From NBC News last month:
The Rise of Soft-Target Terror Attacks Is a Symptom of Police SuccessIn other words, counterterrorism snooping has limits and costs. So we ought complement counterterrorism with a smarter immigration policy, right?
The old pass/fail view of counterterrorism is evolving towards a containment and mitigation strategy.
by Frank Figliuzzi / Nov.02.2017 / 7:19 AM ET
C. Frank Figliuzzi is the former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Is this our new normal?
During my FBI career as a Special Agent and ultimately Assistant Director, the FBI, police, and domestic security agencies viewed terrorist incidents through a black and white, binary lens. If we “allowed” an attack to happen, we had failed. If we prevented an attack, we had succeeded. Yet, the increase in lone wolf, soft-target attacks — particularly attacks where trucks and cars are driven into large, vulnerable crowds — can actually be viewed as a symptom of our success.
The Halloween terror attack that occurred in New York City raises an important question: Do we need to change the way we deal with so-called “soft target” attacks?
As I write this, there are reports that the Halloween attacker entered our country in 2010 from Uzbekistan, shouted what sounded like “God is Great” in Arabic, and left a note in his rented truck stating something to the effect that he was inspired by ISIS. If this reporting is accurate, it is possible that our old binary lenses may actually distort our view of this increasingly popular form of mass terror. And if this is true, we must immediately analyze our strategies. Without adapting, Americans could eventually find themselves in a country where the rental of a truck requires a background inquiry akin to a gun purchase, and the reservation of a hotel room requires a search for sniper rifles.
Of course not!
Indeed, the power of social media to influence, recruit and radicalize across spectrums and ideologies is also part of our new normal, whether the soft target is a bike path in New York or the brains of Americans exposed to Russian propaganda before the 2016 presidential election.I thought the Russians were messing with our precious bodily fluids.
This aspect of our new normal comes with frustrating decentralization, difficult attribution, and challenging questions for all of us. …So, American citizens, the next time some Muslim immigrant gets triggered by Happy Holidays decorations, just lie back and think of who we are.
But just as officials are adjusting their perspective, it may be time for the public to adjust as well. … If we cling to the old view that any successful attack represents a counterterrorism failure, we must also be ready to accept a new way of life. Do we want to view anyone from a different country, with a different set of beliefs, as no longer welcome here?
I would argue we do not. Today, the White House is already calling for even more stringent constraints on immigration policy. Taken to its illogical extreme, this approach to counterterrorism will preclude anyone from anywhere from entering the U.S. if any of their fellow nationals has ever committed a terror act. That’s not who we are.