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To Report A Suspected Terrorist or Terrorist Activity
by e-mail at https://www.ifccfbi.gov/complaint/terrorist.asp
by phone to the nearest FBI Field Office at





This purpose of this pamphlet is to inform you and your family about terrorism and measures you can take to reduce your personal vulnerability. Historically, Americans normally worried about terrorism when traveling abroad. However, with the recent examples of terrorist violence in the United States such as the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, we now know that terrorism can strike here at home as well. Hopefully, the information in this pamphlet will help you avoid becoming a victim of a terrorist incident.




Placing the Threat in Perspective

Crime Prevention and Terrorism

Protective Measures

Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Traveling Abroad

Away From Home

Hostage Survival

Living With the Threat


Traveling to and living in foreign lands can be a rich and rewarding experience. Whether Service members, family members, DOD civilians or contractors, we are afforded opportunities many Americans could never even imagine. The odds are your experiences will be incident free, and your chances of losing valuables or having to cope with an unexpected illness or injury is far greater than becoming a victim of violence.

Americans, especially those in uniform, must be careful when traveling abroad - but no more so than if we were passing through a high crime area any large city in the United States. Just as you would take steps to protect yourself and your family from the ordinary criminal here, you should take similar steps to defend against the criminal, and the terrorist, overseas. You can narrow the chances of becoming a victim even further through increased awareness of potential problems and careful planning.



The Terrorists - Generally speaking, terrorists are dedicated people who believe they are participants in a dynamic social or political process. However, these people cannot achieve the changes they desire through the normal political process and inevitably resort to violence.

You will find that terrorism is the stock in trade of all extremist ideologies, whether on the far left or the far right.

Terrorist Objectives - The common strategy of all terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draw the attention of the people, the government, and the world to their cause. The terrorists plan their attack to obtain the greatest publicity, choosing targets that symbolize what it is against they are fighting.

Terrorist Tactics - Terrorist operations are planned and carried out with considerable expertise. Terrorists seek to exploit the target's vulnerabilities and minimize their own risk.

For the most part, terrorist acts are limited to six basic forms: bombings, assassinations, armed assaults, kidnapping, barricade and hostage situations, and hijackings. Bombings are the most common.

The operations themselves are normally meticulously planned, allowing for the greatest chance of success and the safe escape of the terrorists.



Acts of terrorism are usually performed to provoke overreaction, produce widespread fear, and attract the attention of the media. These acts are, in effect, "theaters of violence."

Sensationalized by media coverage, terrorism has caused many of us to become fearful of overseas travel. But, is this fear truly justified?

No one is immune to terrorism, anymore than we are immune to ordinary criminal violence. However, the vast majority of foreign countries have a very good record of maintaining public order and protecting residents and visitors from terrorism and crime. The simple fact is, you are more likely to be involved in a serious traffic accident than an act of terrorism.

We are not defenseless against terrorism anymore than we are against ordinary criminals. The United States has devoted considerable resources to protect its citizens, in and out of uniform. Moreover, you personally can take positive steps to deter the terrorist.

Alert, aware people who are prepared for the threat and have minimized the likelihood they will fall prey to terrorists and other criminals are often too difficult a target. In the long run, if you adopt some of the pointers in this pamphlet, you can truly enjoy your travels wherever they may take you.

A positive mental attitude is the key.


Although the threat of terrorism may seem overwhelming, the truth is, the steps you would take in a simple personal crime prevention program apply to the terrorist as well. The best advice in an area of the world subject to terrorist activity is to view your situation as if you were passing through or living in a high crime urban environment and act accordingly.

Learn about your destination - the culture, language, local customs, history of criminal activity and local laws. This can be done by consulting your library, a travel agent, airline or tourist offices, or talking to people who have been there.

Once you arrive, become familiar with your environment. Know what is normal in order to detect the unusual. Remember, terrorists as well as ordinary criminals need information to plan and execute a successful operation. Through surveillance, they hope to learn your habits and assess where you are vulnerable. By taking some basic security precautions, you not only disrupt their intelligence gathering efforts, but in so doing demonstrate vigilance and a genuine concern for security.

Consult your local law enforcement office on how to protect your home, your car, and your family in general from crime. Local crime prevention programs, neighborhood watch, and other activities are excellent ways to ward off potential problems.

Don't leave your crime prevention attitude at home. When you are traveling, officially or on leave, just out shopping, and even at the office, remaining cautious and alert can often be a lifesaver. Don't limit crime prevention to just yourself. Involve the family. Most important of all - practice crime prevention. Just knowing what to do is not enough. As with anything you want to do well, you must continually reinforce what you have learned.



Normal common sense should prevail when traveling abroad, just as it would at home. We cannot hope to list every possible circumstance or every possible precaution in this publication. But, the pointers provided in this pamphlet may help you avoid becoming an "American target of opportunity." They are a collection of ideas gathered from considerable research and experience. Use them as a foundation and apply the same principles to situations not specifically addressed here.

Remember three basic rules

Be Alert

Keep a Low Profile

Be Unpredictable

Be alert to your surroundings; know and respect local customs and laws. Be inconspicuous; do not call undue attention to yourself. When possible, try to be unpredictable; vary days and times of activities and routes you regularly travel.

Being informed is also important. Be aware of any potential problems in areas where you might be traveling or assigned. Your own personal security consciousness and precautions should increase as the situation warrants.


Consider the criminal or terrorist potential in otherwise ordinary activities.

- Never admit strangers without proper identification into your residence.

- Refuse all unordered packages.

- Don't give out unnecessary information over the phone.

- Keep a low profile and don't advertise your military affiliation.

- Dress and behave conservatively. Avoid styles that don't fit in the local area, military accessories or military styled clothing.

- Similarly, when traveling, avoid military style luggage such as B-4 bags - use nondescript civilian luggage.

- Remove military decals, name tags, or other military ID from your luggage and briefcase.

- Don't wear flashy, trendy, or faddish apparel that attracts unwanted attention.

- Avoid typically American items such as cowboy boots or baseball caps - try to blend in.

- Be polite and low key. Avoid loud conversations and arguments.

It is important to put your personal affairs in order. An up-to-date will, power of attorney, and other measures will ensure your family's financial security. Above all else. Remain Alert. Look for and report any suspicious persons or activities to police officials.


Before You Go:

Know exactly where you are going and what stops you'll make along the way.

- Try to book a non-stop direct flight to your destination. The fewer stops and plane changes, the better.

- Buy your tickets and pick them up in advance - not at the airport. Ask for a window seat near the center of the plane.

- Avoid known "hot spots." If possible, use military air, military charter, or US flag carriers.

- Purchase some local currency for use immediately after you arrive for taxis, tips, meals, etc.

Travel light.

- Pack only what you need and nothing more. Carry only essential items on your person such as passport, military ID, driver's license, etc. If you or other family members must take regular medication, take an ample supply, a copy of your prescription, or a statement from your physician explaining the need for such medication (especially if it is a controlled substance like barbiturates).

- Know the generic name so you can reorder abroad if your specific brand is unavailable (or carry generic medication).

- If you wear eye glasses or contact lenses, carry a copy of the prescription and lens care materials.

At the Airport:

Arrive early.
Don't loiter around the ticket counter, baggage check-in, or the security screening area. Pass through security as quickly as possible and go to the boarding area. If you want to use shops, restaurants, and lounges, do so in the security area, not the main terminal.

Stay alert.
Don't casually discuss your military affiliation with anyone. Report any suspicious activity to airport security officials and beware of unattended luggage.

Be extremely observant of personal carry-on luggage. Thefts of briefcases designed for laptop computers are increasing at airports worldwide; likewise, luggage not properly guarded provides an opportunity for a terrorist to place an unwanted object or device in your carry-on bag. As much as possible, do not pack anything you cannot afford to lose; if the documents are important, make a copy and carry the copy.

Once in the air, continue to be alert and immediately report anything suspicious to one of the crew members.

If the plane is hijacked:

- Above all else, Remain Calm.

- Be polite and cooperate.

- Be aware that not all of the hijackers may reveal themselves initially, hoping to draw out security personnel or overhear conversations that reveal useful passengers.

- A tourist passport is a nonmilitary travel document. Surrender it on demand and do not attempt to hide your identity with an elaborate story.

- Discreetly dispose of incriminating materials such as your military ID. If confronted, admit your military connection, explaining that you always travel on your personal passport and no deceit was intended.

- Don't draw attention to yourself, but be observant of activities around you and your captors.

- If a rescue attempt is made, drop to the floor immediately and do not rise up until told to do so. Fully cooperate with your rescuers.

At the Hotel:

Upon arrival in-country, select a room between the second and eighth floors too high for easy access by criminals and low enough for fire equipment.

Early on, identify emergency exits and stairwells and know where to find and how to use fire extinguishers.

Consider ways to make your room more secure, and not advertise you are there.

When you leave your room, try to give it the appearance someone is still there. Hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door at all times.

Don't be a noisy American guest. Avoid frequent exposure on balconies and in windows and in using the lobby to conduct business or for lounging.

Be careful answering the door. Don't do so automatically. Check to see who it is first through the peep-hole or a side window. Answer the phone with a simple hello, not your name. Only allow people into your room whom you know or expect and refuse items or packages unless you are certain of the source.

Protect your valuables. Use the hotel safe. And when practical, keep your room key in your possession.


Host Country - Before leaving home, try to learn as much about the country you'll be visiting as possible. Try to understand the culture and customs. An informed visitor is a safe visitor. Recognize other nations may not have lifestyle and habits similar to your own and resist the temptation to make value judgments.

- Develop friendly relations with local nationals. If you do so, they can forewarn you about suspicious activities and sometimes even ward off impending attacks. They can also prevent you from making grave social errors that might offend other local nationals.

- Try to learn as much of the local language as possible, but especially key phrases such as "I need a doctor."

- Avoid becoming involved in local politics and steer clear of civil disturbances.

- Know how to use local telephones and keep sufficient pocket change on hand to use them.

- Try to blend in with your environment as much as possible. Rather than going to popular, American-frequented restaurants and bars, try the local pubs and eateries suggested by your local national friends.

- See the sights. Most major tourist sights are fine to visit. They have adequate security during normal hours, but again, don't loiter.

- Leave maps/guidebooks at home. Plan your route ahead of time and write down the directions.

Where to Live

- If you live off-base, consider the criminal and terrorist threat.

- Remember, well designed and managed apartment complexes or clusters of like homes offer natural security advantages.

- Avoid dead-end streets or cul-de-sacs.

- Consider the route to work. Is there ample opportunity to vary your route? Are the roads reasonably well maintained and well traveled?

- If physically and financially possible, select a residence with clear approaches, more than one access road, and off-street parking.

Protecting Your Residence

- It is to your advantage to view your residence from a hostile perspective. Ask yourself, "how would I get in if I locked myself out without the keys? " Would it be easy? If so, it will be easy for the intruder as well.

Personally conduct an overall security survey considering the following:

- Improvements to lighting, doors, and door hardware (install deadbolt locks), windows and other sources of entry.

- Install wide-angle peep-holes in all entrances at a height each member of the family can use.

- Use timers on lights, radios, and other appliances while you're away.

- Prepare for possible power failure; have working flashlights, battery radios, candles, etc.

- If allowed, a dog is a good investment for intrusion detection and alarm.

- Develop friendly relations with your neighbors. They can be allies in a neighborhood security program.

Get to know other Americans living nearby and make arrangements to assist one another should the need arise. Keep an eye on the neighborhood. Report anything out of the ordinary.

- Restrict who has the keys and maintain an inventory. Make sure to lock all entrances at night or when you are away.

When you are away, leave the house with a lived-in appearance. Stop deliveries or direct them to a neighbor's home. Also notify the police or a trusted neighbor of your absence.

If you will have household help, check them out. Check their references. Insist they follow your rules.

Know and prominently display key emergency numbers such as local police, base security police, fire department, hospital, school, and reliable neighbors.

Consider establishing a "safe room" to retreat to in the event an intruder gets in your home. At a minimum it should be a walk-in closet or bath you can lock. Consider installing a phone and other items such as a fire extinguisher.

Know the firearm laws. In home defense, firearms can be as much a liability as an asset.

Keep an eye on the neighborhood. Report anything out of the ordinary.

Special Tips for Children

As best as you can, know where your children are, day and night.

Never leave young children alone or unattended Teach your children to protect themselves by being alert and aware.

- Age permitting, insist they know basic emergency telephone numbers. Try not to alarm them, but make sure they know basic "do's and don'ts."

- Avoid isolated streets or playgrounds.

- Play with groups of children.

- Avoid strangers. Refuse rides or accompanying them on foot.

- Report anything out of the ordinary and any attempt to molest or annoy them.

- Know how to contact the police or a neighbor in an emergency.

Children can be very reliable sources of information about the neighborhood and its inhabitants. Talk to them about neighborhood goings-on and try to interpret their stories to detect anything suspicious.

Regularly coach your children on general safety precautions.

Local Travel

When traveling or living overseas, consider how your automobile fits into your plans.

- Think seriously about the wisdom of taking an American-made automobile to a country where they are rare.

- As a rule, your car should be common to the locale, and well maintained and equipped. Don't display decals or stickers that say "An American drives this car," or if only briefly visiting the area and you rent or lease, do so only from a reputable company. Check the car thoroughly and refuse it if common safety features are neglected.

Before entering your vehicle, take the time to inspect it for tampering (scarring, wire, dents, etc.), or for any unexplained objects. If anything looks "fishy," do not investigate further and do not get - Call the Police!

While driving, keep the windows shut, lock the doors, use your seat belts, and pay attention to what's going on around you. Understandably, in some countries rolling up the windows is undesirable because of the climate and most local autos do not have air conditioning. However, if in a high threat area, a little discomfort may be worth the price. Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. Select well-traveled routes and vary them, but avoid constricted thoroughfares or other potentially dangerous areas .

Know where " safe havens" are along your route, such as police stations, hospitals, government buildings, or other places where you can take refuge and get help.

- If you feel you are being followed, go to one of the safe havens. Do not drive home under surveillance.

When not in use, your car should be locked, garaged if possible, or parked in a well-lighted area.

When using Commercial Transportation:

- Vary your mode of travel, for example, between buses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation. - Select busy stops and choose your own cab, not one picked out for you by a stranger.

Check the cab and driver. Is the cab licensed and does it have minimum safety equipment such as seat belts? Do the driver and the photo on the license match?

When out Shopping:

- Avoid going out alone; travel in groups and in civilian attire.

- Avoid poorly lit streets and narrow alleys. Minimize your night travel as much as possible.

- Don't discuss personal matters such as travel plans, your job, or your spouse's with people you don't know.

- And as always, keep a low profile and stay alert.

Additional Useful Tips:

When traveling, avoid carrying possible controversial material such as gun magazines, religious books, pornography, or magazines that can offend or antagonize.

Examine your luggage when your bags arrive at the pick-up point. Use locks and make sure they haven't been tampered with. If so, contact the airport police.

Always look for the suspicious and make mental notes of the dress, appearance and behavior of persons acting strangely.

Report anything suspicious. It is better to be embarrassed by a false alarm than not report a potentially dangerous situation.

On board your plane, mentally note the other passengers and check the area immediately surrounding your seat.

Know where help can be found, namely US military installations, the American embassy or consulate, or even American businesses that can offer assistance.


It is unlikely you'll ever be taken captive; but if the unlikely does occur, remember the following:

- Stay in control. Regain your composure as soon as possible and face your fears. Your captors are as nervous as you are, so what you do is important.

- Do not irritate your abductors. Develop a positive relationship and portray yourself as a human being deserving respect.

-- This will ease your own burden and can result in better treatment.

-- If your captors come to regard you in this light, it will be more difficult to mistreat you. Share photos or mementos that will reinforce your human qualities.

- Stay active. Exercise daily, read anything and everything, write if permitted, and establish some form of routine lending normalcy to your daily living. Eat what is offered. Maintain your strength and health.

- If interrogated, adopt a simple, tenable position and stick to it.

- Be polite, give short answers, talk freely about unimportant matters, but guarded when subjects become sensitive.

- If your captors wish to photograph you, let them. This will confirm you are alive and give some idea of your condition.

Should a rescue attempt be made, drop to the floor and remain there. Do whatever your rescuers tell you to do. If released, and others remain behind, bear in mind derogatory remarks may make things harder for those still held hostage Any escape attempt should be made only after careful consideration of the risks, chances of success, and detrimental effects on detainees left behind.


We live with many dangers in our daily lives, ranging from everyday household accidents to natural disasters. We do so without relentless fear. Just as we face the possibility of having our homes burglarized in the United States, we might also face similar crimes abroad. We know this and prepare for it.

Terrorism is a fact of contemporary life, but we do not have to live in constant fear of terrorism anymore than other dangers. It is important to be aware of the threat and take steps to protect ourselves, but it is also important to keep the threat in perspective.

Enjoy your travels overseas. They are experiences to be savored for a lifetime.

July 1996

For additional information contact your


Assistant Secretary of Defense:
(Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict)
The Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-2500
(703) 693-2898
DSN: 223-2898

The Joint Staff:
Attn: J38/SOD
Room 2C840, The Pentagon
Washington DC 20318
(703) 697-2231
DSN: 227-2231

Headquarters Department of the Army
400 Army, The Pentagon
Washington DC 20310
(703) 695-8491
DSN: 225-8491

Chief of Naval Operations (N()~)N3)
Washington Navy Yard
Washington DC 20388-5384
(202) 433-9119
DSN: 288-9119

Air Force:
Headquarters US Air Force
Security Police Operations
1340 Air Force Pentagon
Washington DC 20330-1340
(703) 588-0019
DSN: 425-0019

Marine Corps:
Headquarters USMC
2 Navy Annex
Washington DC 20380-1775
(703) 614-2180
DSN: 224-2180

Reprinted as a Public Service

    Editor's Note:

Although originally written for members of the US Armed Forces and their family members, the above article still provide timely and appropriate information about terrorism and appropriate personal response to acts of terrorism. After the September 11th incident, however, the advice to "be polite and cooperate" is possibly not the best advice in every situation that might involve being a passenger on a hijacked airplane. 

The following excerpt of advice from a commmercial airplance pilot was supposed to have happened basically as remembered and written by a passenger aboard the flight.



Something to think about and something to look at ourselves from the outside in.

Worth repeating

Over the airplane's public-address system came a most incredible announcement from the captain of United Flight 564 as it was about to pull out of the gate at Denver International Airport last Saturday, writes Peter Hannaford, a public-affairs consultant in Washington and former adviser to President Reagan.

"I want to thank you brave folks for coming out today," the pilot began.
"We don't have any new instructions from the federal government, so from now now, we're on our own."

The passengers listened in total silence. "Sometimes a potential hijacker will announce that he has a bomb. There are no bombs on this aircraft and if someone were to get up and make that claim, don't believe him. If someone were to stand up, brandish something such as a plastic knife and say, 'This is a hijacking' or words to that effect, here is what you should do: "Every one of you should stand up and immediately throw things at that person - pillows, books, magazines, eyeglasses, shoes - anything that will throw him off balance and distract his attention. If he has a confederate or two, do the same with them. Most important: get a blanket over him, then wrestle him to the floor and keep him there. We'll land the plane at the nearest airport and the authorities will take it from there.

"Remember, there will be one of him and maybe a few confederates, but there are 200 of you. Now, since we're a family for the next few hours, I'll ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, tell them a little about yourself and ask them to do the same."

The end of this remarkable speech, Mr. Hannaford says, brought sustained clapping from the passengers.

Rod Edmiston

Reprinted as a Public Service