Dedicated to the prevention of terrorism through “education, empowerment and engagement,” the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) is a very unique non-profit museum and educational establishment located in Denver, Colorado. Through a combination of informational speakers, high interest exhibits and relevant training, the mission of CELL is to deliver a comprehensive explanation of terrorism, as well as the means through which private ordinary citizens can play a significant part in counterterrorism efforts and the promotion of public safety. Founded in 2008 by Larry A. Mizel, it is closely associated with the Mizel Museum – which is billed as “a dynamic journey through art, artifacts and digital media that illuminates, narrates and celebrates Jewish history and culture.” A Jewish American, Mizel has been involved with a plethora of other benevolent and community causes that earned him considerable recognition, on both the local and national stage – including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Museum of Tolerance, which has been a recipient of the Global Peace and Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations. As evident in his altruistic efforts, Mizel is a proponent of peace and proactive efforts against bigotry, prejudice, terrorism and violence.
With the assistance of counterterrorism experts, as well as Academy and Emmy Award winning artists, the CELL presents an experience heavy with interactive media that is divided into 17 sections. Included in the lobby is a huge “chunk” of the World Trade Center, consisting of a large piece of melted steel marked with the inscription “S6,” thereby indicating that it likely originated from the sixth floor of the south tower before the infamous events of 911. Engaging exhibits include the tools known to be notoriously used by terrorists throughout the world, including a suicide vest, cell phone, and rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Additionally included is a darkened cinematic room entitled “Hitting Home” – for viewing videos that cover simulated terrorist attacks in the Denver area, as well as the aftermath of actual real life attacks that have taken place around the world. In yet another audiovisual area of the museum, visitors are able to view various propaganda videotapes from around the world, children’s television shows, or various electronic video games. Noises such as loud explosions and wailing sirens pervade the background atmosphere of the museum as visitors make their way through the variety of displays and presentations available for perusal.
The CELL tour concludes with a video presentation entitled “Recognizing the Eight Signs of Terrorism,” featuring National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, who reviews the following signs – as outlined and described by WikiHow:
- Surveillance is the means by which a terrorist will gather information about a potential target during the planning stages of an attack. Surveillance can include the monitoring or recording of security apparatus or other information in public or private locations. This may include the use of cameras, note taking, drawing diagrams, blueprints, detailed maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices to take a closer look at secure locations.
- Elicitation is the use of ordinary communication methods in order to gain information without being obvious about it. Attempts to gain information about military operations, capabilities, security procedures, and vulnerabilities, should raise a red flag. Elicitation attempts may be made by mail, email, telephone, or in person. This could also include eavesdropping or friendly conversation.
- Tests of Security are the means through which individuals or organizations planning terrorism will attempt to measure the capabilities of security apparatus. This can include measuring reaction times to security breaches, attempts to penetrate security barriers, or monitoring procedures to assess strengths and weaknesses of security.
- Fundraising are the efforts of terrorists seeking financial resources. Suspicious transactions involving large cash payments, deposits or withdrawals are common signs of terrorist funding. Collections for donations, solicitation for money and criminal activity are also warning signs.
- Acquiring Supplies involves the means through which terror organizations purchase or steal explosives, weapons, ammunition, or bomb-making materials. This includes purchases in large quantities of materials that can used to make a bomb, including large quantities of fertilizer or beauty supplies. Also, acquiring military or police uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes or badges (or equipment to manufacture such items), and items that can be used to access secure locations, are warning signs.
- Impersonation demands the identification of people who seem out of place, based on behavior, in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or elsewhere – or who may be there on false pretenses. This includes suspicious border crossings, impersonation of law enforcement, military personnel, or company employees.
- Rehearsal takes place when an organization practices a pending attack to ensure that their operation will run smoothly. This may include putting operatives in position, monitoring police radios, and measuring emergency response times by police and fire fighters.
- Deployment occurs when terrorists arrange their assets, getting into position for an attack. This is your last chance to alert the authorities before it’s too late.
One blogger has described his visit to the CELL as a “dark and scary” experience that left him feeling disturbed, rather than empowered and proactive. Pointing to the much greater odds (1 in 7000) that a citizen of the United States will die in a car accident, he characterizes many of the images conveyed in the museum as fear-mongering. Given that such horrific events have actually taken place in Oklahoma City and New York City, it is difficult to justify such criticism – and those who have actually lost family members in those tragedies might take exception to such remarks. The horrific devastation of September 11, 2001 has reduced any such discussion of “odds” to a starker reality that needs to be recognized in any way possible, including the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab. This website applauds its existence and relevance to the continued survival of humankind.
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