Were Grocery Stores a Terrorist Target?

Discussion
Jun 09, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Investigators now say they have no evidence that men arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI about their involvement with al-Qaeda had specific plans to carry out an attack in
the U.S.


One of the men, 22-year-old American citizen Hamid Hayat, in previous reports was said to have admitted under questioning that he flew back to the U.S. after training in an al-Qaeda
camp in Pakistan for six months and pledging to carry out a terrorist attack with the most likely targets being a large hospital or grocery store.


The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the lawyer for Mr. Hayat, Wazhma Mojaddidi, said any suggestion his client was engaged in terrorism was a “false statement.”


Moderator’s Comment: Is the retail industry, specifically companies in the grocery channel, prepared to prevent and/or deal with a terrorist attack should
it take place in a store crowded with shoppers? Do you think stores will change their approach to security after the initial reports coming out of the alleged al-Qaeda case in
California?

George Anderson – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Were Grocery Stores a Terrorist Target?"


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Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I’ll try to stick with the questions.

1) Prevent or deal with a terrorist attack? No and yes. Retailers, like any other business, community or government agency, really can’t prevent a terrorist attack in all cases. They can, however, just like every community and government agency be prepared to respond. It’s a good thing that much of the focus since 9/11 has been in this area.

2) Do I think stores will change their approach? No. It’s very simple – once the mode has been exposed, you can work your prevention approach towards it. The terrorist simply takes a different tact.

Since 9/11, much has been done to ensure the lack of likelihood of a airliner being flown into a office tower. Who imagined it? The next attack will be equally, if not more, horrific. We can try, be aware and be alert. However, being right 100% of the time is a standard that the terrorists own the odds on.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I think we are all aware of the possibilities, and in a society such as ours there is little we can do, realistically, to prevent this if some determined and intelligent nut (and there are a lot of them) decides to attack a public place. If you can’t control it, and it’s beyond your personal sphere of influence, you can’t waste your time worrying. Hey, you could get hit by a meteor, too.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

The retail industry is not at all prepared to prevent or deal with terrorist attacks, and for the most part they don’t have to be. More than likely, a terrorist isn’t going to target a Staples in Peoria or a Starbucks in Austin. They will probably target a mall in a major metro region or a high profile store like Tiffany and Macy’s in NYC. These are the locations that need to plan for potential attacks.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 8 months ago

The retail industry is not prepared for such attacks – though I prefer to believe that high-profile retail spaces like Mall of the Americas has some kind of plan in place. But with the exception of high-profile places, retailers shouldn’t have to, beyond the normal ’emergency response’ plan. The price we pay for living in a free society is that there is the risk that some will take advantage of it to wreak havoc. It’s not retailers’ responsibility to protect against the minute, outside chance of a terrorist attack in a store. How can they do that and still welcome the overwhelming majority of people who are there to shop and buy? Homeland security belongs where it is today – with the government.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 8 months ago
I believe that many companies, especially food distribution companies, have policies in place to deter terrorist activities. Some of these policies are a direct result of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration bioterrorism regulations…other policies are a result of heightened awareness of the vulnerability of our supply chain. There are many companies in the retail industry that have crisis management plans in place that would be kicked into gear if needed. I do believe the industry is operating with more sensitivity towards the possibility of a horrific attack than we have in the past. I believe that the population in general is more aware of “odd activity” and is willing to say something about it. That is not to say – we are safe – well prepared – and rational. We’re not. But certainly I don’t believe the industry is facing a spurt of on-line shopping due to the San Francisco article. I do think that if the article hits the attention of retail management …there may be some heightened surveillance of in-store activity for… Read more »
George Anderson
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Doc – just passing the FBI’s clarification along. It was the agency, for legal reasons I’m sure, that changed its statement to take out the “certainty” of a planned attack.

My home is located 17 miles from where the World Trade Center stood. The seriousness of the issue needn’t be impressed upon me. Even now, I still can’t help but look for it whenever I’m flying in or out of Newark or driving on the Pulaski Skyway on my way to the city.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago
George misleads by beginning his comments with a report that investigators have not found evidence that the al-Qaeda arrestees here in NorCal “had specific plans to carry out an attack in the U.S.” This is misleading because it infers that unless specific plans are in place, alleged terrorists must be held harmless, and George supports it with a biased statement from the arrestees’ attorney printed in the decidedly left-wing San Francisco Chronicle. Why no supporting statement from the ACLU, George? Any search of Reuter’s or UPI regarding this issue will reveal the overwhelming level of evidence against these terrorist-based individuals that was sufficient to qualify for arrest warrants and bail denial in this, the most liberal court system in the U.S. Whew! That felt good! No offense, George, but the seriousness with which we approach this type of security issue sends a message to all of the “soft targets” in our country. If our approach is “they didn’t mean it,” then supermarkets, hospitals, and other targets tend to relax and delay implementation of real security… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

For what it’s worth, if supermarkets are truly concerned about this, they should contact their local fire departments and police departments. Ask if they can help you with what in their lingo will be pre-incident planning. They can help–trust me. I’m on my fire department up in a small town in Vermont, and while most of my work is chimney fires and pulling drunks out of cars after accidents, I’ve already had a fair amount of mandatory training on handling terrorism incidents. Okay, so we did horse around a bit about it. (Yeah, right, Osama’s gonna attack in Vermont). We also got trained enough so that we’d know where to start. And this is nationwide. I’d have to believe that the bigger the city, the more in-depth the training and resources. Frankly, I am sure fire departments would welcome the chance to work with supermarkets and others on pre-plans. We’ve always done pre-plans at potential serious fire locations; now we do it for this sort of stuff, too.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
Presumably some in the retail industry, at least, have got emergency plans at the ready but it would be foolish to publicise them and warn potential attackers in advance of what moves would be made against them. Equally, I’m sure there are many with no plans at all, skating along in the belief that it couldn’t happen to them. As no one knows who has plans and who doesn’t, shoppers will continue to take their lives in their hands every time they leave the house. Not that I think this will either stop the shoppers or inspire the shops. As for that specific report, whether or not the men involved had even the faintest idea of taking any kind of terrorist action, it seems that even the FBI had to admit there was no evidence that they were planning to attack shops in the immediate future. And as we all know, there are lots of crazies out there, not Muslims, not even of Middle Eastern descent, who are just as likely to get out their… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

I know that I’ve mentioned this book before, but if Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser is to be believed, the food distribution network in this country is the most vulnerable of all the internal systems in America today. When you consider that the unintentional spread of a small but hardy strain of e coli distributed to fast food restaurants throughout the country can make hundreds of people sick, what would happen if someone deliberately wanted to hurt us?

Because of politics and special interests, the book highlights how the FDA has been neutered, and millions of Americans are being put at risk daily by those who produce and sell the food we eat. It makes me think that the terrorists can simply leave us alone and let us destroy ourselves.

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