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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Observations regarding Wednesday's terrorist attack in London.

They say old habits are hard to break; in many circumstances, I certainly agree.  My career as an Intelligence Officer had just gotten off the ground when 9-11 turned everything upside down.  No doubt espionage and intelligence collection would be more important than ever, and an essential part of the process has always been about understanding the target.  Now that I'm retired, I get my details from the news, just like everyone else.  But things have come a long way since my days as a rookie Intel Officer, and I can always find a treasure trove of useful information by switching from one news channel to the next.  Having spent time in Europe, I am familiar with the various press agencies, and during the Nice terror attack of last July, my knowledge of French kept me watching the live news bulletins directly from France.

Aside from the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels on March 22, 2016, which killed thirty-two civilians, the last three prolific terror attacks on European soil took place in Nice, Berlin, and most recently in London.  I have separated these three from the Brussels incident for a number of reasons.  The terrorist group known to the west as ISIS has long made use of vehicular weapons. For years, Iraqis and Syrians have been victimized by car bombs which purposely target large public events, including holiday celebrations and funerals.  ISIS will continue to use this method of delivering death because it's a basically simple way to cause a high number of casualties.  Rigging a vehicle with explosives and attaching a detonator does not take a munitions expert, and it's just about impossible for security in some countries to disrupt this manner of attack.  In Nice, Berlin and London, though, no explosives were used.  The perpetrators used their vehicles as weapons, flooring the accelerator and running down civilians with no warning.  In all three attacks, the perpetrator intended to exit the vehicle after coming to a halt, to continue their rampage with either handguns or knives.  It's important to note that these three attacks were carried out by one person.  No doubt, other persons either new of the attack beforehand and/or provided assistance, but the actual event itself was carried out by one individual.  The perpetrators were not rank-and-file ISIS operatives, but rather Islamic Extremists who had made contact with like-minded persons through Social Media.  For some time, law enforcement in the United States has been rightly concerned with the possibility of well-trained, terrorist sleeper cells embedded on our communities.  The reality is, as we open our borders to refugees who have traveled directly from countries which are known to harbor large numbers of ISIS operatives and sympathizers, we increase the possibility of either type of attack.

Most police officers in the United Kingdom are unarmed, as are law enforcement personnel in a number of European countries.  From my perspective, as long as the policy suited each respective country, then its a good thing to have fewer weapons on the streets.  I assume that this policy is being reconsidered, given that Police Officers have certainly become targets, and they should have the right and the ability to defend themselves.  The London attacker used a car and two knives to brutally kill four people.  A society can go to extreme lengths when trying to create a weapons-free environment, but time and again we are reminded that a person who is intent on harming another person will always be able to find a weapon.  Its much easier for the perpetrator to carefully choose what type of normally innocuous instrument to use as a weapon, but more difficult for the victim, when being attacked, to make a split-second decision on what to use for self-defense.

I chose to highlight the three vehicular attacks in Nice, Berlin and London, because they do not appear to be intricately-planned, resource-intensive attacks.  ISIS was not directly responsible for any of the three vehicular attacks in question, although they do deserve total responsibility because of their efforts through Social Media to encourage these type of attacks.  What is so frightening is that ISIS can claim responsibility and benefit from these heinous events, without actually having to utilize valuable, professional operatives, who are free to continue hiding in plain sight, until all the pieces come together to conduct a Brussels and Paris style attack, one that is heavy on resources and personnel.  It may be too late for Europe, but it is essential that the United States government take all necessary precautions regarding the resettlement of refugees from areas of conflict.  The Executive Order that has caused such an uproar, does nothing more than delay resettlement of refugees for three months. I believe National Security and the integrity of our international border are worth the effort.      

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