In the very early 80s, as a professor on sabbatical leave from my law school, I wrote my first major security piece to be published in a White Paper series. Part of the article dealt with moles. Moles– as in persons who come to this country and burry themselves in our social structure, waiting to be told to do something drastic to our wellbeing.
The then dean of the “security world “a commentator was a renowned professor, who pontificated from a university office across the Atlantic Ocean in Scotland.
My article was sent to him for peer review prior to publication, and his short, tart comment was I should stick to writing things I knew about— period. That “period” was a bullet between my eyes. It remained there as I sulked in the corner until one day, to my astonishment; he plagiarized entire paragraphs from my work in a Time Magazine article. My White Paper was then promptly published.
Today, the person terrorizing — as in terrorist— the American public is not a mole. He or she is not slipping in the dark from some rusting freighter just docking in New Orleans. To the contrary he or she is in plain sight in some American town or city and, in some instances, wearing a sign or posting openly on the internet. And they have been deadly. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, 19 of them children and over 600 injured. In less than 9 years, domestic terrorists have killed 465 persons with hundreds more injured.
I have just finished reading a lengthy report by Home Land Security, and their comments are not meant for bedtime reflection. Having just published two commentaries for publication, one on our total radar/intelligence gap in the drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil refineries, and the second, on the use of drones as a means of a terrorist attack on a major city —now to be confronted that my latest fear shoud be from those people on “any” American Avenue who walk around in tee shirts with swastika tattooed on their bulging muscles. My home grown terrorist in my old home town: the domestic terrorist.
In an article written by Ellen Nakashima, she notes that domestic terrorism attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, citing to the Department of Homeland Security’s new strategy report. What has changed since 9/11, according to the Department of Homeland security report, is the increasingly complex and evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. The diversity of terrorist threats is a broad span from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and now the ethnically motivated and anti-authority violent extremism—the domestic individual terrorist. All aided by more-sophisticated and easily available weapons such as drones (as I have written in a recent posting).
As was the case sixteen years ago, the Department of Homeland Security report found that foreign terrorist organizations remain intent on striking the “Homeland”. Doing so whether through directed attacks or by inspiring disaffected, susceptible individuals in the United States. At this moment, we are faced with an equally growing threat from domestic actors who are as dangerous as the foreign terrorist. All coming together and motivated in an age of online radicalization and violent extremism. Unlike ISIS and other international terrorist organizations, the domestic terrorist – the lone wolf is more target oriented than ideologically driven — aiming at the individual or group. The lone wolf who is more difficult to identify is obsessed with whom his target represents in his life –the attack on a school or church.
Online extremist communities glorify the attackers, encouraging others to follow their footsteps. The copy-cat. The individual terrorist who upon arrest said: I completed my mission. The internet has made attackers more operationally competent and knowledgeable, as they use the Web to learn, and then perfect, technical information for their attacks. Domestic threat individuals often plan and carry out their acts of violence alone and with little apparent warning, in ways that impede the effectiveness of law enforcement success in investigation and, more important, its interdiction.
We must require more effective means of surveillance and counterintelligence which will, I assume, automatically generate the claims that will lead to the cry that our privacy is being invaded and the eroding of our civil rights; the slippery slope argument. There are trade-offs in life and as the world shrinks, becomes more diversified and individuals become technically savvy. And there are practical and workable methods of checks and balances at our disposal, so that we feel safe and are safe as we respect the individual rights of all persons.