Thursday, January 23, 2014
In late December, an Islamic military group in Dagestan claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings that killed more than 30 people and injured dozens more.
The same group then threatened to strike the Olympic Games in Sochi, which is about 300 miles west of Dagestan.
Russian authorities are now feverishly searching for at least three possible female suicide bombers, one of which is a 22-year-old widow of a radical Islamist who was killed recently by Russian security forces.
According to various intelligence reports, these female suicide bombers, who have been dubbed “black widows,” are also responsible for a number of previous attacks throughout the country.
As part of a massive pre-emptive security operation, photos of two women in veils and Muslim headdress have been distributed to the media, various hotels, other tourist sites in Sochi, the resort town and host city of the Olympics, in hopes that these women can be located before they strike.
The critical question now becomes: Can the Russians guarantee the safety and security of their international guests and their own people from these and other potential terrorist threats?
Right now, no one knows the answer. What we do know is that these women are like chameleons. They will blend in to the local population, plan their dastardly deeds, and strike when it is least expected.
The Russians know who they are and why they are a perceived threat, but for how long have they known? When did they acquire this intelligence? Why weren’t these women monitored from the outset of their husbands' demise? How many more are there? Is there now a program in place to monitor and account for them?
It is all about knowing the threats that exist, gathering the intelligence, and pro-actively responding to actionable intelligence when possible.
It seems like the Russian government has let these women slip through the cracks of their security and intelligence services, at least for the time being, a lesson that every country battling radical Islam can learn from.
In a post-9/11 world, there is nothing more important than a capable intelligence system that allows local, state and the federal authorities to not only communicate but share critical intelligence that allows them to protect their citizens. We here in the United States have made tremendous strides in many ways, but we have still had our failures.
Could the Boston Marathon bombing have been prevented? Many believe so. Were mistakes made? What were they? Who knew what and when?
That is probably what the Russians are asking themselves today, as they must sit on pins and needles until they find these terrorists or the games come to an end without death and destruction.
As we stand on the sidelines praying for the safety and security for all those who will be attending the games, including our own Olympians, we can learn from these events.
Proactive and pre-emptive intelligence gathering and following up on actionable intelligence will lead to the success of combatting terrorism, both now and in the future.
You cannot fight an enemy that you cannot see. You cannot stop an attack that you do not know is going to happen. And, no matter how quick you think you can respond, you are never going to be quick enough to stop the bloodshed and death once a terrorist detonates an explosive device with the intent of causing mass casualties.
Intelligence is the answer.
The faster those fighting this war against terror learn that, the safer we are all going to be.
-BERNARD B. KERIK