Don’t be a bystander, report suspicious activity

By Stephanie IngersollAugust 27, 2020

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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Threats can lurk almost anywhere – in person and online – and observant Soldiers, Families and community members are often the first line of defense against violent extremism and those who may be thinking about carrying out an attack.

Remaining vigilant against terrorism always is important, as is taking the time to learn about the most common kind of threats, what signs to look for and how to report them to proper authorities, said Bill Fedak, Fort Campbell installation antiterrorism officer.

“Antiterrorism awareness empowers the entire Army – units, leaders, Soldiers, DA civilians, Families and contractors – to take prevention measures,” Fedak said.

Everyone can act as sensors in the community by being aware of suspicious activity and reporting it.

The Army’s antiterrorism program is aimed at protecting people, information and facilities against terrorist activities. Heightened awareness can be the key to prevent acts of terrorism, Fedak said.

Violent extremism is defined by the FBI as “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social or economic goals,” he said. The distorted principles of violent extremists can be found in the United States and abroad.

“For example, many violent extremist ideologies are based on the hatred of another race, religion, ethnicity, gender, a country or government,” Fedak said. “Violent extremists often think that their beliefs or ways of life are under attack and that extreme violence is the only solution to their frustrations and problems. Despite what they sometimes say, violent extremists often do not believe in fundamental values like democracy, human rights, tolerance and inclusion. Violent extremists sometimes twist religious teachings and other beliefs to support their own goals.”

In recent years, he said, some individuals, especially younger offenders, mix multiple extremist ideologies to develop their own personalized justifications for violence. Elements of those ideologies may be opposed to one another and result in the extremist being drawn more to the violence than the ideology.

“Violent extremists have many distorted beliefs that they use to justify violence and hateful attacks,” Fedak said.

Examples of these distorted beliefs include white supremacy extremists who believe people of other races are inferior and should be killed; sovereign citizen extremists who believe the U.S government has no authority even though they live in the United States; environmental extremists who believe destroying property or even people is needed to protect the environment; militia extremists who have the distorted belief that the U.S. government is a threat to the people and should be opposed by force; religious extremists who believe violent attacks protect beliefs from the corrupting influence of certain people or countries; and anarchists who believe society needs no government or laws and violence is necessary to create such a society.

“Hate crimes are also a type of violent extremism,” Fedak said. “They are directed at a person or group of people because of their race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin or disability. These crimes can take many forms, such as burning down a religious building or threatening or injuring another person.”

The Army prohibits Soldiers from knowingly participating in extremist organizations or activities and offenders face administrative or judicial punishment, involuntary separation from the military or a bar to reenlistment.

“Prohibited activities include taking part in extremist-based rallies or public demonstrations, recruiting other Soldiers to join, and organizing a group or distributing literature for an extremist cause or activity,” Fedak said. “Commanders have authority to remove flags, symbols, posters and other displays that support extremist causes or promote these types of activities. Hence, the Army will not tolerate extremism in the ranks.”

The Soldiers, Families and civilians who work on the installation can play a part in thwarting violence by reporting suspicious activities.

“In our society, people have many ways to express their views and support peaceful change, but extremists use violence against certain groups, the government, and innocent people to advance their beliefs,” he said. “If you detect a ‘call to action’ from someone who appears to be an extremist, then report it. Don’t be a puppet or a bystander to such ill intentions. Don’t join these efforts to divide and destroy America.”

Extremists blame others for problems and use the blame game to recruit others with feelings of frustration to turn them into a group united by a sense of purpose, Fedak said.

“They often believe that someone or something, such as a certain race, religion or country is standing in the way of their happiness and success,” he said. “It enables extremists to invent an ‘enemy’ that must be destroyed. They ignorantly rationalize that violence seems like the best solution and even a moral duty.”

Investigations cannot be opened solely based on activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, including the freedom of speech and assemble lawfully, Fedak said.

“But individuals espousing their desire for perpetuating violent criminal actions in attempts to furthering an extreme ideology would definitely be of interest to local, state and federal law enforcement for looking into,” he said. “If someone holds extreme beliefs and then makes a claim to act upon them in any manner that would be harmful to property or others, then that is reportable.”

There has been a shift from in-person networks with local radicalizers to self-starting violent extremists inspired by online propaganda, Fedak said.

“The internet and social media allows individuals to encourage other like-minded individuals while they themselves remain anonymous and in the shadows without needing face-to-face meetings to espouse threats along the lines of their ideology,” he said. “People of all ages should be made aware of the power that the internet has to promote distorted beliefs that can pop up anywhere, in any number of chat groups and websites, freely accessible to millions, separated by sometimes thousands of miles.”

For more information about antiterrorism, visit