On 9/11, it is a somber time. You remember that day and all the death and destruction attached to it. It was a horrible day and I will never forget it. It is a memory that many of us in the security industry carry with us to our jobs both at home and abroad.
With that said, every year I try to shine a light on those stories and sacrifices that need some attention. I am a security contractor, and it seems that the private security sacrifice in this war or during 9/11 never gets the focus or respect it deserves. Most attention goes towards the civilians killed, or the military/police/firefighters killed, and other sites and news orgs out there always give attention to those sacrifices. Which is fine, but here on this blog, I feel it is equally as important to highlight the contractor sacrifices and heroism in this war.
For example, I have talked about Rick Rescorla and his heroic actions in the past, or all the private security contractors killed in the Twin Towers. This year, I would like to talk about Team Rescorla or the concept of red teaming in order to create or improve upon action plans.
Team Rescorla was an informal team that Rick Rescorla formed amongst fellow security consultants after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Rick formed this group to spit ball ideas about potential future attacks against the WTC, based on this attack. In the video below, they talk about how prophetic this team was in coming up with attack scenarios that could be devastating to the employees of Morgan Stanley.
What was interesting is Rick Rescorla reminds me of how Col. John Boyd would work with his Fighter Mafia friends to spitball ideas. Boyd was all about working with his team to bring up and refine ideas. Rick did the same thing with Team Rescorla and was constantly tapping into his human resource. One example of this was Rick and his conversations with Dan Hill, a special forces operative and fellow Vietnam Veteran who also fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russians. Dan was also a muslim convert and spoke arabic, something that was quite handy when trying to get into the mind of the jihadist back then. Rick used Dan’s knowledge of guerrilla warfare and terror tactics to think of a weakness of the WTC back in 1990. Here is a quote that sums up the point of the conversation.
Rescorla’s office at Dean Witter was in the World Trade Center. The firm, which merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997, eventually occupied twenty-two floors in the south tower, and several floors in a building nearby. Rescorla’s office was on the forty-fourth floor of the south tower. Because of Hill’s training in counterterrorism, in 1990 Rescorla asked him to come up and take a look at the security situation. “He knew I could be an evil-minded bastard,” Hill recalls. At the World Trade Center, Rescorla asked him a simple question: “How would you take this out?” Hill looked around, and asked to see the basement. They walked down an entrance ramp into a parking garage; there was no visible security, and no one stopped them. “This is a soft touch,” Hill said, pointing to a load-bearing column easily accessible in the middle of the space. “I’d drive a truck full of explosives in here, walk out, and light it off.
Of course, three years later the WTC was bombed, a prediction of Team Rescorla.
Another member of Team Rescorla was Fred McBee. Rick consulted with Fred after these attacks about the possibility of flying an aircraft into one of the towers at the WTC. Fred was able to use a flight simulator on his computer and show how it was possible to fly an aircraft into a building. According to the book Heart of a Soldier, this is how Team Rescorla spitballed the flying bomb theory.
Rescorla also enlisted Fred McBee, his friend from Oklahoma. He said he assumed the terrorist’s goal had been to take down the towers. Since a truck bomb had failed, what would they try next? Rescorla mused that a small, portable nuclear weapon might do it. Another possibility, he said, which he’d drawn from Hill’s plan to start World War III, was to fly a cargo plane into the building. McBee happened to have a Microsoft flight simulator on his computer at that moment. He’d been experimenting with it using a Cessna light plane, but with a click of the mouse he changed it to a Boeing 737. Then he pulled up the image of lower Manhattan and simulated a crash in the World Trade Center. “This would be a piece of cake,” McBee said. Then he tried it on the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, with the same results. Then he switched to Washington D.C. But the White House and Capitol were blacked out. “It looks very viable,” McBee concluded.
You get the picture that Rick really tapped into his team and what they could come up with. Constantly throwing out ideas and asking for input, with no idea too crazy. After all, terrorists had already struck the WTC once with a truck bomb, it could happen again but worse. Boy did it ever…
Also, for both the 93 and 01 attacks, Team Rescorla submitted their warnings to authorities. They mostly gaffed them off. Luckily for Morgan Stanley, Rick drilled and drilled the employees for just such another instance as what happened in 93. I am sure Rick consulted with Dan Hill on all aspects of the action plan, and called others for ideas. In the video below, they talk about all the upgrades done to the stairwell and the drilling procedures they went through to make evacuation more efficient. Team Rescorla knew this was going to happen again, and they were going to make sure that things were in place. Unfortunately another attack did happen, and everyone knows of those events on 9/11.
To sum up this post, I wanted to emphasize the power of having your own team, formal or not, to red team your security site defense or action plan. Having a group of folks that you trust, who will give you honest feedback, and who will really look at all the possibilities is key. One person cannot come up with everything, and it is important as a leader to really leverage any input you can get from your team or outside sources to either create a plan of action, or improve upon the current plan. And things are constantly changing, so the plan needs to constantly be evaluated and improved upon. Lives depend upon it, and it is that process that led to Rick Rescorla with the help of Team Rescorla, in saving 2,687 lives on 9/11. That is something to never forget. –Matt
The Rick Rescorla Memorial page.