Gila County is not as remote and isolated as residents might think. It could be targeted for terrorist activities.
That's a sobering thought Gila County Sheriff's Posse members brought back from a conference on intelligence, terrorism and security.
Attending the conference in El Paso in mid-September were posse members Lu and Jerry DuBois, Trina Venturelli and Range Deputy Andy Brunson, who coordinates the posse for the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
Lu DuBois, the public information officer for the posse, said she and the others went because they wanted to find out what they could about terrorism from experts in the field.
One speaker, Thomas Copeland, with the LexisNexis Corporation, identified potential terrorist targets in the Southwest, which include:
Water, power, roads, airports;
Corporations such as mining, high-tech and agribusiness;
Property, mostly new developments;
Ethnic communities and their religious and meeting places.
DuBois said that means Roosevelt Lake, a critical source of power and water for the metropolitan Phoenix area, could be a terrorist target.
The threats in the Southwest, according to Copeland, are coming from:
Organized crime, trafficking in drugs and people;
Domestic right-wing extremist groups;
Domestic left-wing extremist groups; and
Foreign terrorists who have global capabilities, and some with state sponsorship, from such places as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan.
DuBois said one group that was identified came as a surprise to her radical environmentalists.
In her report, DuBois quoted Copeland: "Earth First and Earth Liberation Front are the two most notorious for targeting banks and corporations who support non-environmentally friendly projects and animal research. They are becoming increasingly more violent and target local causes. These groups need to be watched closely."
DuBois pointed out the recent rash of new homes that were burned in the Phoenix area a couple of years ago. She said that is an example of environmental terrorism.
She said she also learned the FBI is currently tracking three militia groups in Arizona. A fourth group is expected to move into the state from California, she said, adding she was not at liberty to identify any of the groups.
DuBois said speakers stressed the need for more human intelligence and less electronic intelligence gathering and the need to share intelligence information.
She said the featured speaker, Robert Steele, a former covert agent for the military, said the devastation at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 might have been minimized, if not averted, had intelligence information been shared.
DuBois reported Steele said the pilots who hijacked the planes made various mistakes while planning the attack, both in the United States and in foreign countries. Individually these mistakes were insignificant, but, when put together, had the intelligence been available, there could have been a different outcome, Steele said.
"When the World Trade Center was bombed the first time, the FBI made a huge mistake in not getting an apartment full of documents translated. They did not take bin Laden seriously. The United States must gain control of their borders as well as the interior, and the people advising our elected officials must get a grip on reality," Steele said, according to the report DuBois prepared about the conference.
In her report, DuBois wrote that, "... that all levels of law enforcement need to get serious across the board about gathering intelligence, logging it into a database and sharing the information between agencies. The biggest problem facing this concept seems to be the sharing of information in-house. In other words, departments within agencies don't talk to each other. That is where the sharing has to start ... Recommendations were also made that all areas and all levels of law enforcement need to institute, train in and follow an Incident Command System ... Emergency Management must get prepared with preplanning, training and exercises with all first responders, police, fire, emergency medical services, rescue teams, etc, participating for maximum effectiveness."
DuBois said she did not know how the information would be formally presented to other posse members and law enforcement agencies in Gila County. Her report is available to the posse members and law enforcement now, and she said the posse will meet at some point to discuss it.