We’ve established that the context for insider attacks is the Proxemic Pull – the approaching attacker.  We covered that. But when we look at Green-on-Blue attacks, the observations we are going to make are going to be grounded in the nonverbal cues – the clusters.  This is what is going to make the attacker stand out from the baseline and let us identify him hiding in the crowd.

The four body language clusters that we will look at are the ones that we can directly tie to the body’s freeze, flight or fight response to stress.  I’d recommend that you take a look at the two articles that discuss these clusters if you aren’t familiar with them yet:

Understanding Body Language: Dominant vs. Submissive

Understanding Body Language: Uncomfortable vs. Comfortable

There is of course no one cue that is guaranteed to be an infallible sign that a threat might be present, every situation is going to be different, but let’s look at why we might see the various clusters.

 The Dominant Cluster

Looking back on the post “Finding Common Ground,” remember that these attacks are often personal in nature, which could lead the attacker to betray his intentions by showing elements of rage. The dominant cluster is the body’s manifestation of the fight response and they may start to display these cues as their body prepares for the upcoming fight.  Especially on a military base, there is sure to be a certain degree of dominance that is naturally displayed, especially from the officers, SNCOs, etc., but that should be part of your baseline.  We are looking for the signs that go beyond authority and power, but preparing for the attack.

The Submissive Cluster

If a potential attacker is worried that showing Dominant cues will cause them to get caught before they get to their target, they may go overboard trying to not show aggression and give off the cues from the submissive cluster.

Think about a time when you were pulled over in your car by a cop where you knew you did something wrong.  How long did it take for you to become the most respectful person in the world? “Yes sir” “No sir.” “I promise to never do it again, sir.”  You might take on a submissive posture to show that you are sorry, you won’t do it again, etc. if you think it is your best chance of getting out of a ticket.

The submissive cluster is the absence of the fight response and could let you know that someone is trying to hide something.  For the Alpha-males out there reading this and saying: “That would never be me! I would tell the cop that I wasn’t speeding and fight back at the even the hint that I was about to get a speeding ticket,” that’s fine too.  Keep in mind the response to the threat is going to be unique to you, it is why we look at dominant AND submissive cues that deviate from the baseline.

The Uncomfortable Cluster

You might see elements of the Uncomfortable Cluster in a person less confident in their attack.  I say less confident because they might be nervous they are going to get caught before they get to the target, worried that they will fail, worried about what will happen to their family, worried what it is going to feel like to get shot once the attack begins, etc.

This would be in stark contrast to the aggression of the dominant cluster.  That nervous or anxious energy could manifest itself on the body in Pacifying Behavior, or even in verbal cues such as a high rate of speech if you are talking to them.  Because this is the way the body displays the flight response, look for cues that show they are either nervous (wanting to leave) or protecting themselves (such as establishing barriers.)

Just like the dominant cues, there is a certain degree of discomfort to be expected on a military base.  Someone is always just about to get yelled at.  No patrol is ever perfect and a soldier might be nervous about getting called out during the patrol after action review.  A moderate level of discomfort is probably part of your baseline as well, but don’t hesitate to contact someone if you think the pacifying behavior you are observing warrants further attention.

The Comfortable Cluster

The Comfortable cluster should very often be the baseline for a FOB unless there are high tensions between the Afghan and American Security Forces. The FOB is an anchor point for soldiers or Marines; it is a place where they are in relative safety because not everyone is let in.  This characteristic of a base removes most of the fear and threats that a deployed soldier could be exposed to (obviously this is relative to the environment they are in).  Without any threats being present, the body will be in the Comfortable cluster, and will often be the baseline for the FOB.   But like every cluster, it has to be taken in context – if a person is getting screamed at and shows no sign of transitioning from comfort to another cluster, that could be an indicator that there is something off as well.

Keep In Mind…

Assigning someone to one of these clusters does not make them an anomaly, people cycle through all of these clusters on a normal day.  This is a part of normal life.  However, these clusters are only the “observation” portion of the process and are focused on the science behind behavioral analysis.  Once you have accurately classified someone as exhibiting these cues, you then have to determine if that cluster of behavior fits the baseline or not.  That is where the analysis, your judgment and your experience comes into play.

Bringing This Behavior To The Forefront

Remember any body language that is to considered universal and uncontrollable is a result of the Limbic System.  It is up to this survival part of our brain that is constantly searching the world for threats to decide if there is a reason to be concerned or not.  If someone doesn’t perceive a threat (like getting caught before they conduct their attack) they won’t give off any cues that could alert you.

I usually refrain from talking tactics because tactics change from situation to situation whereas principles are more consistent and can be applied to the changing conditions, but let me use one example here to highlight how you can create the conditions necessary for a person getting ready to conduct an attack to exhibit these cues.

On a deployment to Iraq, my company was partnered with an Iraqi police unit. We were on the same camp, which was small, but we were billeted on opposite sides of the outpost and there was a dirt berm dividing the camp with a single break in the berm that was to be used as the path to move back and forth.  (The camp was originally much smaller and later expanded to house the Iraqi police).

That one break in the berm created a choke point that every Iraqi police officer had to walk through as they came to our side of the camp.  What the choke point offers is a single place to observe people coming and going into an area.  By concentrating people through a single point of entry, there will be more people available to observe and help you establish a baseline, and also help you identify the anomalies.

Maybe you assign a Marine or Solider to stand at the choke point when you know the ANSF are coming to a briefing.  That person doesn’t have to intrusively search everyone, but maybe he shakes hands, hugs the ANSF, etc., but also serves as a barrier that everyone has to get through.  That Marine becomes a visible sign of authority and can increase the risk inside the mind of an attacker.

If he is worried that when shakes the hand of the guard, the Marine will see the concealed weapon or feel the grenade in his pocket, and his behavior will likely start to change as he gets nervous.  That setting might not work for the FOB that you are on overseas, but I wanted to bring up the point that without any perception of a threat, there will likely not be the cues you need to get Left of Bang.

Final Thoughts

This is just one example and I challenge you to find as many creative ways to set the same conditions for someone to stand out from the baseline without doing anything to strain the relationship between your partnered forces.  There might be a time when you have to take more aggressive action in order to preserve your own security, but you don’t want to burn that bridge until you have to.  Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism are a thinking man’s game – get creative.

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(This series of posts has been edited and expanded upon in the ebook)