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Living With Terrorism

Survival Lessons from the Streets of Jerusalem

An interview with Israeli Police Civil Guard Sniper Instructor,
Attorney & Author Howard Linett

Interview in MP3 format

JPFO Interview Questions:

Q1. Why did you decide to write a book about living with terrorism?
A1. I am a born and bred Connecticut Yankee. About half of my adult life has been spent in America pursuing degrees in higher education and working. The other half has been spent living in Jerusalem Israel, being a husband, raising a family, working and being a volunteer Israeli Police officer.

With my background of duel experience, I realized how little Americans actually know about terrorism. Unless you are recently returned home from a six-month combat tour of duty in Iraq, you cannot imagine what can happen. You simply lack a frame of reference for terrorism. From personally living with the constant, horrific random violence, daily for the past many years of Palestinian Intifada, it became clear to me that the experience needed by someone confronted with active terrorism, could not be gained from watching 30-second sound bites on CNN or FOX News. I thought the best way I could fight the terrorists was to prepare Americans for what they themselves might have to face. My book is my attempt to pass along what I have learned and practice.

Q2. What experience do you really possess? Have you and your family actually been in Harm’s Way?
A2. Our family lives in northern Jerusalem, surrounded 300 degrees by unfriendly neighbors. We are on the direct route taken by terrorists from their safe-haven and staging ground in Ramallah to downtown Jerusalem. Attacks in and around our home have been so close we have heard, and sometimes even felt, the bomb blasts, watched the rising columns of smoke and ducked for cover at the sound of gunfire.

The only way my family can come and go from our neighborhood is via through the French Hill Bridge Traffic Intersection. That location and immediate vicinity has been the scene of over thirty terrorist attacks during the past five years. Three, perhaps four of those attacks occurred after we had driven through the Intersection, but before we had gotten to our building’s parking lot, a three minute drive!

Three separate times my family has been one traffic light or one block away from where bombs have been detonated in downtown Jerusalem. On each occasion my wife and daughters were saved by heavy traffic. Snipers shot at one family member. She is alive because the terrorists miscalculated the wind’s influence on their bullet’s flight. My wife was two feet away from a car bomb when its detonator went off, but failed to set off the main charge. Once the school bus bringing my daughter home was the next-in-line waiting its turn to enter the French Hill Interchange when a terrorist shot-up a bus already in the Intersection. Another time at the Interchange, a homicide/suicide bomber attacked the bus one ahead of the same daughter’s school bus.

As volunteer police officer and sniper I’ve been on close to a hundred operations and been present for hundreds of briefings. As sniper instructor I’ve researched, in depth, all manner of terrorist tactics, including especially terrorist sniper training and attacks. I have had medicine ball sized boulders hurled onto the moving police vehicles in which I was riding. I‘ve been shot at a couple of times. I have been at the scene of so many attacks, within minutes of the bombings or shootings being carried out, I no longer even bother to take photographs. As a target, I have twice been confronted with terrorists springing roadblock ambushes on me.

Q3. You write that in defending yourself and your family, your mind is your primary means of defense. What do you mean?
A3. You need to see a potential threat and recognize it for what it is in order to defend yourself against it…before it is too late. You must be able to discern when you are in a situation in which you may be facing potential danger. Aware and Alert are your two primary survival states of mind. You need to be Aware of your surrounding and Alert to the signs that something is starting to happen. Your senses need to “register” and your mind needs to “analyze.”

There are three critical mental skills, you need to master in your efforts to enhance your Awareness and Alertness. They are Situational Awareness, Visualization and Flying Ahead of the Aircraft.

Situational Awareness is your always knowing what is going on around you. It is you constantly paying attention to your surrounding and using all of your senses to keep yourself continually updated. That way you are not easily surprised and have the vital presence of mind to act quickly. You know how and to what extent you can react should the need arise. For example:

You are driving in the rain. The road is slippery. You approach an intersection with a traffic light. As you do you scan left, then right. There were no pedestrians or traffic. The traffic light turns from green to yellow. From periodically glancing in your rear-view mirror you know a large truck has come up on you from behind, too fast for the road conditions. You also know that the truck is too close, so you continue through the intersection running the light rather than being rear-ended. Being Situationally Aware just saved your butt.

Visualization is picturing a situation in your mind’s eye and working through it mentally, trying out different responses and then mentally practicing the responses that work best. I am speaking pure psychology, scientifically recognized mental exercise. Visualization is an acknowledged technique employed in hypnosis and psychotherapy.

Next to a real baptism under fire, actually “being there,” this technique is the best thing you can do to develop the critical, instinctive reactions that will take over from your rational thought process if you are in a real attack. Equally important it allows you to accomplish the last mental feat, what I call Flying Ahead of the Aircraft, a concept I was taught by the airline pilots for whom I worked.

It is simply anticipating and preparing in advance that which you are going to need to do. A jet aircraft flies really fast. So the pilot must “thinking ahead,” doing everything well in advance of the aircraft reaching the point “where and when” a task is to be accomplished.

You practice Flying Ahead of the Aircraft every day without ever realizing that it. You use your turn signal before turning. You pull into the far right lane before you reach the highway exit you intend to take.

Q4. What can you tell us about the terrorists?
A4. They crave the spotlight. Achieving live broadcast coverage of their attack on every international TV news network is the terrorists’ hottest erotic dream. And they know that more horrific the carnage they can inflict, the greater the number of dead, of bodies and of body parts for the foreign press to put on TV screens worldwide, the greater will be their media exposure.

The specific terrorists involved in actually carrying out an attack know they are going to their death. They have already made their choice; passage into heaven for themselves and their family, with their own added personal rewards of 70 virgins and a seat at Allah’s dinner table.

Terrorists are diabolical and totally lacking in remorse. Surprise is an essential element in each of their attacks. Too often surprise is not difficult for them to achieve because the targets they attack are simply beyond our ability to conceive of as targets, even of the most barbaric of savages.

The organizational structure of the terrorists’ cell is a marvel of division of labor. There are operation planners, intelligence collectors, arms and munitions procurers, tailors of explosive garments, bomb makers, fashion consultants, costumers, recruiters, drivers, handlers, communication professionals and of course fund raisers. Terrorist specialists handle every aspect of every attack, from its inception to its execution.

The intelligence the terrorists gather is used to select their targets, the route the terrorists take to their target, and the means of transporting the terrorist attackers and their guns and explosives to that target. It also dictates when to commence the attack - the day of the week and the time of that day when the target will be most packed with innocents. The intelligence collected will describe in-depth what if any security protects the target. If there are guards, complete information will be amassed on their numbers, routines, schedules, shift change times, patrol routes, which specific guards are on duty, when, and the manner in which those particular individuals conduct searches of people and of the parcels the people carry.

Terrorist fashion consultants and costumers know the latest styles and determine, based upon the location being attacked, what is the most appropriate dress and grooming for the attackers. They provide the clothes and the disguises the attackers will wear and prepare every aspect of their appearance for them. Many attackers in Israel are disguised as long black coat wearing ultra-orthodox Jewish males. Others are costumed in Police, Border Police and IDF uniforms, especially when the attack is one carried out with assault rifles. Never neglect First Responders. EMTs, ambulance crews and other rescue personnel are, by Standing Order, our sniper unit’s primary focus wherever any of us are on duty at the location where an attack has just taken place.

Terrorist Tailors design and fashion garments for holding between 12 to 30 pounds of explosive, detonator, wire and shrapnel. Each garment when worn by its homicide/suicide intent owner must be undetectable to even trained, watchful eyes. There have been belts and vests, even underwear. Each garment is fitted out with multiple detonation switches and triggers. Wireless, remote detonation using cellular telephone triggers is common.

Driver/Handlers don’t just deliver the attackers to their jump-off point. They actually walk the attackers through several rehearsals of the attack they are about to undertake, even a full dress rehearsal, at the very sight itself about to be attacked. A run-through may even be designed to specifically cause interaction between the terrorists comprising the attack group and the security personnel they will have to defeat later.

Q5. What types of attacks might we expect?
A 5. Expect attacks employing firearms. Expect attacks employing explosives. And expect attacks employing both, the second being used for a follow-up, a “second wave” type attack at the location of the first soon after rescue efforts are underway and a crowd of on-lookers has gathered.

There are shootings carried out by terrorists on foot where escape is intended. These attacks take place close to terrorist friendly areas. Attacks include every tactic from firing blindly from afar in the general direction of a targeted area, to standing along major highways or at a major intersections and firing at traffic and pedestrians, to firing from hillsides at passing people and vehicles. Sniper attacks are included in this category.

Next are shooting attacks where escape is optional. These are carried out at neighborhood bus stops, “storefront” style restaurants and reception halls and at transportation centers. These locations are often far removed from quick and assured escape.

Lastly is the attack where escape is not contemplated. Such attacks are the work of homicide/suicide attackers and are carried out at major intersections, on Main Street at High Noon, anywhere a terrorist can “appear” with a rifle and begin shooting and continue shooting until out of ammunition or killed. Such attackers must be treated as if wearing explosive garment.

Shootings are also carried out from vehicles; from both stationary and moving vehicles against both stationary and moving targets. And there are also Roadblock Ambushes. These ambushes are named for the objects used to block your vehicle’s path. There is the Whatever-is-at-Hand roadblock and stationary and moving vehicle roadblocks using vehicles as the barrier.

Basic bombing techniques include everything from carry the bomb in and leave it to be later exploded by a timer or by remote control, to wear the bomb and detonate it upon the wearer’s decision. Bombs are also concealed by the roadside and buried in the road. Bombs are hidden on animals, four-legged delivery systems and in vehicles, four-wheeled delivery systems. Attacks against stationary targets and against moving targets are common.

Q6. If caught in an attack how should one react?
A6. Here are our family’s standing instructions when there is shooting.
Stop and Drop. Lay flat on the ground. Determine if there are bullets flying. If there are, figure out where the shooters are. Stay low, even crawl to a better-protected place, if you can do so without exposing yourself to the shooters and drawing their fire. If you are caught, exposed in the open and moving will draw the terrorists’ fire, lay still and play dead. Terrorists do not generally waste ammunition shooting the “dead.”

Remember that terrorists work in pairs, sometimes trios. Just because “the” terrorist is killed does not mean it is all clear. Do not move until told to do so by security personnel you are sure are real police, not terrorists in disguise. Then move away quickly in the direction the police instruct you. There remains grave danger. Call home ASAP. If the cellular phone network is down try to get someone to let you use a landline.

Bombings! When a bomb detonates the sound is deafening. An enormous shock wave sends out a crushing concussion. Windows shatter sending glass flying in all directions, inside and outside. There is fire and a rising column of smoke. You will feel the ground shake. Then comes an eerie period of seemingly long seconds of silence followed by the screams and sirens.

Here are our family’s standing instructions when there is a bombing.
If you are close, but not in the immediate area, stop! First, immediately call home on your cellular telephone and let your family know you are safe and sound. Second, leave the area.

If you are in the immediate area of the explosion, Stop and Drop. If you can, do so away from store windows or other large sheets of glass that could shatter and become instant shrapnel should a second and even a third bomb be detonated. That is why it is not always wisest to seek cover by running into the nearest store. There is no point to such action if there is nothing but a storefront window to protect you from another bomb going off.

Cover your loved ones with your body. Cover your head with whatever you may have with you. Your handbag, briefcase or book-filled backpack is not going to stop the metal shrapnel from another bomb, but it might stop flying glass from getting to you head. Remain covered-up until the First Responders arrive. Together with the bomb squad they will get you out of the area of potential danger ASAP.

If you have only yourself to look after and you are not injured, try to “shake-off” the shock of the blast and of the hellish scene in which you find yourself. Decide whether to remain in your “drop, duck and cover” position or to move and use your basic first aid skills to try and save the lives of the wounded who if not given immediate attention will not survive until the EMTs arrive. Shirts make lifesaving tourniquets and pressure bandages under these crisis circumstances.

If you have ringing in your ears or felt the concussion you are wounded. You may also have more visible harm. There is no way you can tell the extent of your injuries. Remain laying still covering your head as best as you can. Do not move. Be patient, the EMT’s will arrive and get to you. They will examine and then transport you to an area hospital. Have them use your cellular telephone to contact your family, if you cannot do it for yourself, and let a family member know to which hospital emergency room you are being taken.

Q7. What advice do you have for the armed individual, who finds her or himself in the midst of a shooting?
A7. If you find yourself in an attack, never, never, ever draw your handgun unless either you or other innocents will die if I do not shoot a terrorist attacker. Understand the minute police see that you have a firearm you are in imminent mortal danger of being mistaken for a terrorist and Shot Dead!

Q8. We visualize every Israeli walking around with an Uzi. Is that the reality?
A8. Nothing could be further from the truth. Surprisingly, the second law passed by Israel’s fledging Parliament in 1949 was confiscation of all firearms, ammunition and explosives. Since then, possession of any of a firearm results in a 7-year jail sentence unless you have a government permit. Self-defense is not a reason for which a permit is granted unless you live somewhere the government has decided is dangerous. The government even maintains central record of all individuals’ visits to mental health professionals for an easy check of one’s “stability.”

It is a crazy situation. The Ministry of Interior, the permitting agency is against civilian ownership while the Country’s Top Cops repeatedly ask all licensed gun owners to carry 24/7, because the police can’t be everywhere all the time.

Q9. Do you have any last advice for our listeners?
A9. Yes. All family members should carry a cellular telephone. Never leave home without it. Within the first 2 minutes of a terror attack everyone MUST check in at home. Knowing a loved one was in the area where an attack has happened and not hearing from them that they are OK is a nightmare you do not want to have.

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