Monday, February 6, 2017

Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar

Emanuel L. Lutchman was told by his ISIS handler to attack a bar in Rochester on New Year’s Eve in 2015, the authorities say. Credit Carlos Ortiz/Democrat & Chronicle, via Associated Press        
( ...As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.
In the most basic enabled attacks, Islamic State handlers acted as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence.
...For the most part, the operatives who are conceiving and guiding such attacks are doing so from behind a wall of anonymity. When the Hyderabad plotters were arrested last summer, they could not so much as confirm the nationalities of their interlocutors in the Islamic State, let alone describe what they looked like. Because the recruits are instructed to use encrypted messaging applications, the guiding role played by the terrorist group often remains obscured.
As a result, remotely guided plots in Europe, Asia and the United States in recent years, including the attack on a community center in Garland, Tex., were initially labeled the work of “lone wolves,” with no operational ties to the Islamic State, and only later was direct communication with the group discovered.
Read the full article from the [HERE].

Friday, January 27, 2017

It’s a Small, Small World: PTSD as Self-Imprisonment

(From Big Think & The Mental Health Channel)
PTSD is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States and I think it’s – it might be the fourth most common condition. And that’s because trauma is so prevalent in our society.

About 25 percent of women experience interpersonal sexual violence, which is extraordinary. There are accidents and natural disasters. More than half of persons will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lives.

The hallmark of PTSD is that the memory of the event becomes haunting. It kind of takes on a life of its own. You start thinking about what happened just out of the blue or in response to triggers in the environment. And what’s so distressing about the memory is not that you just have an image or remember what happened.

You have the physiologic feeling of fear or horror that you had when the event was occurring in real time. So it’s not only a visual or verbal memory out there. It is a physiologic memory and this can happen while you’re awake. It can happen while you’re asleep in the form of your dreams.

People that have PTSD have trouble experiencing pleasure and it’s all about trying to become small and not allowing yourself to be affected by the environment. It also includes really changing the way you view the world and yourself. The world’s a bad place. You might feel guilty or worthless. You might feel you’re to blame for what happened or others are to blame. And finally there are symptoms that reflect increased arousal. So people that have PTSD are on edge.

Their body and brain chemistry is rigged for danger and for experiencing threat and being very, very concerned about anything in the environment that might threaten them. So the symptoms in this category include being highly reactive to startle responses, scanning the environment for signs of danger, not being able to concentrate, very irritable and angry.

Read more and watch the video [HERE].  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Importance of Control During Crisis Incidents

I have previously written about how control and the perception of control impacts the main stakeholders (subjects, negotiators) during a crisis incident here:


If a person is in crisis, the odds are they feel like something important is missing- control. A person in crisis often feels like they have no control over their life and that is what pushes them into a crisis. Making that person be part of the decision process is vital to ultimately getting what you want. In non-police negotiations it will most likely involve having to “give a little” to “get a little.” It is called negotiation for a reason. Let the person be part of the process (instead of demanding). Allowing them to be part of the process starts with letting them talk and it continues with them being part of the negotiation process.

One of the first things we teach police officers is that by giving the other person a sense of control does not mean giving up your control. It is the same for you when you are involved in a crisis situation that includes you negotiating. The goal is voluntary compliance (note the voluntary part of it). Ultimately you have to decide what your other options and then decide what is best for you.

Keep in mind you also have to keep control of yourself- especially your emotions. Emotions are contagious, and if you are entering a crisis situation where the other person's actions are being dictated by a variety of negative emotions, you want to make sure you are not getting caught up in their emotions. Rather, by controlling yourself (voice tone and other nonverbal cues) your calmness can help de-escalate the tense situation.

Here's some more the concept of control from Eric Barker's great blog, it's impact on reducing fear, and it's importance in de-escalating a crisis:

It’s All About Control
When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. When we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary.
Anything that gives you a feeling of control over your situation helps you keep your cool.
Without a feeling of control, when stress gets high we literally can’t think straight.
Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Amy Arnsten studies the effects of limbic system arousal on prefrontal cortex functioning. She summarized the importance of a sense of control for the brain during an interview filmed at her lab at Yale.
“The loss of prefrontal function only occurs when we feel out of control. It’s the prefrontal cortex itself that is determining if we are in control or not. Even if we have the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.” This perception of being in control is a major driver of behavior.

And here is one last bit from Barker on the impact of being prepared and training has, especially in relation to reducing fear:

Fear prevents clear thinking and causes you to procrastinate. Now that you’ve dealt with it a bit you can make some real progress.
What else gives a feeling of control and helps fight fear? Preparation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

SF police see progress in dealing with people in mental crisis

(snippets) The San Francisco police hostage crisis negotiation team responded to more calls in 2016 than in any year in recent history, an uptick that officials see as a sign that the department is moving in the right direction in dealing with people suffering from mental health crises.

“We’ve all taken to heart de-escalation, the sanctity of life and trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution so that no one needs to get hurt, either the officers or the public or the suspects,” said Sgt. Lisa Frazer, acting officer in charge of the hostage crisis negotiation team.

Among the hostage team’s cases in 2016 were calls about a suicidal man with a gun in the Tenderloin, a 13-year-old autistic boy armed with a knife in the Mission District, a 25-hour standoff in the Ingleside neighborhood with a barricaded robbery suspect, and a four-hour-long incident involving a man with outstanding warrants who was in the water under Pier 48. All the incidents ended peacefully.

Once a specialized crisis-intervention team is operational, much of the burden will be lifted from the hostage team. Frazer said the process has already begun: In at least seven incidents in 2016, the hostage team was on its way — only to learn that the officers on scene had resolved the situation using de-escalation tactics.

Read more from the [HERE]. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Message from a Person With Bipolar Disorder

(From I Am Bipolar. This Is What I Want You to Know.

The following originally appeared on the writer’s Facebook page.

I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything on Facebook. I’m not exactly sure why I chose today, but here goes. I don’t think anyone will actually read this so I guess I don’t really have anything to lose.
The world can be a cruel place. God, if you believe in God, can play devastating tricks on people. There are many debilitating diseases out there that affect millions of people every day. People suffer endlessly, people die painfully and all the while their loved ones suffer as they watch the inevitable happen. They watch as cruel fate destroys life. They watch as love and happiness crumble into darkness and death.
I believe the ultimate cruelty, however, lies in the silent suffering. The disease you can’t see. 
...My name is Chad and I am bipolar. I have been for most of my life. I knew at a very young age that there was something “wrong” with me. I had wild mood swings that left me sobbing uncontrollably one minute, then to uncontrollable rage the next. Alcohol and a litany of drugs were a constant in my life from the time I was 14. “Self-medication” was all I knew. I couldn’t control my mind or my thoughts by myself, but when you are a teenager, what else can you do? I wanted to die, but I couldn’t bring myself to suicide at that young age, so I did incredibly reckless things to hopefully do it for me. That is for another story. It didn’t work.
I am 43 years old now. 
...So what is this all about you ask? This is not a cry for help. I am way beyond that. This is to let you know each and every one of you, whether you know it or not, has a friend, has a family member, has someone out there who is struggling — and they desperately need someone to reach out to them. It doesn’t take much, only a few seconds, just to say, “Are you OK?” Three simple words can make all the difference.

Read more [HERE].

Monday, January 2, 2017

Somali pirates to prison riots: the series on real-life kidnaps holding audiences Captive

By getting unprecedented access to people on all sides of notorious kidnaps – from US prison riots to the Bethlehem siege – the new Netflix documentary series sheds light on some of history’s tensest events

Al Gregg as Pierre Korkie, who was taken hostage by al-Qaida in Yemen.

Never pay the ransom. It’s the official line of governments across the world and yet, every year, millions of pounds change hands to secure the release of those taken in kidnappings.

The murky world of hostage negotiations is shrouded in mystery, done behind closed doors and often drags the most unsuspecting people into a web of organized crime or poverty-driven desperation.

“Kidnap negotiations are one of the very few moments in any conflict situation where two warring parties have to sit down and empathize with each other,” he says. “Hostage negotiation can teach us a hell of a lot about how to find common ground, and meet your enemy in the middle.”

Read more from the Guardian [HERE].

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

'Captive in the jungle' An Account From A Hostage Held By Terrorists

The last photo taken of Marites Flor and Robert Hall, only days before they were captured.
The last photo taken of Marites Flor and Robert Hall, only days before they were captured.

Marites Flor was held hostage in the Philippines alongside Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall. She survived. They didn't. This is her story.

...Flor had known how dangerous the Islamic State-affiliated militant group was. But up until then, the militants had lied to them constantly about whether they were going home or not. By Christmas. Before the New Year. Every date they set came and went, so she didn’t believe they would follow through with Ridsdel’s execution.

...Now, months after her own release, Flor gave her first wide-ranging interview to VICE News over Skype, shedding light on the harrowing ordeal she and the hostages who did not make it endured. She revealed new details of just how close the Philippine military was to the Abu Sayyaf camp — at one point, the gunfire exchange between the militants and the army was so close, Flor could smell the smoke — and a $1 million ransom offer by the Ridsdel family that fell short of the captors demands.

Read more from [HERE]. 

Monday, December 19, 2016


Martin Michaels is the pen name of a police lieutenant in Silicon Valley whose specialty is hostage crisis intervention.

...Our coffee break was interrupted by our radios blasting tandem alert signals. A teenage boy had just threatened to stab his mother at a local housing project. Back to work.

More information was broadcast over the radio as we headed that way. The boy was African-American, 6′2″ and 260 pounds. He had threatened to stab his mother with a large kitchen knife when she tried to make him go to school.

...The mother displayed symptoms of aggression and paranoia and was physically trying to stop the officers from entering the house to speak with her son, demanding they speak to him through her. I was able to eventually calm the mother down and she changed her story. 

Her son now never threatened her with a knife — he had only threatened to harm himself.

Now dealing with two different stories, both involving a weapon and erratic behavior, I rushed to re-brief my sergeant and go over the plan of contact: 

“We will have a negotiator talk to the teen from behind a shield,” I said. “Under no circumstances are we going inside the apartment. 

We need to defuse the situation and treat this as a mental-health intervention case, not a crime.”

Read the full story at [HERE]. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chained up alone in the dark for five years hostage Terry Waite only communicated by tapping on the wall in code

96 foreign hostages were taken and held during the Lebanon hostage crisis between 1982 and 1992 and ten of them died in captivity - British church envoy Terry Waite survived.

Held hostage for four years in solitary confinement, Terry Waite had no one to talk to, no pen to write with, and no books to read.
A quarter of a century on from his release, the man who endured 1,763 days in captivity is still making up for lost time.
Read more from the Mirror [HERE].

Friday, December 16, 2016

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market- How it is organized is surprising (Washington Post)

Economists and social scientists often think about difficult economic transactions. Surely, one of the trickiest possible transactions is when ransom-payers try to bargain with kidnappers to get a hostage back. In an article recently published in Governance, I look at how the business of kidnapping works. Here is why kidnapping involves some tricky business relations, how private sector institutions work to resolve them and why governments have a harder time preventing kidnapping from escalating.

Kidnapping is hard

There are three important factors that make transactions between kidnappers and ransomers difficult — problems of trust, problems of bargaining and problems of execution.

Read more at the Washington Post [HERE]. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Inside Look: How Hostage Negotiators Break Through the Mind Game

When there’s a life-or -death crisis, one word or one look can make or break the situation.

That’s why crisis negotiators are trained to get inside the minds of people in distress.

It's an intense job and really takes a special kind of person to want to do it and do it well.

On Nov. 2, Fadel Jabado, a father of six, allegedly shot his wife and son to death, and then his attorney.

Miami-Dade Police Crisis Negotiator Victor Millian was dispatched to a location where Jabado was held up. Millian was literally the last line of communication where anything could have happened.

“One of the things he kept telling us from the minute I started my conversation, he wanted us to kill him he wanted to be suicide by cop, he implored me,” said Millian.

Read more from NBC 6 [HERE].

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pirates on the high seas haven’t gone away, they’ve just changed their tactics

This year has been the quietest on the high seas since 2008, as incidents of piracy have decreased. But that drop belies a change of tactics. Instead of hijacking vessels, pirates have turned to kidnapping. The last three years have seen a rash of kidnappings targeting ship crews, especially on Africa’s west coast and parts of Southeast Asia.

Between January and September this year, 44 kidnappings were tracked by IHS Maritime & Trade, a risk and analysis firm. That’s more than double the 19 kidnappings recorded in 2015, and more than four times as many incidents in 2014.

Read more from Quartz [HERE]. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Captive: New Netflix Doc on Hostage Taking

Captive is the first of the next wave to emerge and deals with the grim world of hostage-taking. Split into eight parts, each episode explores hostage situations from not only the perspective of the captive, but everyone else involved, including the hostage-takers, families, negotiators, and government officials. The series has been produced by Lightbox, with The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman also contributing heavily.

“Hostage taking is an issue that people are familiar with, but apart from those directly involved, nobody really knows much about,” said Lightbox’s Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn in an interview with Variety back in May.

Read more from HighSnobiety [HERE]. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Orlando Nightclub Audio Clip

(ABC news)- Police negotiators talking to the Orlando nightclub gunman at first weren't sure if the person they had on the phone was actually in the Pulse nightclub, according to audio recordings released Monday after a judge ruled they should be made public.

The audio recordings between police negotiators and shooter Omar Mateen don't stray from transcripts of conversations released previously by the city of Orlando. But they do capture something not in the transcripts: police officials strategizing among themselves about how to talk to Mateen, who hung up several times during the 3-hour standoff at the gay nightclub.
Read more [HERE].
Listen below: