Orlando nightclub shooting may prompt 'soft targets' to harden up

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Many "soft targets" have recently been hardened, but remain attractive to terrorists. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
Many so-called "soft targets" have recently been hardened with metal detectors and security, but many are still attractive to terrorists.

The FBI is looking into whether Omar Mateen had been searching soft targets in Orlando, not just the gay nightclub that he eventually attacked but also a part of Disney World that is more easily accessible than the Magic Kingdom.

Mateen was perhaps taking a cue from other suspected jihadists including here in Chicago, accused terrorists who also had their eyes on bars and nightclubs.

The mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub was just the most recent bar in a bullseye for terrorists.

In 2012, federal prosecutors say a South Loop bar was targeted with a car bomb by west suburban teenager Adel Daoud. That bomb was a fake planted by the FBI which had been monitoring Daoud's jihadist connections.

His friend, also a west suburban teenager, Abdella Tounisi was arrested in 2013 on charges he planned to blow up a Naperville nightclub.

"They're picking stadiums, nightclubs, concerts, they're not picking one type of soft target," said University of Chicago terrorism expert professor Robert Pape. "They're picking the type of soft target that guarantees them a maximum number of people they can kill."

Authorities suspect that was the case with Omar Mateen. Intelligence sources say he had scouted Downtown Disney in Orlando, a portion of Disney World that doesn't require patrons walk through metal detectors or undergo bag checks.

Former federal prosecutor and security expert Jeff Cramer of the Berkeley Research Group says the outcome of this may be to harden soft targets.

"I was in Moscow for work recently and if you go to a restaurant or a club, we would deem soft targets, targets that are easy to get into and commit this sort of mayhem, there's metal detectors there," Cramer said. "Maybe that's where we're headed at least to not make it as easy. I don't know if you're going to thwart it but you need to make it tougher."

A spokesperson for Disney said, "Unfortunately we've all been living in a world of uncertainty, and we have been increasing our security measures across our properties for some time, adding such visible safeguards as magnetometers, additional canine units, and law enforcement officers on site, as well as less visible systems that employ state-of-the-art security technologies."

Disney is the parent company of ABC7.

Amusement parks are on a long list of soft-targets. Others soft targets have been hit: a nightclub strip in Bali, a shopping mall in Kenya, a park in Pakistan, the Boston Marathon and last November, a concert hall, café and soccer stadium in Paris and now Orlando.

Why does it continue? As expert Jeff Cramer said, in a few days after we mourn, after we pause, after we reflect, we're on our way again, until the next tragedy.

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