Hello. This is Robert Kravitz. I’m a writer for the security industry. And this is another one in our series of Conversations with TAL Global.
Today we have a very distinguished guest. Dr. Errol Southers is the Managing Director of TAL Global. He’s going to be talking with us today about political extremism, something many of us are getting genuinely concerned about in this country.
The video and transcript are below
Before we begin or Conversations with TAL Global, Erroll, could you just tell us a little more about yourself?
Sure, Robert. Thank you for having me today. As you mentioned, I’m the managing director of TAL Global. I’ve been with Tal Global now for twelve years.
I come to them from three different law enforcement agencies:
- The Santa Monica Police Department
- The FBI, where I work for encounter intelligence and terrorism
- The Los Angeles Airport Police Department, where I was in charge of Homeland security and intelligence.
I also served in Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration, where I was responsible for critical infrastructure protection and for the Office of Homeland Security for the State. I’ve also been a professor at the University of Southern California for 18 years.
So, Erroll, I have some questions for you. Political extremism is now such a major part of this country. I’m wondering, how did we arrive at this place? What’s going on? What’s behind all this?
Robert, that’s a great question. And I would remind our viewers that over 25 years ago, there was something called the Department of Justice Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee. As coincidence would have it, they were scheduled to meet on 9/11 in 2001. And needless to say, did not meet that day. [That] meeting was canceled when the attacks occurred, and they didn’t meet again for another 13 years.
They finally met quarterly in the last two years of the Obama administration.
And then in the following [Trump] administration, there was a shift from the domestic focus to more of the international focuses that are related to Islamists. But three months after Merrick Garland was sworn in as Attorney General, we had the nation’s first national strategy for countering domestic terrorism.
So, what this means is we had a threat of political extremism on our radar screen after Oklahoma City, and we pivoted after 9/11, and for a good reason, to the international threat and took our eye off the ball. Meanwhile, this [internal] movement continued to grow and continue to organize. And now, of course, with social media and network capabilities and connectivity, it’s metastasized into where we are today.
This is being recorded on Monday, November 7, and tomorrow is the election. So, I mean, we couldn’t pick a better time for this discussion on political extremism. What can we do as citizens of this country to mitigate this political violence and extremism?
Well, the first thing we can do is exactly what you’re doing here, educate people and make them more aware that this threat [political extremism] exists. One of the challenges that I encounter when I’m out speaking to people about political extremis, especially faith-based groups, who are in larger numbers each year being attacked by extremists. In that regard, when I talk to those groups, they have no knowledge of the number of attacks or the number of plots, or the frequency in which they’re happening in their own neighborhoods.
Education and awareness are actually critical when dealing with political extremism. The other piece to that is to understand that they can be a part of the solution. As the Department of Homeland Security says, see something, say something really works. And we have thwarted several plots in the country because people have seen something, heard something that didn’t seem right.
But we’re so hesitant to call because everyone is so sensitive to, well, I don’t want to call about this person because they might think that I’m profiling them, or they might think that they might think I’m a racist. No, you need to call. You need to call and relay what you hear and leave it to the professionalism of our law enforcement agencies to figure it out.
TAL Global does a lot of work with executive security, protecting executives and their families, and celebrities. How does political extremism impact VIPs?
Well, Robert, executive security is expanding rapidly. In fact, I’m at the University of Southern California, and we may be the first, if not only, university in the country that has our own office now of executive protection as it relates to some of our students, as it relates to some people who visit our university. We routinely have secretaries from the administration. We have generals that come here and other VIPs.
But what I see most importantly is an increase in security concerns by elected officials and not just those in Washington, but local officials. And, of course, we have the threat, as you and I are speaking right now in real-time, of poll workers around the country who are being threatened. So executive security and protection are increasing. We are seeing that celebrities, and not just celebrities but CEOs of major firms, are engaging in executive protection.
Now, as a routine, there are several organizations, or I should say companies out there like ours, that do this. And the calls for assistance, the calls for protection, the calls for protection of their homes and their families and their travel are increasing all the time because people are concerned, as we are able to know who people are and where they live a lot easier now. Those concerns are really exacerbated by the fact that someone may show up on their front lawn or at their workplace that’s uninvited, intending to do them harm. Interested?
Do you have anything more you’d like to share with our viewers regarding political extremism?
I would just say that people need to be very aware of the fact that misinformation and disinformation is the reason that this is happening. As a result, it’s showing a lot of mistrust in our electoral process and in our government. People should really be deliberate about where they get their information. As you and I both know, a lot of it’s coming from social media. And as we used to say in the intelligence community, just remember, the first bit of intel that you get is usually incorrect. And if you operate on that premise and ask questions, I think you’ll be better off. So as people try to educate themselves and make themselves more aware, they really need to vet their sources of information. We live in an echo chamber now we live in an echo chamber where people hear what they want to hear and read what they want to read, along with the fact that we have now so normalized violence. That is a very disturbing trend we’re seeing here that we used to look at from afar to our allies overseas, and now it’s happening right here at home.
Erroll, you’re terrific and very insightful. Thank you so much for letting us talk to you today. Thank you.
Thank you for having me. And I hope that people do get to hear this message. Talk to you soon.