Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Target Analysis - What a Terrorist Looks For

Terrorists, whether members of an organized group or lone wolves, typically engage in target analysis (TA). TA involves gathering and analyzing information about prospective targets to enable the attack planner to make a risk versus benefit analysis. Assuming the attack planner has a specific motive or an objective for designing an attack, he (or she) will often look at six broad factors in making the final target selection(s). Those factors are Criticality, Accessibility, Recognizability, Vulnerability, Effect on populace, and Recoverability. They are easily remembered with the acronym CARVER.


Is the target worth the time, expense, trouble and risk to attack? Will hitting the target significantly and meaningfully interrupt normal activity and achieve the terrorist's objective?


Can the person or team chosen to execute the attack reach the objective? Is it readily accessible? What can be done to improve accessibility for the attacker or team?


Can the person or team chosen to execute the attack recognize the objective once they have access to it? This is especially important if the attacker(s) is a surrogate who has never personally seen the target until the attack commences. The target must be recognizable from the attacker's perspective which may be different from the intelligence perspective. For example, a building looks different from the air than it does from the ground. If attack planning intelligence consisted of aerial photos of the target but the attack is to be launched on the ground, the difference in perspectives must be considered and compensated.


Is the target vulnerable to attack or is it too well secured? Is it vulnerable to the type of attack desired or must the attack method be changed? All targets, without exception, have some vulnerabilities. The issue is whether the attack planners and executors can recognize and exploit the vulnerabilities.


What physical, social, political, economic, and psychological or emotional effects will a successful attack have on the people near the target and then further away? To give this a local spin: Suppose the BNSF refueling depot at Hauser were to be damaged in a way that caused total containment failure and allowed the release of all on-site products into the Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. What would be the effects on the nearby populace as well as the downstream populace?


How long will it take for the target to recover to an acceptable level after a successful attack? What will the social, political, economic, and emotional costs be? Incidentally, a "successful" attack on a target does not necessarily mean complete destruction of the target. Often a destructive attack on a critical component of the larger target can actually be more effective than destroying the entire target.


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