Dan De Luce reports for AFP that today, May 8, 2015, Admiral William Gortney, the head of U.S. Northern Command, ordered the military to bolster security at bases across the country after the FBI voiced concern that Islamist extremists could target troops or police officers. This raised the official alert status one notch higher on a five-point scale, from the fourth level “Alpha” to the third level “Bravo,” which the military describes as an “increased and predictable threat of terrorism.”
Note: Force Protection Condition (FPCON), formerly known as THREATCON, is a terrorist threat system overseen by the Department of Defense (DoD) directive which describes the amount of measures needed to be taken by security agencies in response to various levels of terrorist threats against military facilities. (DEFCON assesses the amount of military forces needed to be deployed in a situation with a certain likelihood of attack against the civilian population.) The 5 FPCON levels are:
- FPCON Normal: a situation of no terrorist activity.
- FPCON Alpha: a situation where there is a small and general terrorist threat that is not predictable. However, agencies will inform personnel that there is a possible threat and standard security procedure review is conducted.
- FPCON Bravo: a situation with a somewhat predictable terrorist threat. Security measures taken by agency personnel may affect the activities of local law enforcement and the general public. (Must show two military base IDs at gates.)
- FPCON Charlie: a situation when a global terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence reports that there is local terrorist activity imminent. (Must show two IDs at gates. Military installation traffic routes are restricted.)
- FPCON Delta: a situation when a terrorist attack is taking place or has just occurred in the immediate area. FPCON Delta usually occurs only in the areas that are most vulnerable to or have been attacked. One notable example of a general FPCON Delta was directly following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when all military installations were placed at FPCON Delta and restricted to only military personnel.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said the heightened alert is “a prudent measure,” a move designed “to remind installation commanders at all levels within the NORTHCOM area of responsibility to ensure increased vigilance in safeguarding of all DoD personnel and facilities.”
Most of the additional security measures would likely not be readily apparent to the public, apart from perhaps more bags being searched or ID cards being checked at base entrances.
The heightened alert came after two heavily-armed men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, described by Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Thursday as “inspired” but not “directed” by the Islamic State (IS), attempted to storm an exhibition on Sunday showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a Dallas suburb. The two gunmen were shot dead by a local police officer before they could approach the building where the event was being held.
Warren said “The decision to do this now is informed by a generally heightened threat level. We’ve seen what happened in Texas. We’ve seen other social media and Internet-based discussions and threats. We have detected a general increase in the overall (threat) environment.” FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday that authorities were concerned about the IS group encouraging attacks on “the uniformed military and law enforcement” via online propaganda. Comey’s comments echoed warnings from lawmakers and experts who said IS’s social media efforts are carried out on a vast scale and at a tempo that Western governments are unable to keep up with. J.M. Berger, an author and fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, told the Senate Homeland Security committee that the IS has 2,000 people tweeting for the group 150 times a day, which gives IS “an unprecedented level of success” compared to other extremist organizations. There are “hundreds, maybe thousands” of people in the United States who had received recruitment messages from the jihadists. The risk posed by IS-inspired homegrown militants was a factor in the decision to raise the security level but not the only factor, defense officials said. H/t CODA’s M.S. -StMA