About Featured Expert: Ms. Pitluck earned her M.A in Government, and is a specialist in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security. She has vast experience in Counter-Terrorism Strategies and Middle-Eastern Studies. Today, she is a Security Analyst and Project Manager at the International Security Academy.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Marcus Roth: Hey there, folks. Welcome again to the Science of Skill Podcast. This is Marcus Roth, and I’m here on the horn tonight with Adina Pitluck, where she has spent the last 10 years gaining expertise in the field of Homeland Security and Middle Eastern Studies. Now, she’s here on the podcast today to share her insights on both those topics. Adina, let’s talk about the organization you work for and your own experience in the field, the ISA. What’s it all about, and what are you all about?
Adina Pitluck: Thank you for having me. The ISA is the International Security Academy, and we have been focusing for the past 30 odd years on practical training for basically anyone who’s interested, either people in the security business, or just private citizens who want to develop strategies to cope with terrorism and crime, and basically anything from everyday encounters of muggings and terrorist attacks in public places.
MR: Yeah, I mean, Israel clearly being more of a hot bed of a combination of politics, and religion, and unfortunately violent interactions, it’s a wonderful proving ground to figure out what works. Now, it’s unfortunate that it exists today, but that’s the situation we’re in.
AP: But that’s the reality.
MR: Yes, exactly. Just for the listeners, the ISA is located in Israel obviously as we’ve been talking about here, and Adina herself is …
AP: It’s located in Israel, but we have training facilities in Israel and Switzerland. We also host training courses around the world in locations that invite us.
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MR: Let’s take a moment to go deep into the into the agenda of radical Islam. What are their major tenets? What do they actually care about? I remember listening to a documentary about soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan and they said that it seems to them that if they were being honest, every one of the “terrorists” they were fighting were more of just gangsters looking to make money and profiteering off of the time of chaos within the country, and there wasn’t actually all that much Islamic thinking going on. It was more just really bad people trying to make a quick dollar and being hired as mercenaries and stuff like that. He said that it was almost like there was a veil of religious thinking. What do you have to say about that?
AP: Well, the majority of people will take advantage of a situation when they can, and everything is tier-based. I would say the top tier of radical Islam has a political agenda. Then tiers behind it or underneath it would be also focused on finance, because there is a lot of money to make in terrorism. The lower levels, or the footmen, they’re actually the-
MR: The actually terrorists mind you. I would say like these are the actual people who are doing bad things.
AP: Absolutely. Or actually the sad part of the story, because a lot of them are recruited under false pretenses, or children, orphans. I can tell you of a story of a boy that approached a security crossing in Israel to cross the border, and he was carrying a bomb on him and he didn’t even realize he was carrying a bomb because his uncle gave him a bag and said, “Here, just take this over the border for me.” They were going to sacrifice this little boy by detonating the bomb when they passed by Israeli soldiers at the crosspoint. Fortunately enough, the security soldier there managed to intercept him before and saved his life, and many others. This child wasn’t even part of the cause. Another one was a teenager who seems to be mentally disabled. He was ridiculed in school, and the organization recruited him under the pretense that this was the only way that he would be able to be with a woman because no other woman would want him. He’d only be able to be with a woman in heaven. He’ll have 72 virgins. They completely took advantage of this individual. A lot of the stories are just the lower levels terrorists themselves. The ones actually committing the attacks are just people that were taken advantage of and manipulated, and they don’t see anything in the end, or they do it for money, or just for honor. One of the women-
MR: I think it really goes to show that you know, you do something as crazy, okay well it’s frankly stupid, as hijacking a plane or just randomly shooting, stupid people do stupid crimes, right? Let’s say they’re not handicapped, let’s say they’re not a child and they choose to. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were grown men with no discernable mental disabilities. They just chose to do this because they were dumb, right, and they got tricked, and they got-
AP: Dumb is a matter of perspective I would say. I personally would agree with you.
MR: Well yes, to them-
AP: But they had their ideals and they had their own motives. One could say that let’s say a motivation to put food on your table or to get money for your family isn’t dumb.
MR: Oh, I certainly agree with that.
AP: It all depends on how far you’re willing to go for it.
MR: Right. Oh, no no. I even mean like so obviously like when the US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, clearly there were debts to pay I guess, if you will, right? If you’re the family of a extreme terrorist, that’s still dangerous. You might actually not be making your life. It may seem like they’re better, and this is my whole point is that this is the quick buck, and these are the people who are willing to be tricked, and willing to be coerced, and willing to be otherwise fooled by recruiters is the people who are in need of money, and they’re the people who may not think things through all the way through. I think that’s an-
AP: You can see it as a form of blackmailing. They look for your weak points, and leverage that. One of the women who committed an attack in Israel did so to save her honor because she had an extramarital affair, which is a big no-no. The man she had an affair with basically sent her on a terror attack because she had to save face with her family.
MR: I think this goes back all the way back to our original point of these “radical Islamics” are rarely neither radical nor Islamic per se, right? She may have practiced Islam, but she wasn’t doing it for a holy war. She wasn’t doing it because she thought it was right. She was doing because she was being literally blackmailed.
MR: Although she may have practiced, it’s like not even part of the equation.
MR: I think that’s what a lot of American and generally global news really latches onto that’s really damaging. Or this may not even be news. It may just be people who hear these stories, right? Islam is pretty relatively rare in the United States, and so it’s a very easy way to set up the us verse them conflict, right? It’s the people we don’t know, and it’s simple.
AP: Yes. In general we fear what we don’t understand, and things we don’t know. Anything new to us is suspicious, and it’s just human nature. It’s not good or bad, it’s just the way things are. I think that with time and exposure, people will realize that no it’s not a black or white situation. Not everything is either 100% good or 100% bad, and the majority of Muslims are a peace loving patriotic nation that just wants to live their life. They’re absolutely capable of the mentality of live and let live, and you do what you do in your home as long as you let me do what I do in my home.
MR: Yeah, exactly. I hope this has served to clear up at least some of the distinctions for listeners of radicalism versus regular Islam. For this last stretch of the interview here, let’s talk about homeland security in the context of terrorism. What can an average citizen do to be on the ball? What should they look for?
AP: Well, I’ll start by saying that racial profiling is completely useless. Because nowadays anyone can be a terrorist, and there is no look for a terrorist. You can have American white people just as the shoe bomber was. Looking for race is not the way to go. What I would focus on is be aware of your surroundings. Look for suspicious behavior. For instance, if a man is walking around with a really bulky coat and it’s a really hot summer day, that is suspicious behavior. If someone looks too nervous for the situation, he’s just sitting on a bus but he’s shaking and sweating, that’s suspicious.
MR: Off the top of your head, do you happen to know if there’s any recorded observations of this strange behavior occurring right before?
AP: Yeah. It’s what we use in Israel. Our strategy is not like I said, we don’t do racial profiling. What we do is behavioral analysis. Anyone that has been in the airport or at least flown internationally, those that not only do they check your bags, but they check you. Not only do they check your passport, but they watch your reactions to the questions that they ask you, because it’s not necessarily the answers they’re listening to. What they want to see is how you react to the questions asked. Are you a little too nervous before flying? Are you traveling alone? For instance, one of the tips is if you buy your ticket last minute you’ll be flagged. Because it shows that you weren’t planning ahead, that you didn’t want to tip anyone off. It could be, hey I’ve bought my tickets last minute for multiple reasons. It’s no big deal. They just ask you a few questions, make sure check you out, make sure you’re legit, and they let you on your way. But that’s for instance something they look for.
MR: All right, so I think that’s just about all the time we have for this podcast. We covered a very broad variety of conversations about domestic terrorism, and specifically Islam, and comparing that to Christianity to some extent. If people wanted to reach out to have more information and speak to you directly, how would they go about contacting you?
AP:I would love to hear from your viewers or your listeners. You can find me for the website, which is – securityacademy.com.