Programming note: Taking a break for Thanksgiving and other projects. Next Midnight Run drops December 5th.

It is, and has always been, easy to chalk up major attacks to either mental illness, or irrational thinking, or some form of desperation. The idea that some people see cold-blooded murder as a means to an end is repugnant to the civilized person. It defies what we see as reasonable, as acceptable.

Except, by definition, terrorism does not care for what we see as reasonable. Terrorism seeks to change how a country acts, how a country thinks, and what a country believes. Terrorism plans to fracture what a country holds sacred, and place virtually every citizen in a state of paralyzing fear. Terrorism plans to achieve these goals by any means necessary, up to and including mass murder.

Over the last 24 hours there have been a flood of social media comments and news reports about motives, gun laws, motivations, Muslims (some of which rational, some of which seems like the author just wants to kill anyone even vaguely Muslim), immigration, and terror as a whole. I feel the situation is a bit too fluid to go full bore into in the style of our previous Tactical Reviews, but nonetheless there are things to consider that will not change much regardless of where the investigation goes.

1.) Embassy. During the London Riots, STRATFOR posted a fantastic video on personal safety during riots and mob violence. The key point as it relates to the events in Paris is keeping in touch with your nation’s embassy.

If you are a foreigner you are going to want to make sure that you’re connected with your government and with your embassy. A lot of governments allow you to register and they will send out either text warnings or email warnings to you that will let you know when things are going on. One of the positive things about being registered with your embassy is that if it does become necessary to evacuate from a country — especially a Third World country that’s kind of remote — it’s nice to be on the Embassy system so they know you’re there, they will be looking for you and they will account for you when they are looking for space to get you out whether it is on a ship or an aircraft.

(Dispatch: Personal Safety In Riot Situations is republished with permission of Stratfor.)

The US Department of State maintains a list of all websites for American embassies,

2.) Intelligence. The conversation on the attacks has, of course, turned to survieliance. Specifically, if we are so hell-bent on recording everything and everyone, why did the events in Paris actually take place. As STRATFOR demonstrates, it is largely because there is way too much information to catch everybody.

This is exactly the situation in which the French authorities find themselves. They have incredible intelligence capabilities (sensors) and very capable police and military forces (teeth). Yet, those intelligence and enforcement resources are quite limited and can be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the shoal of potential jihadist attackers.

It requires an incredible amount of resources to maintain live telephone taps on one target, much less 24/7 physical surveillance. This means that security services very quickly reach their capacity. Thus, they need to use risk assessments to rank the potential threats and deploy their resources selectively against those threats deemed the most dangerous. This is especially true in a democratic country such at France, where there is rule of law and one cannot just conduct sweeps to arrest every known potential threat and then sort them out in prison. But frankly, as seen in even authoritarian countries, one simply cannot arrest (or kill) their way out of the problem and, often, draconian measures serve only to fuel anger and resentment, further aiding in radicalization.

(Paris Attacks: The Acuity of Hindsight is republished with permission of Stratfor.)

This, of course, is not to justify the warrantless searches that go on here in the US of people who don’t and never have had connections to terrorism. (If anything, it illustrates that expanding the haystack doesn’t make a needle any easier to find.) In the US, warrants are important, and the linchpin explicitly mentioned in the Fourth Amendment. It does, however, highlight an unfortunate truth behind all intelligence and law. You cannot stop all violence.

3.) Armed citizenry.

Remember in 2013 when the head of INTERPOL mused that armed citizens may be the solution to combating terrorism?

Remember Garland, Texas? When a few ISIS affiliated people looked to shoot up a “Draw Mohammend” contest only to get shot by an armed Texan?

Self-defense, and moreover physical defense in general (as opposed to “you can’t do that, it’s illegal”), are key to defeating terrorism specifically, and unlawful violence in general.

4.) Evil. This wasn’t random. All signs point to a deliberate, organized attempt at mass violence. As discussed in the opening, some people see mass violence as a means to an end. It is comforting to write off violence as something caused by mental illness, or something easily treatable (or at least politically exploitable). It is a lot harder to confront the concept that people who harm others know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Murderous and crazy are not necessarily the same thing. Before any rational discussion can take place on terrorism, or unlawful violence in general, it must be accepted that it is too simple to burn the entire issue down into “he is just crazy” or the belief that all violence can be stopped in advance.

As we discussed in Broadcast, terrorism can be prevented by citizens who are aware of their surroundings and able to take action when violence occurs.

In other words, there must be anti-terrorism efforts like surveillance of course, but anti-terror efforts on the government’s part can only be boosted by an armed citizenry.

The government is never the first on scene of an attack. The people there are the first on scene.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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