Year 3 - Week 44
ISSN 2603 - 9931
Along past week a number of rudimentary homemade explosive devices were delivered by ordinary mail to different high profile United States victims, such as George Soros, the Clinton or the Obama. The suspicious parcels were detected by Soros’ security detail and later on by the Secret Service set at both former presidents’ houses. Along the week other victims emerged in Washington, Florida, Delaware and New York, showing a pattern: all of them were democrats, Trump critics and, finally, the CNN. Cesar Sayoc, the alleged author of sending thirteen pipebombs to the potential targets, is currently being investigated by the FBI to understand his motivation to attack Donald Trump`s critics. What can be affirmed is that it is not the first time they take place in the US, and that they keep strong resemblance with previous attacks. What seems apparent is an escalation in the levels of social unrest in the country, approaching some elements to the use of violence. Again, it is not the first time it happens.
Improvised explosive devices became the weapon of choice in the terrorist anarchist wave, during the late eighties and nineties of the nineteenth century. The introduction of dynamite with civil purposes opened the gates for new asymmetric tactics used by non-hierarchical groups as the Russian anarchist ones, who became specialist on the use of targeted assassinations with pistols and bombs. Some of the highest profiles in the Europe of the time were murdered in this way, as the Russian czar Alexander II, Spanish presidents Cánovas del Castillo and Antonio Maura or US president McKinley. Targets were chosen following ideological reasons: anarchism attacked the higher echelons in the governing class as a way to punish the whole repressive political statu quo, to demoralize it, and eventually to provoke its fall.
On the other spectrum of the ideological landscape we find another leading voice of individual terrorism, as it is Louis Beam. Beam was a white nationalist who after the rising star of the civil rights movement in the US suffered also the scrutiny of the law enforcement agencies and, as an outcome, he proposed a new system or organization based on ideological ties but without a physical connection between the members. This system, known as “leaderless resistance” is in the origin of the individual terrorism or “lone wolf” strategic and tactical thinking: to prevent security agencies infiltration, the followers of a given ideology –in Beam’s case, white supremacism- disengage themselves of every physical connection to be moved and guided only by ideological guidelines informing of possible targets to be capitalized for the movement and adequate tactics for attacking those mentioned targets. The operational consequence of this organizational change was the reduction of capabilities. Limiting the personal connection reduces also the necessary cooperation and division of tasks to prepare an attack, and consequently it limits the logistic capability of the attacker to organize a highly effective attack while reducing the risks of being infiltered, detected or neutralized before the attack. This logistic capability reduced is determinant at the time of choosing a modus operandi, which tends to be basic of low sophistication, or to design a sophisticated attack will need an expansion on the time dedicated to the planning stages. Atlanta attacks during the Olympic Games with pipe bombs is an example of the first approach, while highly organized attacks as Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma bombing and Anders Breivik bombing and active shooting in Oslo and Utoya island are examples of this.
Last example we could mention is Ted Kackzynski. In a similar ideological and isolating radical vision, Kackzynski, a mathematics professor who withdrew to the solitude of the mountains and from there developed four generations of bombs of increasingly sophistication. He succeeded in avoiding FBI for fifteen years while improving his designs in mechanics, efficiency and lethality; the numbers show up sixteen bomb-letters which left three dead and 23 injured and which mainly targeted universities and airlines. Kackzynski sent his manifesto in the eighties in the Washington Post and the New York Times, where he presented himself as a nihilist against industrialization and technological development who argued to come back to nature as the only solution. The linguistic analysis of the manifesto lead to his detention in 1996. In Kackzynski case, the logistics restrains were solved by the continuous training from 1971 to his detention on the improvement of his bomb models, from simplistic pipebombs to much more complex designs which maximized their explosive capability and lethality.
The last wave of pipebombs attacks launched by Savoc was also delivered by mail, as Kackzynski ones, but the devices were traced back to Miami in less than a week, following the lead to a fingerprint to Opa-Locka until the final identification of Savoc. In this case the author of the attacks presented an ideological mixture of right wing extremism, conspiracy theories and rejection of minorities framed into an identification with Donald Trump political discourse.
The suitability of the use of IEDs for individual terrorists is based on the anonymity that the device provides –increasing the perception of threat for potential victims unable to spot the origin or motivation of the attack- or at least the distance of security between the target and the attacker, who remains safe while the attacks take place. These two elements, in addition to the simplistic mechanisms required to make and plant a bomb, have turned IEDs and pipe bombs in a recurrent way of attack for different forms of individual terrorism with different underlying motivations. Since the first international anarchist wave the evolution of these devices and the know-how technology have been available in different platforms to be accessed by potential attackers, creating a feedback loop of improved technology, efficiency and lethality. Based on this assumption, we can foresee that far from being a forgotten modus operandi, the use of basic IEDs is a current threat in coexistence with other methods used by international terrorism and that, even if less lethal, may spread also the same message of terror.