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ASIS 2011, ORLANDO -- Security director has personal take on radical Islam, security

Michael Trapp

Prepare for the threats that are most likely to affect your business and facilities, not perceived threats, the director of a corporate security of an oil refining company warned ASIS attendees on Sept. 20.

Michael Trapp, currently the director of corporate security for Tesoro Companies, Inc. has a unique perspective in assessing threats to his facilities. Tesoro operates seven oil refineries in the Western U.S.

Trapp is a retired Air Force Colonel having served as commander of three Air Expeditionary Squadrons and the largest Air Expeditionary Group in US Central Command during four combat deployments in southwest Asia, where he acquired an in-depth knowledge of Islam and Islamic militants. He is also the former security forces director at Air Force Special Operations Command and chairman ASIS Chapter 92, in San Antonio, TX.

Trapp spoke during a Sept. 20 session at ASIS titled “10 years since 9/11, 1,389 years of Islam – what’s changed since 9/11?” He noted that becoming a victim of a terrorist attack in the U.S. is akin to being struck by lightning or being killed in a collision with a deer in a car. The chance is there, but it’s not a big one.

He said keeping corporate security personnel educated and alert is key to seeing threats and potentially dangerous, or disastrous, situations.  DHS’ “see something, say something” program may sound corny, but he said the technique works, even within corporate security plans. “Make 5,000 people responsible” for corporate security and it can have a big impact. Rote security exercises are often ineffective, he said. He noted that one Tesoro employee reported a small oil spill at the company’s Long Beach, CA facility where ten gallons had leaked into the water. The employee’s report prevented that small spill from ballooning into something a lot larger and a lot harder to clean up, he said.

Beyond his duties at Tesoro, Trapp brings a unique sensibility to discussions of the roots of radical Islam. His experience serving in Iraq showed him the stereotype of Islamist terrorists is just that, a stereotype. Radicalization’s roots run deep and are a complicated tangle of religion and social issues. For instance, he said literacy rates are extremely low in some Muslim countries. Misinformation on the Koran is spread by radical Muslims among younger Muslims who often can’t read. Additionally, he said research has shown that 67 percent of Arab boys are depressed and there is also little to occupy some Muslim youth in their home countries. The environment provides radical groups a fertile field to spread a virulent form of Islam selectively interpreted from the Koran. “Al Qaeda is about opportunity for martyrdom. It runs on despair. There’s plenty of that to go around in the Middle East,” he said.

 
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