How Americans Can Protect Themselves From Terror Attacks

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Americans shouldn't be surprised if they are victims of a terrorist attack this summer, according to a counterterrorism expert who wrote a book on how to protect yourself from such attacks.

"America has taken a role as peacekeeper all over the world. If you're getting into hotspots, you're going to get burned," former Israeli counterterrorism intelligence officer Juval Aviv (search) told in an interview.

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"If they can't attack our military ... you're going to hurt America where they're most vulnerable — in the subways, in the shopping center — because our society's so open."

Those attacks would most likely come in the form of homicide bombings and truck bombs — attacks that frequently plague the Middle East — at places such as Madison Square Garden (search) in New York City, Aviv said.

"Nobody will ever be able to hijack a plane again, not because we're so secure ... but the passengers will not let two to three guys with a cutting knife hijack an aircraft," said the author of "The Complete Terrorism Survival Guide." But "America has not been hurt enough yet" to learn to take safety as seriously as it should.

"Prior to September 11, the United States had been coddled into a false sense of security. As most of the world battled terrorism on its doorstep, America remained largely immune," Aviv writes in his book. "September 11 marked the end of American innocence about terrorism."

Americans can take steps to protect themselves, Aviv said.  His book details how to reduce the chances of falling victim to a terror attack and, if one does become a victim, how to live through it.

It gives precautionary measures for hijackings and carjackings, traveling overseas, conventional explosives, bioterrorism, cyberterrorism, nuclear or dirty bombs, identity theft, handling mail and computer and Internet security.

It also includes ways to protect your family and business, and how best to spot a potential terrorist.

"The idea is, if the government really cannot protect you, what can one do to protect yourself," said Aviv, who is also founder of the international investigations firm Interfor, Inc. "I wanted to put something to the public ... simple, logical tips that are not complicated, not vague ... something anyone can take and read and hopefully use for personal security."

When working as an antiterrorism consultant for the FBI from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, Aviv realized the United States was "light years" away from understanding how to deal with terrorism.

"Nine-eleven has proven that our government cannot protect us," Aviv said. "They were caught with their pants down, they didn't even know what hit them."

Between the vague warnings the government issues about potential threats to the color-coded Department of Homeland Security alert system, "it's all lip service, it's all really bombastic statements that really have nothing behind it," Aviv said.

With the ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, Americans should be particularly wary of more attacks, he said, since in some Middle Eastern cultures, avenging the death of a family member is encouraged.

"There's enough people that will not forget and will try to find an opportunity to hurt America and we have to prepare ourselves for that," Aviv said. "We can't just say, 'Oh, it's been quiet for a few months, a year after 9-11, nothing's going to happen.'"

Aviv suggests Americans should not display the American flag, other patriotic symbols or their corporate affiliations on their clothing or bags while traveling overseas.

"Americans are targeted worldwide now," he said. "Carrying an American passport and speaking English loudly ... that is not what you need to do when you travel abroad today because that's calling for trouble."

Don't spend a lot of time in airport terminals, avoid heavily glassed areas and never check bags at the curb, since you could be a victims of a grenade attack or shooting, the book suggests.

Never get in the first cab in line — hail a moving one instead, since many terrorists work as cab drivers. And don't order room service in the morning while overseas, since some hotel workers may be anti-American and may spit on or poison your food.

"Those are the kinds of tips that Homeland Security [Department], in my mind, should have published ... rather than just change colors that don't mean anything," Aviv said.

Since Sept. 11, people are more interested in ways to keep themselves from falling victim to attacks, Aviv said, but others have become just as complacent as they were prior to that horrific day.

"There's a lot of people that are still scared of a 9-11," he said. But "I'm really criticizing the government for not putting their foot down and saying 'America, wake up, it's not what it used to be, it's never going to be the same again. We will never be able to live in a free society again.'"

People most concerned with their safety could move to an isolated region of the country, telecommute from their homes and try to never go out in public.

But what Americans should do instead, Aviv says, is to balance safety and security with the necessity of some acts, such as driving through major tunnels during rush hour or hanging out in Time Square.

"We're talking about how to minimize your exposure by being alert internally," Aviv said. "Hopefully, slowly, we'll grow into a system where people will live it."

Buy a copy of The Complete Terrorism Survival Guide on