The Capitol Discussion features keynote speaker Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, detailing the increasing growth and mobilization of domestic militant groups here in the United States and their relation to events such as the January 6th, 2021 Capitol attack.
Question: What are the critical emerging threats and what technological and logistic solutions can be employed to more effectively protect civilian and workforce populations, as well as vital infrastructure?
Original Air Date:
April 22, 2021
Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
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Matt Morgan: Welcome everyone to Proto-Talks in our first forum of the year. I'm your host, Matt Morgan. I'm one of the founders of Protogetic, the security industry's first digital marketplace. Before we begin, I would like to thank our sponsors, Ameristar Perimeter Security, AMBICO security doors and windows and Clear Armor security glass and protective coatings. All are leading product manufacturers within the industry and all of their data and information can be found on Protogetic.com. We hope you enjoy today's approximately 60-minute discussion about the dangerous rise in mobilization of domestic militant groups here in the United States.
Now, during the conversation, if you have questions or comments, please put them in the chat down below, we will try and get to them during the Q&A. Now, I'd like to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counter-terrorism analyst and CEO of Valens Global. Valens Global is a counter-terrorism company that consults on Al-Qaeda, ISIS, ISIL, and other militant insurgent groups. Dr. Gartenstein-Ross is also the senior fellow at the foundation for the defense of democracies and the author of a book, Bin Laden's Legacy: Why We're Still Losing the War on Terror. Dr. Gartenstein-Ross, welcome to Proto-Talks.
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross: Thank you, Matt. It's really an honor and a pleasure to be here and to be the keynote speaker of the very first in the Proto-Talk series. Thanks everyone for joining us. So we're going to talk about what happened at the Capitol and it's broader meaning. And obviously the perspective we have here relates in large part to building security. So, as I was first talking about this presentation with Matt, we had a conversation about what he called militia readiness and the state of domestic actors. What I want to do here is make an argument, because what Matt and I back and forth about is, to what extent do the actors matter, versus to what extent is it something else?
I'm going to argue that what's going on is something else. Actors are relevant, but that the key factor which has changed in the US and globally is the information environment, which gives rise to a speed of mobilization that is unprecedented. And that has many layers of meaning. But in particular, when you're thinking about the built environment, and how it relates to a problem set, very similar to the problem set of January the 6th, we're going to have to look at it through an environmental lens that's much broader than simply a set of actors.
So in this presentation this is what I'm going to talk about. I'm going to talk about what has changed, then we're going to zoom out and look at the phenomenon of computer-mediated communication. We're going to look specifically at social media and one thing that is a current research fascination of mine, the dopamine feedback loop. We're going to look at examples of rapid mobilization enabled by the information environment. We'll do a case study, looking at a group called the Atomwaffen Division. It's a neo-Nazi organization that in many ways exemplifies the new information environment that we're in. We're going to talk about mass shootings as well. When you look at this from the perspective of building security and an information environment that is allowing different threat vectors, mass shooters are most definitely a part of that. And then finally, we'll turn briefly to the Capitol Attack from a tactical perspective.
So, as I said, my argument is that a key thing that has changed is the information environment. There's a couple of pictures here to the left. You probably recognize one of them, you probably don't recognize the other. The top left picture is Tunisia Circa 2011. You all certainly remember a decade ago that you had a series of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa region. It was known at the time as the Arab Spring. And people did pay attention to social media induced mobilizations at the time, but I think did not fully understand the implications of them.
I remember being immersed in debates, and there was a consensus view at the time that quickly emerged that these events, the regional revolutions would be devastating to militant organizations like Al-Qaeda. There's a fairly infamous February 2011 article, As Regimes Governments topple, Al-Qaeda Watches History Fly By. It was published in the New York Times written by Scott Shane. And to me this quickly emerging consensus that militant groups were going to be sidelined by the revolutions was missing something.
When we get swept up in a moment, we can root for a set of actors, and there's no way that the democratic actors who are toppling governments from Tunisia to Egypt and challenging Libya and challenging Syria's government, there's no way that those actors were unsympathetic. But we can lose sight of how other actors, less sympathetic actors, more nefarious actors may take advantage of the situation. So at the time, I argued that we were very shortsighted in seeing the region's revolutions as being an end to the terrorist threat. And obviously within three years, you had ISIS declare its caliphate stretching from Syria into Iraq, and suddenly terrorism was at the top of the news again for years to come.
The bottom left is South Africa in 2015. And it's interesting to me because I was traveling through South Africa to Namibia at the time. What these protests were against is a rise in university fees. I'd already been paying attention to social media induced mobilizations, and in Namibia at this African Union sponsored conference that I was at, I was able to spend some time with this old anti-apartheid activist from South Africa. And what he told me then has stuck with me. He said, "There's just no comparison between this and the apartheid era. When we were combating apartheid, we'd have to organize house to house, block to block, and have pamphlets and make sure that the authorities couldn't see what we were going to organize. And now someone throws a hashtag up on Twitter and suddenly tens of thousands are out on the streets," which is a very different pace of mobilization. And what I'm going to show you is that the Capitol Attack should be understood within the change of pace of mobilization, and that that has broader implications.
So going back, computer mediated communication, it was something that's been of interest for me since my college days, I majored in communication. And back when I was in college, I graduated in 1999, the United States was not fully online yet, even when you got to, by 2000, less than 50% of Americans were online. Now that number is well over 90%. But looking at some of the communication theories that I studied back in my college days, they had a surprising amount of explanatory power. I say surprising because as a social scientist I sometimes have low regard for social science. But I think that these are academic works that have not only stood the test of time, but going back and looking at changes in people's psyche at the time, can really help to explain some of what we are seeing now.
So there are three different theories, which when it comes to extremist groups, whether it's those within the Islamist militant ecosystem like Al-Qaeda or ISIS, or those within the white supremacist extremist ecosystem such as Atomwaffen or The Base, when looking at any of them, there are three theories that I think are highly helpful. All of them relate to the online space.
One is identity demarginalization. And what this holds is that the online space eliminates social and geographic boundaries for concealable and culturally devalued identities. To unpack that term a bit, there are some entities that may be culturally devalued. For example, there may be discrimination that different ethnic minority groups confront, but they're not concealable. Someone can look at you and understand that you're a member of a minority group, could understand that you have a visible disability, could understand that you're overweight, or whatever other factor there is.
Then there are other identities that are culturally devalued, but also concealable. Being a white nationalist is not something that people will cop to in polite society, being a supporter of ISIS. There are multiple other culturally devalued identities. In the 1990s when I was in college, LGBT identity was culturally devalued, and someone couldn't tell by looking at you that you were gay. You've had obviously a revolution in LGBT identity since then with the Supreme Court holding that marriage by LGBT groups is constitutionally required. And with a growing acceptance, obviously LGBT identity still experience discrimination, but we have a world of difference, and a relatively quick period with respect to how that identity is perceived.
I mentioned LGBT identity because that was one of the sets of studies at the time. They looked at white nationalism at the time. They looked at LGBT identities. They looked at pro-anorexic groups. And in every case found, that people who might not take their concealable and culturally devalued identity and make it a part of their public persona, were very willing to do so online. In fact, online communities would coalesce around these identities.
Later on when ISIS emerged as this global phenomenon in 2014 to 2016, I would turn back to identity demarginalization. And something that was very clear is that if you supported a group like ISIS, Circa 1995, and you lived in say, Des Moins Iowa, you might never come across somebody else who believes as you do. But by 2015, 2014, you could hop onto Twitter and within 10 minutes, you could chat with a pro-ISIS fighter in Raqqa. We've seen something very similar in both the anti-government extremist space and also the white supremacist extremist space. We'll talk about those when we talk out the Capitol Attack.
A second form of computer-mediated communication, that is highly relevant to what we've seen since then has been group polarization. That groups that interact online can become more radicalized, more entrenched in their beliefs, and more antithetically opposed to groups that believe differently through a mutual reinforcement.
And then another theory, the social identity model of de-individuating effects, found that immersed in anonymity within a group could result in less individual self-awareness and also more salience with group identity and norms. So this speaks to how people, through the online space, can become more rapidly indoctrinated or immersed in extremist groups than before. And I think this is not just relevant to extremist groups, it's also relevant to where we are as a society. Because ultimately the Capitol Attack cannot be divorced from current polarization and tribalization of American society. All of that is reinforced by the way that we use the online space, whether or not the polarizing and tribalizing impact of the online space will reverse is something that only time will tell. It'll ultimately be up to all of us. But right now that is the direction where it's heading in. Greater polarization, greater animosity across varieties of identity groups and belief groups, and greater salience of extremist groups, extremist organizations.
So the other thing is, we don't just have more computer-mediated communication, which obviously is facilitated by the internet, but also we have more use of social media in particular. The transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to ultimately the social lab is highly significant. Web 1.0, those of you who you started using in the 1990s will be familiar with this, it's the read only web. Someone would have their website, you look at their website, it might be interesting to you, it might not be, you might email them.
Web 2.0 is the read write web. It's where user generated content started to become more significant. Blogs are a good example of Web 2.0. Blogs were, and are interactive, but ultimately their focus is on what's published in the news, what's going on in the world. By the time you reach the social web, the content really is you. The focus is on the user, the user has become the content.
So when we turn to social media and what has changed in a social media environment, it has not just an impact in the way that we communicate and an impact on the way that we're able to mobilize, it also has a chemical impact on our brains. Companies like Facebook now have executives who've talked somewhat openly about the way the platform will hijack our dopamine. You have companies that are exclusively devoted to understanding the dopamine effect and trying to monetize it in some way or another.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has a reward function. If you do something that is positive; eating, exercising, these can trigger a dopamine response. It's a reward function, and it's felt chemically. Social media algorithms are engineered specifically to have addictive qualities to trigger the dopamine effect. The brain gets conditioned to seek more reward, to seek likes, to seek comments, followers, shares, basically social stimuli. And the result is that we're not just drawn to social media by pure interest, as we have become the content sharers, our brain chemicals expect a response.
Now, I don't want to take this too far. There's some current research that suggests that extremism could be understood in part as a chemical reaction, I have some skepticism about this. But I will say that despite my skepticism of some of the ways that direction is in current research, it's very clear that the mediums we use day-to-day seem addictive because they are addictive. And that fundamentally has another impact on the information environment. It has an impact on people's proclivity to get sucked to dark corners of the web seemingly to deepen their involvement. It has an impact, though we shouldn't overstate what it is, on the prevalence of extremism.
So when we turn to 2020, we had four different mobilizations that year. And let me be very clear what I say, what I mean by mobilization. A mobilization is not necessarily bad, it can be good. Mobilization simply means that people mobilize in order to protest or to do something else. Many of the mobilizations I'm focusing on here are protest mobilizations. But what I'd like to do is take a step back from the actors and the causes, and focus on the tactics.
There's a very good book written by a scholar of terrorism, Yannick Veilleux-Lepage, the book is called How Terror Evolves and it looks at airline hijackings. And what it does that's very interesting is it takes this evolutionary perspective on airline hijackings. And by focusing on the tactic and zooming out, it's very informative about how airline hijackings evolved.
So if you go back to the 1950s and 1960s, you had these competing sets of airline hijackings. There's something called freedom flights, where people would hijack flights behind the iron curtain in communist countries and take them to the free west. Then you had a corresponding set of fights where people in the United States started hijacking planes and flying them to Cuba and seeking to defect to Cuba. So you had these two different sets of airplane hijackings for political purposes. And going over previous literature on terrorism and airplane hijackings, a lot of those didn't show up, but by zooming out, not focusing on the actors but focusing on the tactics, that book was able to show us a lot about airplane hijackings that weren't known before.
Turn to 2020, you had four major mobilizations, all with very different causes, very different groups taking part, but I'd argue that each one learned something from those that proceeded. The very first mobilization was an anti-lockdown mobilization. You then, after the murder of George Floyd, had a major national racial justice mobilization. There was a separate mobilization that came afterwards, an anarchist an anti-fascist mobilization, especially in the Pacific Northwest, both Seattle and Portland experienced this mobilization most strongly. Portland, you still have a violence racked city. And something that we saw in that mobilization was attacks on seats of government. Attacks on the mayor's office for days and weeks and months on end.
Then finally, you get to the Capitol Hill mobilization. The mobilization that came to head on January the 6th of 2021. And each mobilization had something to learn from previous mobilizations. This makes the point that I made at the outset when talking about how I view the Arab Spring, that there's the actor using a tactic today, but other actors will watch, other actors with very different views, and they will learn what they can and incorporate that which is useful. That's what we saw from 2020 to 2021, culminating in multiple aspects of the Capitol Hill mobilization that had learned from previous mobilizations.
So as I talk a little bit about militant groups, and I talk to you about my conversation with Matt and how I focused us a little bit away from groups specifically, but to me, Atomwaffen Division, which has gotten some notoriety lately and justifiably so, is very emblematic of the kinds of ways people could organize in the current information environment. For example, in recent years, you had a cell in Florida of Atomwaffen Division which acquired explosive materials that may have been targeting a power grid or a nuclear plant, members of the group murdered a gay Jewish college student in California, there is intimidation campaign targeting journalists and political figure that was broken up in Nevada.
Atomwaffen is a neo-Nazi organization. It's also, what's called an accelerationist organization. It believes that the best way to reach their objective is to hasten the collapse of the current order of government for them to bring about a race war, a second civil war. It's more powerful, most likely, Atomwaffen, as a virtual network than an in-person one. And I should specify, Atomwaffen Division has seemingly been renamed the National Socialist Order. It sells, communicate and propagandize online. And even that new name, National Socialist Order, was announced in the online space. So it has somewhat of a leader-less model, which means that it doesn't have a singular outlook. And leaderless resistance also has a strategic purpose. It weakens authorities attempts to disrupt the organization. That being said, even with this somewhat leaderless model, it's been sophisticated enough to organized paramilitary training camps in four different states. This is very much a 21st century organization that is designed and in fact, enabled by the current information environment.
As I mentioned, one other thing I wanted to talk about is mass shooters. We've had mass shooters increase significantly in the United States. In 1997 to '98, you had 37 American lives lost in mass shootings. Two decades later by 2017 to '18, that figure had risen exponentially to over 800 lives lost. Now, some of the graphics here focus a little bit on mass shooters within the white supremacist movement which, as you can tell, is a research area of mine, but I want to zoom out and talk about how there's a phenomenon that could be seen across movements.
So some of the graphics at rights were taken from some of our own online research. We could see iconography in the upper right hand corner that depicts Brenton Tarrant, who was the shooter in Christ Church, New Zealand, who killed over 50 worshipers at a couple of mosques, and also Dylann Roof, who was the shooter at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina back in 2015, he claimed nine lives. In this particular corner of the internet, mass killers are lauded as saints. And you can see a company iconography, would be killers or actual killers will post their manifesto in which they'll talk about their inspirations.
And this is not limited to the white supremacist sphere. There have been multiple shooters at schools who were influenced by the shootings in Columbine Colorado that occurred 22 years ago almost to this day, April 20th of 1999. And we haven't just seen Columbine style killers in the United States, even in recent years in Europe, you've seen, would be killers whose plots are explicitly influenced by Columbine. Again, this is a product of the information environment that we're in.
In the pre-internet age, the Columbine killers or serial killers might be curiosities. They might sometimes be copied. But today it's not hard if you're fascinated by them to find others who are fascinated by them as well, who see them as heroes, who see them as models, who see them as something to be copied. And that brings us back to the Capitol Attack. What was unique about the Capitol Attack? Part of it is the mobilization was greater than authorities expected. If you look at preparations for the attack, for what would happen on January 6th, there was plenty of chatter. People knew that something was planned for January the 6th.
In DC, the Mayor Muriel Bowser did call up the national guard in advance, but only the DC national guard in very small numbers, and had them there only to direct traffic so that more Metro PD could be at the Capitol. It's very clear that they not anticipate a mobilization of this size, over a million people showed up from 40 states. 91% of them came from outside the Washington DC metro area. And basically law enforcement was overwhelmed. They weren't there in sufficient numbers.
So there were tactics you used to get in. One interesting tactic was a column formation. In order to breach through law enforcement, essentially at a column formation, you channel your power to a single point in the police line and are more easily able to break through. Once protestors or rioters were able to get past the law enforcement cordon, they were able to fairly easily get into the building, to scale the walls, to break windows, in order to gain entry. And at some point, the police on the perimeter, to some extent gave up. They decided that they could form a more defensible perimeter inside the Capitol. There were hours during which the coordination of the national guard was simply not going well, and eventually reinforcement came in. But for what happened at the Capitol, the end result, five killed, could easily have been much, much worse.
So looking at where we are with building security, the takeaway point is this, what has changed? The information environment has changed. Whatever your cause, it's easier to mobilize people now quickly and in large numbers than it ever has been. Sometimes, trying to defend a perimeter is not even possible. Sometimes you're looking at what do we do once the perimeter is breached? But it presents a very different set of facts, a very different environment, and a very different, and I'd say thornier problem than if this were only a challenge of a certain set of actors.
Matt, thank you again for giving me the opportunity to give this keynote. As I said, this is a really great panel and it's an honor to be a part of it. And I'm looking forward to, with my fellow co-panelists, looking at some solutions here.
Matt Morgan: Thank you, David. God, that was so fascinating and interesting, and thank you for coming and joining us today. And I think I will pull you along to the panel discussion group as well. Just absolutely mind boggling how quickly technology assists now in the mobilization of large groups, Daveed, it's just remarkable.
Dr .Gartenstein-Ross: Yeah, most definitely.
Matt Morgan: Yeah. So I know our panel would like to jump in here, and so without further ado, let me start introducing them. First, Rachel Barr, she's a senior design engineer, specializing in life safety products with AMBICO doors and windows. Also, Khaled Eldomiaty, the principal engineer and vice president over at Stone Security Engineering. And finally, Mr. Mark Kirby, a subject matter expert for critical infrastructure at Ameristar Perimeter Security. Welcome everyone.
Let's see, we'll just give them a chance to get on camera here. There you are. Hi guys. Let's jump right into it. Mark, we'll start with you. During that January 6th event, we witnessed temporary barriers and fencing literally dismantled or trampled on by rioters. And in some cases, unfortunate cases, being used as weapons against the police. On the other side of that, there's also been a lot of discussion and concern about what the perception is or the optics, if you will, on surrounding the headquarters of our nation basically in Capitol razor wire. So here's the question. If there is another mobilization in DC, what realistic counter measures do you foresee, and can they be more effective and appealing than just say chain link fence and barbed wire?
Mark Kirby: Oh, absolutely. I think with the intelligence that can be gathered, that's going to set the precedents for what's going to happen. The so-called proto security that I saw in place is what we call the bicycle rack. And that's about as good as that is. Those are barriers that can be picked up and used as they were as ramrods to penetrate the windows and the doors of the Capitol and also push security forces out of the way, using it as a large bumper or a plow to move forward through the course.
There are available temporary security fences that can be rapidly deployed, and they were deployed after the fact. With that concentric layer of security, if you will, comes the human factor, the security forces that then again, can back up the fence or the security fence. So there were a couple things there that the Capitol was not prepared for what was happening and when they get that many people lining up, you're just taking your chances that everything is going to stay peaceful, which it obviously didn't. And I believe a lot out of people clamored within that, maybe not attempting to initially, but they were pulled in.
Now, when you look at large facilities like that, there absolutely are fence systems that can be aesthetically pleasing and high security, and they're used, and we've built them around the country on high assets. So there is available these fence systems that they're not chain link, they're heavier duty than chain link. They're anti-client, anti-cut systems that will keep people at bay. And including intrusion detection systems and the human factor that goes along with that. But yes, they absolutely are available today and can be used, and that just may be one of the answers for what we witnessed at the Capitol.
Matt Morgan: Okay. And even in terms of what Daveed was talking about in terms of the rapid mobilizations that we're seeing occurring, given our technology and our communication capabilities. So even with that short term timeframe to set up and deploy these products, that too is reasonable and possible?
Mark Kirby: Yes, absolutely. They can be housed at the Capitol, rapid deploy security fence systems that can be implemented with equipment and workforces. And it can be set up fairly rapid. That wasn't even a consideration at the time. I think the Capitol was just overwhelmed and they anticipated people peacefully demonstrating, and that just wasn't the case.
Matt Morgan: Okay, all right. All right, let's switch over. Khaled, a few questions for you. From a design engineer's perspective, how do you approach perimeter security in forced entry? And what are the specific challenges? And then subquestion to that, how do you prioritize them?
Khaled Eldomiaty: Great question. Thank you all for setting up this seminar and webinar and I would like to thank everyone that attended it. So generally if we look at it from a broader picture here, while we're addressing physical security protection implementation on the facilities, especially for high profile or iconic historical facilities, or facilities within high-threat environment where you potentially have multiple threats, we look at from a holistic approach in security design, assessment and mitigation, and we really tie that with a layered mitigation approach system of physical security mitigations. Whether you incorporate physical perimeter security, force entry and/or crowd control ballistics or glass or others, you really want to do the layered approach system, especially for some of these type of facilities to come up with an effective outcome, and be able to manage that with the operational training and maintenance resources that are available for that facility to run it more efficiently, especially with the emergency response plan.
So the challenges that are in the industry and also with the practice in general, is when you're looking at some of these facilities, you want to look at balancing the act between security requirements and functionality and purpose of these buildings. You really want to have the desired outcome here that you don't want to take away from the purpose of the building or the facility, especially with high-profile buildings that are welcome to the public or have the public access and so forth. So, as you want to try to balance those acts, this is where sometimes you have to come up with creative solutions, and some of creative ideas in mitigation systems, like what Mark was violating some creative, either rapid deployment temporary barrier systems for perimeter security or others.
Some of the other challenges, especially when you're dealing with existing facilities or these high-profile facilities, there are always going to be some structural limitations or architectural aesthetics, the real estate, the space to deploy and implement. There's also, especially with the high-profile building, most of them also have historical requirements, so trying to even blend historical requirements with security, that by itself is like a debatable discussion to some of us, to keep the old glass versus trying to mimic the look, something that looks similar to it. So you have to take all those into your consideration for balancing the mitigation approaches.
For perimeter security, besides looking also at the temporary barrier solutions for rapid deployment for high risk, there's a high risk being addressed. Also, overall the layering of a permanent solution throughout these facilities can be implemented by blending some of the landscape features with perimeter security, surveillance and detection systems as well, but to use the terrain and some of the natural barriers integrated with physical barriers of others as needed, so that way you create a more balanced solution.
And then obviously if that all fails and the attackers are right up the doorstep of the building, you want to have some, what we call integration of some baseline, potentially forced entry or FEDR or blast or others on your building facades, obviously being the windows and doors are your weakest elements. But you also have to take into accounts that the connections to your building framing and the hardware capability, the maintenance ADA requirements, all that stuff, and Rachel can talk more about that, especially with doors, but those are always going to be challenges that you've got to have to address when you're trying to meet with, especially with these type of buildings where there's high traffic and also all kinds of code requirements.
What we have seen in the industry also sometimes, we get on board late in the game, and so, it's pretty much you're securing and designing the back-end pretty much. There's not a proactive discussion with the design team with the building operation users, and that limits what the security design can come up with creative solutions to address the security threats on these type of facilities. So you really want to avoid that, designing a vacuum type of situation as much as possible.
Matt Morgan: So, it's really important you guys come early to the party, not late to the party.
Khaled Eldomiaty: Absolutely. It just drives the approach to the very expensive, not practical, and potentially even they don't even integrate it at the point because they kinda give up. So, bring the team at the beginning to go through a risk assessment. Let's see what we can do with your allocated resources and also figure out, okay, to do a cost benefit analysis, like if my threats for the day are this type of threats, but maybe I look at some elevated threats and I spend another extra 20% more now, it might help me in the future. That's a big thing, but it's just not the typical way of looking at designing, because obviously for government contracting or even private contracting, try to develop a contract that opens to creative thinking and applications, the language could be a little tough.
Matt Morgan: Right. And that's an interesting point you make. And I saw a lot of heads nodding up and down kind of thing. Bring in the team early on, bring them in-
Khaled Eldomiaty: Absolutely.
Matt Morgan: ... like I said, early to the party, not late to the party, that seems to be a consensus point there.
Khaled Eldomiaty And a lot of the vendors out there and the contractors in this realm of the business, they're very actually smart creative folks. Because you really have to be creative, you have to test, you have to investigate to develop practical solutions. But at the end of the day, whatever current system solution, what you call off the shelf maybe, is designed for specific threats, but has also specific applications and specific limitations. So sometimes with these existing facilities, you want to have to open that creativity to come up with more practical solutions by doing some modifications in the existing designs or enhancement, or even develop a new approach. So that's generally the challenges we see in these type of environments trying to come up with a custom, effective solution for that user.
Matt Morgan: All right. Okay. All right, moving on a little bit to you, Rachel. Once the Capitol perimeter was breached, rioters really seemed to make short work of breaching the doors and the entry ways to the building. Did anything stand out as surprising to you? And what are the solutions available that can mitigate that kind of stuff in the future?
Rachel Barr: Sure. Well, thank you, Matt, for having me here today. I'm really excited to be here. And it's a really interesting discussion. So as you mentioned, once the Capitol perimeter was breached, the rioters really did make short work. It was a matter of seconds before they got through the doors and into the building. It was very clear because of that, that these openings were not designed necessarily with security in mind and not designed to withstand this mob style of attack.
Matt Morgan: I found that shocking. It was like a matter of seconds, you're absolutely right.
Rachel Barr: Yeah. These openings clearly weren't designed to withstand any attack of this nature. And considering that they weren't, it didn't surprise me that they got through so easily. There's a significant amount of thought and design that goes into designing openings that will protect against attacks, whether they be mob style attacks, active shooter attacks, so if you're not considering that in the designing stage, rioters will get through pretty quickly.
And then to speak to your next point, what solutions are available? There are a number of test standards, there's a number of products available that speak towards forced entry, and the product that's right for any given building or any given project will come down to a number of things. One of those things is budget. One of those things is day-to-day functionality. So these are some of the things that do need to be considered. There are some less demanding standards and solutions that focus more on robust hardware, access control, or retrofitting protective films on glazing that do provide a significant amount of protection. Looking more at new buildings or renovations on existing buildings, there's more robust solutions, heavy duty door panels, especially reinforced frames glazing that's designed specifically to withstand ballistic and impact threats and sophisticated hardware components. And all of those things really work together to provide that robust protection from a number of dangerous attacks including this mob style of attack that we saw January 6th.
Matt Morgan: Right. And in a situation like that, I imagine that it, again, the question arises about functionality versus aesthetic. We don't want to have a big giant ugly steel door on our nation's Capitol. But that said, in terms of door standards, I know there are 15-minute doors, there's 30-minute doors, there's 45-minute doors, but how do you go about assessing what's necessary to a building like that?
Rachel Barr: Yeah, so you’re speaking sounds like probably towards the department of state forced entry standard, and that's a standard that is used specifically to address these mob style of attacks. And for this test method, openings must go through rigorous concentrated assault tests with actual attackers, a large list of tools available, and the door and frame would need to withstand that attack for either five minutes, 15 minutes, 60 minutes are the more common ones, and then there's also a ballistic component to that standard as well.
When understanding how long you want your door to withstand that attack, you can think about how long you anticipate until law enforcement might be able to intervene effectively, or in some cases anticipate how long it might take to move the people in the building within another area to safety. And then you just want to look at as well what aesthetics need to be considered. The more robust your opening is, the more structural it's going to look.
But as Khaled mentioned, and we see it all the time, it's really helpful to reach out early on in the design stages, because just because your opening is robust and can withstand these types of attacks doesn't mean that it has to be a thick steel door that's really heavy, no glazing. There are ways to incorporate aesthetics and still get that strength that you're looking for. There's recess panels, for interior applications, you can take a steel door and sort of clad it with wood veneer. And the earlier that manufacturers get involved that are familiar with this world, the better we can create a solution that will meet the needs of a project while still giving the strength that you need in case of an attack that we saw January 6th.
Matt Morgan: Right. If there's one takeaway from all of this, and this is a general comment to all of you, if there's one takeaway for all of this, from my point of view, it's really get design and engineers involved early on in the process. That's going to mitigate a lot of risk.
Rachel Barr: Absolutely.
Matt Morgan: Okay. All right. I'm going to turn back around and come back to you, Daveed. As you mentioned, there's a lot of challenges given militant groups and how they organize and are organizing more quickly, when it comes to prevention now, how can militant groups be better monitored or watched over, I guess, in order to prepare for such events or see events coming in the future?
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross: That's a great question. Now, if you talk to a lot of terrorism watchers or watchers of militant groups, they'll say, we weren't surprised by this. We were monitoring chat of militant groups and we saw this night this was coming, I think that answer is actually not accurate. I watched these groups, I knew that many militant groups had something planned, but what surprised people was not what militant groups were doing, it was the sheer number of people who turned out.
Matt Morgan: Yeah.
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross: So, a lot of things that make it difficult to understand numbers, I'd say the biggest factor is probably encryption. With end-to-end encryption, one of the legacies of the Edward Snowden revelations and many other things. But with that boom and end-to-end encryption, it's harder to monitor, overall, the full volume of communications in preparation for an event like this. So I think probably the thing that would be necessary to understand when you'll have a mobilization that could overwhelm people, is basically probably using machine learning to understand volumes of social media chatter and what that means in terms of crowd size.
But I think it's very obvious and very fortunate that here, the groups really didn't know what to do once they got inside. Even though there were militant groups who showed up who were planning to wreak havoc, this is what we refer to as insurrection. And it's technically an insurrection and technically it was an armed insurrection, there were people who were armed. But for an armed insurrection that breaches the Capitol and only five people die, that's not something with a whole lot of foresight and coordination among the groups.
And I point that out because I actually find that to be somewhat chilling. Given the psychological effect this has had, and by looking at every angle, the utter lack of coordination among the actors, I think that getting smart about understanding what crowd size is going to be, because crowd size gives a lot of opportunities for malicious actors to use the chaos of the moment to, in some way, strike.
Matt Morgan: Yeah, and I want to actually follow up with that because that, it's a question I was going to ask you later on, but you've touched on it now, and so I want to get back to it. Can you expand a little bit, because it's not entirely clear to me, I don't know if it's entirely clear to anyone how it actually works? But again, you have these mass mobilizations of people, then you have smaller organizations working within them with a very specific or a very different agenda than the original purpose of the mobilization. How does that work, Daveed, in terms of, is there a level of communication there between the smaller group and the larger group, or are they just flying under the radar to achieve their agenda?
Dr.Gartenstein-Ross: Well, both, given that the larger group is very diffuse and the smaller group is diffuse for all of these mobilizations. So one could think, for example, during the racial justice mobilizations, there were interesting videos that came to light of some anarchists there ready to start breaking things, and different activists in the community saying, "Hey, we live here, don't destroy our community." That's a good example of where you have a smaller mobilization, a militant anarchist mobilization that was part of a larger mobilization, and members of a larger mobilization are saying, "Hey, no, we don't want you to do this here." So that's an example of where they're cross purposes. Here, it's very clear that for the January 6th mobilization, the vast majority of people who showed up did not intend to mount an insurrection. That part is clear enough because it would have looked a lot different if you had a million people descend upon the Capitol, all intent on attacking the Capitol.
So as to what the levels of coordination are, it's going to be somewhat similar to the example I gave in the racial justice protests. You'll have some people in the larger mobilization who are supportive, you'll have some people in the larger mobilization who are not supportive, but then once the Capitol was breached, a lot of people went in for a lot of different reasons. And one thing that quite famously happened is you had some left wing activists go in. Now, let's be clear, I'm not saying it was a false flag Antifa attack or anything like that, but some of them went in just because they were curious and were documenting what was happening. So people went in for a lot of different reasons, but at any rate, larger mobilization, smaller mobilization, different degrees of communication, some supportive and some antagonistic.
Matt Morgan: Right. Again, it always brings to mind and pops up to mind that the video that was on the news of the Capitol steps, crowds of people, and then very clearly on the right side of the screen, you saw this group of, I think, 10 or 11 guys in tactical gear, very organized, cutting their path through the crowd. Your answer reminded me of that.
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross: Yeah.
Matt Morgan: Yeah.
Dr.Gartenstein-Ross: That part was interesting. And I'll make this very quick, but what they were doing is generally used to reduce, so it's used when breaching a building by Rangers and others in infantry in order to reduce the amount of fire you might take. Here, I think the column formation was just used to really channel their force against the line and to break the line.
Matt Morgan: Okay. All right. Look, we're going to spin around, we've got some audience questions here. This one we're going to put out. Has anyone compared January 6th to the May day 1971, somewhat peaceful protest in DC, similar crowd quantities, certainly different communication tools? Daveed, why don't you start out with that and then we have a couple other questions for the panelists.
Dr.Gartenstein-Ross: No, I don't know of studies that compare the two of them yet. We're still learning so much about the January 6th mobilization, but I would agree with the premise of the question, similar size, very different mobilization tools and the difference in mobilization tools helped to produce a very different result.
Matt Morgan: Right. It's interesting that the 1971 was quite a bit more peaceful too and no uncertain terms. Okay. Next question from the audience, and this goes to the panel. Mark, we'll start with you. Is perimeter security realistically possible given the enormous size of some of the government buildings and complexes that they're slated to guard?
Mark Kirby: Absolutely. We have done huge perimeter securities around very high-level institutions of government. And yes, thousands of feet and sometimes in miles of feet, and aesthetically pleasing powder-coated, and they can be integrated with anti-crime, anti-cut features and vehicle barriers built right into the platform.
Matt Morgan: Right. Okay. Rachel, same question to you. Anything to add?
Rachel Barr: No, I just think that while you're building, even if your building hasn't been designed with these security measures in place, there are ways to incorporate that, whether it be through hardware, or through protective films on glazing. And then there's also ways to retrofit a building for those security measures that speak to specific threats, it could be active shooter threats or it could be these large scale attacks. So it's definitely something that's possible to implement some really robust security measures without sacrificing the look and feel of a building.
Matt Morgan: Yeah. And retrofitting is far more commonplace now I would imagine?
Rachel Barr: Yes, on historical buildings specifically, definitely retrofitting. And we do see it a lot on schools and churches, places of worship, where they might not have the budget to do anything beyond put a robust hardware solution on an existing opening or put films on glazing.
Matt Morgan: Okay. All right. And to you Khaled, little bit of a hot seat question here, but let's give it a try. On the January 6th event, when you look back on it, is there anything that's glaringly missing in your opinion or that you would have done differently from a preparedness perspective? I know that's obviously a silly question. What would you add or improve, I guess, in the security?
Khaled Eldomiaty: I wouldn't say all of us were always, all of us were a bit surprised what happened, especially this happening in the United States.
Matt Morgan: Of course, given. Yeah. I want frame this in a fair way too.
Khaled Eldomiaty: But, I think generally it's the general approach as I discussed before is going forward with any high profile, iconic or historical facilities similar to the Capitol or others. It's a similar approach we use for high-threat environment facilities or embassy facilities and others where you go through that risk assessment approach and you come up with that layered physical mitigation, and that's what needs to be integrated. You're trying to identify what you're trying to prevent. What are the design challenges? Come up with, either off the shelf or creative customized solutions that from capability and maintenance, and also from training perspective, both for the security forces operating the building and also training the people that need to evacuate or shelter in, that also, it all ties together.
So I think that's what I maybe, the missing links here is to tie all that together in a holistic approach, and coming up with that lit, if the other things fail and you really have to have physical mitigation through a layered approach to at least delay as people go into and flood your building, either some mob attack or other. So from security perimeter features, as I discussed before either temporary or permanent to baseline physical mitigation measures, that obviously we haven't seen as we saw some of the weak points with the glazing door systems on something, like what happened.
Matt Morgan: Yeah, sure.
Khaled Eldomiaty: You got to look into the threats, the risk, cost benefit analysis have come up with that layered approach, because you don't need to, as Rachel stated early, I don't need to put that massive steel door, but if I plan it in a way, like I put the 15-minute or the five, I delay enough time so that the planning, the response plan or evacuation or sheltering in, is done effectively while delaying the crowds to flood into the building, that could be that layered approach that we're talking about. So integrating some forced entry or forced entry ballistics, while also having proper planning through the, and the design of FEDR, it could be also via major resistance for safe rooms, or property evacuation routes and proper response timing, that's what we would like to see moving forward for in terms of additions or improvements, both from the planning perspective, design perspective and implementation perspective.
Matt Morgan: Right. Okay. Interesting. Interesting. All right. One last question to you, Daveed, tell us what the future outlook is. Are these types of attacks or mobilizations going to increase? Are they going to become more sophisticated in terms of, are we looking at complex attacks coming up, more armed attacks? What's your view on the future?
Dr.Gartenstein-Ross: That's a wonderful question. Things tend to be cyclical where we tend to project out, people tend to project out what they're seeing now as a trend that's going to continue at the same pace or maybe escalate a bit, but then you'll have intervening factors that produce the decline. So as we get past the world of COVID, there may be less mobilizations as a whole. It could be that the government cracks down significantly. We've already seen arrests related to January 6th. Examples could be made of some people, they could go after some organizations and we, again, could see a decline in militant mobilizations.
That being said, looking at the technologies, you have a few breakthroughs that are in process. One breakthrough relates to unmanned aerial vehicles, drones. We’ve seen drone swarms used at some point in an offensive way, which provides a whole different threat vector, because what we're talking about now, all of our preparation that we're talking about is coming from the ground, we could see a threat vector coming from the sky at some point before too long, before a decade, say.
But I think in the short term, we're going to continue to see mobilizations across various groups, because right now, various groups with different agendas see mobilizations as successful. That puts us on a trajectory where we can expect this will happen again. And I think that every militant group I've studied does after action review of events. And I think as I talked about the Capitol attack for the psychological damage it did was just not that well prepared. It had no concept of what to do once the Capitol was breached. So I do think militant actors who were part of that mobilization consider, well, what do we do next? How do we take that next step?
Because looking at the four mobilizations that I mentioned, we can see the January 6th mobilization is a little bit of an extension of the anarchist antifascist mobilization, just applied to a different target, not a mayor's office, not a police precinct, but applied to the Capitol building. There are other innovations that had to occur to apply to the Capitol, but that's in part where I see the inspiration. And these groups tend to think through, "Well, what do we do next time? What's the innovation that we add?"
So I think that we're on a trajectory where this set of problems we're talking about is not going to go away anytime soon. It's very much more thinking through the kind of preparation integrated into the building design that Khaled was talking about, that is important for the time being. There are other trends that indicate other threat factors, I talked about mass shooters. And in the medium term, perhaps we'll see the trend level off, or maybe even reverse a bit. And in the longer term, we're going to see other new technologies play an interesting, important, and I'd say chilling role in future attacks.
Matt Morgan: Yeah, when you bring drones into it, it just starts to make my head spin in terms of capability and the ramifications of that as well. So, okay. Everyone, this has been great. And I'm going to wrap it up now. This concludes today's panel. On behalf of Protogetic and our sponsors, Ameristar Perimeter Security, AMBICO security doors and windows, and Clear Armor security glass and protective coatings, I'd really like to thank you. Thank you for a truly informative session Mark Kirby, Khaled El-Domiaty and Ms. Rachel Barr. Thank you very, very much. And Dr. Gartenstein-Ross - Daveed, thank you as well.
If you have any questions, anyone, please go ahead and send them in or suggestions on a topic for the future. We'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org, and hopefully will be seeing you very soon as we host Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross once again, as we get into a more in depth view on crisis architecture and rethinking the design of our buildings to prevent against mass shootings and other events. That's about it for now. Everyone, have a great day and thank you very, very much for your time.
Mark Kirby: Thank you, everyone.
Khaled Eldomiaty: Thank you, Matt.
Mark Kirby: Bye.
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