Orlando, San Bernardino, Chattanooga and Fort Hood. The centuries-old radical Islamist ideology is on American soil.
We now have American citizens who are radical Islamists.
Thousands and thousands of illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico have been apprehended while trying to enter the United States.
Illegal aliens with Middle Eastern names, who have adopted Hispanic last names, have now entered America.
The U.S. is at war.
Unfortunately, the world is a much more dangerous place today than it was immediately after 9/11. Technology is changing very rapidly. However, our government remains so flat-footed and stove-piped that as new technologies come on the market, the threats are actually increasing exponentially.
Radical Islamists have used technology and social media to recruit and bring their fascist ideology to American soil. Radical Islamists are much more technologically savvy today and have used it to their advantage. Don’t forget that the late Islamic State ring leader, Jihadi John, actually graduated with honors in computer programming from the University of Westminster.
The 9/11 Commission said it best when they reported that 9/11, above all else, was a failure of imagination.
It is time now for the United States to think outside the box, use existing technology and harness the power of social media to take the fight to radical Islam. Here is how we can begin to do it now:
1.Establish a nationwide Situational Awareness Hotline:
We now live in a world where most of our citizens have cellphones with cameras. We must use this to our advantage. We need a phone line where people can report suspicious activity through the phone or text message. Through text message, they can send a photo of someone near a power plant who appears to be suspicious. They can also send a photo of suspicious activity observed on Twitter or other social media.
If we rely only on “911,” we might overwhelm the police with potentially false leads. A separate alert number for this purpose must be established. Such a dedicated number should be operated by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and have a tie-in to the FBI Terrorists Screening Database (TSDB).
There should also be a link back to State Emergency Management Directors to ensure coordination with local law enforcement and first responders.
If someone saw suspicious activity in their neighborhood they could text a photo or video in real time to the situational awareness hotline allowing the NCTC, FBI and respective State Emergency Management Division (EMD) to connect the dots to existing information and photos they have in their database.
A terrorist attack may be thwarted. In addition, a situational awareness hotline would greatly improve situation awareness during a terrorist attack.
2.Unleash the power of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT):
According to Lt. Gen. Samuel V. Wilson, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), “90 percent of intelligence comes from open-sources. Another 10 percent, the clandestine work, is just more dramatic. The real intelligence hero is Sherlock Holmes, not James Bond.”
If 90 percent of our information comes from open-sources, we need to focus more of our resources on OSINT. Unfortunately, too many in law-enforcement and intelligence just use Google and the English language for their searches.
Google only gives the most popular searches. There are other much more advanced and sophisticated search engines, using all open-source information, which can help us find the needle in the haystack, connect the dots and prevent a terrorist attack.
For example, the FBI could use such search engines to do a “deep dive” on those in the US with potential links to ISIS.
In December 2012, using OSINT, I was the first to confirm (on Fox News) that Iranian experts were at North Korea’s December 2012 missile launch.
All of this was reported in non-Western media sources and was absent from major western outlets.
OSINT works. The idea of acquiring information from publicly available sources such as newspapers, radio and television actually predates the creation of the CIA. However, the internet has taken OSINT to a new level and we must take full advantage of it to fight radical Islam.
It is time now to harness the full power of technology and social media and take the fight to radical Islam.
A nationwide situational awareness hotline and better use of OSINT are tools we need to help ensure American victory.
Did I say it was time? No, it’s past time.
Van D. Hipp, Jr. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army. He is the author of the newly released book, "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." All of the author's proceeds go to the National Guard Educational Foundation to fund scholarships for children of fallen Guardsmen. www.thenewterrorism.com Follow him on Twitter @VanHipp.