranks or simply have an intricate knowledge of our tactics. American gang members, foreign terrorist and domestic extremists have been excessively infiltrating the ranks of our military for decades and, to a much lesser degree, the ranks of our law enforcement community. This exposure to 'tactical' experience and knowledge lends itself to bringing enemy combatants, whether gang members, terrorists or extremists, a step closer and more capable of defeating our tactical efforts.

Over the years, I have investigated or learned about many individuals who were actually gang members, extremists or terrorists who have been privy to military and law enforcement tactical information and training. These infiltrators were able to observe military or law enforcement tactics first hand, putting them to use against us. These examples show the deadly potential posed by gangs and terrorists. Here are just a few examples:

  • Harry Roman, a School Safety Officer employed by the NYPD was a high ranking member of the Latin Kings gang whom we arrested on weapons violations in NJ. After raiding his NJ apartment, we discovered stacks of gang and terrorist-related literature. The seized documents identified Harry Roman as a former member of the Young Lords Party, the 1960s and 70s Latino counterpart of the Black Panthers. The Young Lords were connected to the FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist group responsible for over forty bombings in the US and the serious injuring of police officers in New York City. Also among the literature were police training manuals, weapons articles, and gang paperwork requesting new members to keep clean records so they can infiltrate law enforcement agencies.
  • Sgt Ali Mohammed, a US Army Special Warfare instructor at Ft Bragg, NC, was a triple agent. He was working for the CIA, the FBI and the entire time was a lieutenant in Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization. He was a martial arts expert, spoke several languages and was an expert on Islam and the Middle East. His CIA handlers encouraged him to join the US Military. Once he moved to the US, he married an American woman from Santa Clara, California after a 6 week relationship enabling him to become a U.S. citizen. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and managed to get stationed at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center where he was a drill sergeant. He was at Ft Bragg until 1989. His superiors found him to be exceptional. Mohammed frequently removed secret documents from Ft Bragg and took them to a local copy center and gave them to his fellow terrorists in Egyptian Jihad living in New York City who, in 1993 carried out the first World Trade Center bombing. During this time, Ali Mohammed wrote the much talked about Al Qaeda Manual using training manuals and military secrets he stole from the JFK Special Warfare Center. Mohamed also conducted clandestine military and demolition training through the Al Kifah Refugee Center, located at the Al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn, NY which was the secret headquarters for Al Qaeda's global recruiting. In the early 1990s Mohamed returned to Afghanistan, where "he trained the first al-Qaeda volunteers in techniques of unconventional warfare including kidnappings, assassinations, and hijacking planes, which he had learned from the US Special Forces. He was charged in the conspiracy of the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In October 2000, he pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to kill nationals of the United States and to destroy U.S. property. Another interesting fact is that Ft Bragg and its surrounding region, especially Fayetteville, NC had an enormously inordinate gang presence during the early to late 1990s, according to gangs in the military expert, Hunter Glass who recently retired from the Fayetteville, NC police department.
  • Lance Corporal Andres Raya, USMC, returned from the war in Iraq in 2005 and immediately joined up with his Norteno street gang. Not only did he bring back his military and combat tactics, he put them to use within two weeks by setting up an ambush in his hometown of Ceres, CA and shooting two police officers, killing one.

To better prepare our law enforcement and military and counter potential dangerous situations, we should establish and follow some additional administrative and operational guidelines. These guidelines are especially important for tactical and specialized units like SWAT, Narcotics and Gangs. These simple, but effective, procedures will help protect the integrity of the unit's tactics and contribute to the safety of its members during tactical operations:

  • First, carefully choose the personnel who will enter the inner sanctum of your unit. Scrutinize their background and motivations for wanting acceptance into your 'team'. Avoid 'over anxious' and 'curious' officers who seem to be hanging around the team's office and showing up, uninvited, at training sessions.
  • Limit inter-agency training to only those units that have the same 'high standards' as yours. Not every unit carefully chooses and screens their personnel, their background and motivations.
  • When attending training, carefully choose your training providers. Sometimes the cheapest training company may not the best or even the most trusted and sometimes the most expensive or best advertised may not be adequate for what you need.
  • When attending training provided by other units or private companies, build on that training and make it better suited for your team. 'Cookie-cutter' is good for making cookies but not for tactical training.
  • Protect your 'tactical ops' plans. Don't leave them laying around on a desk waiting for someone like the office cleaners to 'snatch' them up and bring them home to their 'gangster' kids. Use a 'security system' that protects the integrity and tracks the chain of custody of the ops plans.
  • Secure your 'training' videos, especially any recording of your team practicing your tactics. I can't begin to tell you how many times I recovered 'ops plans' and training materials in the homes of gang members in the hundreds of search warrants I executed.
  • When conducting or attending a training conference or information sharing seminar in a hotel or non-law enforcement facility, insist on security to keep out non-law enforcement 'listeners' and to protect integrity of the training. In a recent gang training, outlaw bikers were discovered attempting to listen in on the information being presented at a training conference held at a hotel attended by law enforcement officers from across the US and Canada.
  • Attempt to identify and control the use of any videos of your team in action that could compromise your tactics. If a video of your entry exists on a drug dealer's surveillance system, make sure you obtain the original video and inform the prosecutor that the video shows 'secret tactics'. Tell the prosecutor you don't want it to be used in court unless it is absolutely necessary and it will be adequately redacted since it will greatly impact on officer safety. Once it is labeled 'evidence' it is subject to Discovery' and, thus, scrutiny by the defense attorney, the defendant, the jurors and anyone else in the courtroom. It is common in the case of gang members to use 'house counsel' for their defense. House counsel is a term used to define a criminal defense attorney or law firm which represents members of the same gang or organized crime group on all their cases. These attorneys are often on 'retainer' and part of their purpose is to identify snitches and bring back information to the gang leaders.

Never before has it been time to 'step it up' a notch. These homegrown terrorists, domestic extremists, gang members, gangsters in the military, cop-haters, foreign terrorists, transnational organized criminals and our run of the mill bad guys threaten the sanctity of our communities and the safety of our nation's law enforcement officers. Last year, multiple officers were killed on singular incidents and several involved ambushes. This year, it seems like every day another law enforcement officer is being killed and many on 'tactical' operations like fugitive apprehensions, warrants and narcotics operations. Could these violent criminals have a 'heads-up' on our tactics and be prepared to take us on? I think the answer is simple.