Arlington to participate in massive terrorism exercise

Photo from Urban Shield Exercise in San Francisco - Reuters

Tactical units and first response teams throughout Dallas-Fort Worth will soon participate in the same terrorist preparation exercise implemented in Boston, Mass., only months before the Boston Marathon bombing.

The Arlington Police Department – along with more than 50 first response teams from 16 North Texas counties -- will train in a "multi-disciplinary, full-scale" exercise called Urban Shield on Nov. 9 and 10.

Urban Shield is being coordinated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

The NCTCOG is a “regional” government whose representative body is made up of self-appointed city councilmembers, county commissioners, and mayors.

“This exercise is designed to assess the region’s ability to successfully respond to and manage multiple terrorist events and other emergencies occurring simultaneously throughout the region,” NCTCOG explains through its website.

Urban Shield features different mass casualty incidents and terrorist episodes distributed amongst 14 locations in DFW. Response teams will rotate through scenarios specific to their purpose.

In “central areas” of DFW, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams will train in scenarios which include multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a school environment, an IED in a HAZMAT environment, and a vehicle-borne IED.

Police tactical teams will rotate through seven scenarios at seven different exercise sites on both the east and west side of DFW. Among other exercises, SWAT teams will train in domestic and international terrorist incidents, active shooter situations, and mass transportation incidents.

Once finished, participating SWAT teams will convene at a central location for a massive exercise where “east and west (will) work together.”

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) teams will train in multiple scenarios including an “active shooter incident on a school campus resulting in mass casualties.”

Also involved in the Urban Shield exercise is the Department of Homeland Security’s data-gathering facilities called Fusion Centers. The purpose of their involvement is concealed, however.

“The Fusion working group will be involved in the exercise; however, at this time no other information is available in order to protect the integrity of the exercise,” a NCTCOG memo reads.

Fusion Centers were created to collect, analyze, and share data about potential terrorist threats in urban areas. An NBC investigative report published in Oct. 2012 found that these centers waste millions of dollars by spying on ordinary citizens and do little to contribute to counter-terrorism efforts.

An NCTCOG spokesperson for the exercise, Brandi Lara, would not provide any details about where the training exercises will occur or the details of each scenario.

“Giving out information that is protected by law is not something I’m willing to do,” Lara said in a phone conversation.

The Urban Shield program is marketed by a company called Cytel Group, which the NCTCOG is paying an unspecified amount of money to consult and plan its North Texas exercise.

Cytel Group conducted the same Urban Shield exercise in Boston six months prior to the Boston Marathon bombing.

On its website, Cytel Group boasts how well the program served Boston before, during, and after the attacks.

However, what happened in Boston immediately after the bombing has been equated by some to “martial law.”

According to a report by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Administration, in the “man-hunt” that followed, Boston and six surrounding communities with a total population of more than one million were locked down. 

Businesses were closed and all public transportation services were shut down. Residents were told to stay in their homes and only answer the door for law enforcement.

Numerous photos and videos surfaced of SWAT teams and paramilitary police units raiding homes and removing people at gunpoint to conduct warrant-less searches.

Mine-resistant armor-plated vehicles patrolled streets. One iconic photo that later surfaced was of an officer in one such vehicle pointing a rifle directly at the person taking the photo.

In an op-ed penned shortly after the incident, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) called the response a “military-style takeover” of Boston.

The owner of Cytel Group, James Baker, took a passive stance to the response in Boston.

“I’m not supporting it and I’m not denouncing it,” Baker told the Arlington Voice. “I’m not worried about the SWAT guy with a gun. I’m more interested in the hundreds of people that are alive today because the system worked.”

Baker said his company simply puts on the training and doesn’t have any say in the response.

“I’m a training company that puts on training,” Baker said. “I don’t tell the region how to actively respond. We only ensure they are prepared to respond to any circumstance.

“The bottom line is that we, as a government, want to make sure our citizens are safe.”

The Arlington City Council will be briefed on the Urban Shield exercise next Tuesday. According to a staff report, one of the exercises will occur at 810 Mosier Valley Road.

A roster of participants shows that Arlington will participate in every Urban Shield activity.

Editor's note: the roster of participants was removed from the NCTCOG website shortly after the Arlington Voice contacted them. It is now made available through the Arlington Voice website.

(Photo -- courtesy of Reuters -- shows a SWAT team participating in the Urban Shield exercise in San Francisco.)