'Eagle Eyes' Teaches Pentagon Personnel to Be on the Lookout
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2003 Several plastic containers and what appeared to be a timing device were found near a military checkpoint at the Pentagon yesterday, arousing the suspicion of a passer-by.
Soon afterward, members of the Arlington Fire Department and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency were on the scene. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations was contacted.
Alert notices sent out over e-mail and the Pentagon's emergency communications system informed those in the immediate area of what action to take.
The containers turned out to be nothing more than cleaning tools left behind by a vendor who'd been in the Pentagon to disinfect bathrooms.
Although the scare caused quite a bit of confusion, the passer-by did the right thing, said Tom Smith, a retired NYPD detective who now commands Detachment 344 of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
In light of what happened Sept. 11, 2001, "we don't dismiss anything -- we can't afford to," Smith said. Part of the mission of his six-man detachment is to help protect the 20,000 military and civilian personnel who work at the Pentagon.
Smith seems to take such incidents personally, no matter how frivolous. Which is why today in the Pentagon auditorium, he and his team met with workers to clue them in on "Eagle Eyes," a program created by the Air Force that has become the Defense Department's "Neighborhood Watch" program.
Eagle Eyes teaches military personnel and civilian employees to be on the watch for, and to report, suspicious activities of people they suspect may be:
o Surveying the workplace or monitoring activities using cameras and video.
o Trying to gain information about military operations, capabilities or people.
o Testing security measures, attempting to measure reaction times or to penetrate security barriers.
o Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, uniforms, decals, passes or badges.
o Taking notice of people who don't seem to fit in the workplace, neighborhood or business establishment.
Finally, Smith said, pay special attention to any threat received by any means that contains a specific time, location or place.
He told the audience not to be inhibited about reporting what might turn out to be innocent behavior. "You don't know it's innocent until you report it," he said. "We're much less concerned about too much reporting than too little. When lives are at stake, it's better to be safe than sorry."
He said he's not sure what effect Eagle Eyes has had on Pentagon security, but he believes that having everyone be more aware of what's going on around them is an effective counterterrorism measure.
"From active-duty military to family members to government contractors, anyone could see something out of the ordinary. Report it, and make a difference between a terrorist act occurring or not occurring," Smith said.
That, he said, would be a constant reminder to would-be terrorists -- among the more than 20,000 people working in the Pentagon, someone is likely to be watching.