NY of­fi­cial: Home­grown ter­ror­ism is a big­ger prob­lem in US; in Europe, it’s for­eign fighters

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

“The US strug­gles with home­grown ter­ror more than” Europe, which “has a big­ger for­eign fighter” prob­lem, New York Com­mis­sioner of Home­land Se­cu­rity Roger Par­rino told The Jerusalem Post.

Par­rino an­a­lyzed the dif­fer­ent ter­ror­ism chal­lenges pre­sented to the US and to other coun­tries in in­ter­views with the Post last week and on the side­lines of an IDC Her­zliya ter­ror­ism con­fer­ence last month.

“The trends we are see­ing in Europe of ve­hi­cle at­tacks and knife at­tacks have made it to the US, but not to the same ex­tent as in the rest of the world. We do not have some­one com­ing over” to the US to per­pe­trate ter­ror­ism in the num­bers that Europe has had, he said.

On the other hand, home­grown ter­ror­ism is a big­ger prob­lem in the US, where “a lone wolf gets in­spired and wants to be known for some­thing... or some­one with men­tal ill­ness” ends up at­tack­ing.

Fur­ther­more, these types of ter­ror­ists usu­ally “have no crim­i­nal back­grounds,” mak­ing them hard to trace or an­tic­i­pate, the com­mis­sioner said.

Par­rino was told about Shin Bet (Is­rael Se­cu­rity Agency) state­ments that it had pre­vented hun­dreds of po­ten­tial lone wolf ter­ror­ists from act­ing, by ar­rest­ing them based on their pro­files and on in­cite­ment they posted on so­cial me­dia.

He said that what im­presses him about Is­rael is that it “has cracked the for­mula of how to com­mu­ni­cate with cit­i­zens from an early age based on the fears and the prob­lems they face. We in Amer­ica have not.”

This means that in many parts of Is­rael, would-be ter­ror­ists see the per­cep­tive and some­times armed mem­bers of the Is­raeli pub­lic as a chal­lenge, and may choose to avoid cer­tain at­tacks and “de­cide to pick on a dif­fer­ent city” that is less well-guarded.

Asked why Is­rael had made such progress in con­nect­ing with its cit­i­zenry about se­cu­rity, he said part of the story is their “prox­im­ity to dan­ger. It is dif­fer­ent to be fight­ing for your ex­is­tence since 1947 ver­sus one hor­rific day in Septem­ber 2001.”

Par­rino said he did see it as a cen­tral part of his role “to reach out more to the Amer­i­can peo­ple so they can use in­for­ma­tion to make bet­ter de­ci­sions about their safety. Our gover­nor is very for­ward-lean­ing in that realm.”

As for in­for­ma­tion shar­ing among US coun­tert­er­ror­ism author­i­ties, he said there had been ma­jor progress. “The FBI is so much more co­op­er­a­tive and in­ter­ested in shar­ing in­for­ma­tion than they were when I first en­tered law en­force­ment in 1982.”

At the same time, he said there is room for im­prove­ment, as chang­ing the cul­ture of shar­ing in­tel­li­gence is “slow mov­ing, like al­ter­ing the di­rec­tion of the rud­der” of a large ship.

“It ex­ists and we are talk­ing about it. The dis­cus­sion used to be ‘Make sure we do not co­op­er­ate.’ Now it is ‘How can we co­op­er­ate.’”

He dis­cussed strik­ing the proper bal­ance be­tween shar­ing enough in­for­ma­tion with the US pub­lic ver­sus shar­ing too much in­for­ma­tion, which could “give up vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

It is valid to give the pub­lic more in­for­ma­tion about travel risks, risks of at­tend­ing cer­tain pub­lic gath­er­ings and about a coun­tert­er­ror­ism unit in New York be­ing ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing to mul­ti­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks, he said.

How­ever, he was against giv­ing out tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion about se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions and ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­ing un­der­taken by the gov­ern­ment, as “that is a play­book for evil­do­ers and ter­ror­ists.”

Ex­am­ples of go­ing too far in shar­ing would be pub­li­ciz­ing how se­cu­rity forces “are col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion, ware­hous­ing in­for­ma­tion and de­scrib­ing sur­veil­lance gear and equip­ment. That kind of in­for­ma­tion does not de­ter the bad guys. They use it and work around it.”

Still, Par­rino fa­vors shar­ing some of that tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion “with a gov­ern­ment over­sight com­mit­tee” in a clas­si­fied ses­sion.

Af­ter all of that, he said that there was no sil­ver bul­let for stop­ping ter­ror­ism, and he im­plied that statis­tics, even those of the Shin Bet, about how many po­ten­tial at­tack­ers could or were stopped were no­to­ri­ously hard to back up

“Congress al­ways asks what has been stopped,” Par­rino said. “The le­gal­i­ties are a strug­gle with su­per­vis­ing so­cial me­dia. It is not easy to draw the line be­tween say­ing ‘It is okay to have a rad­i­cal thought process, but not okay to en­cour­age rad­i­cal­ized vi­o­lence.”

One con­crete tech­nique for stop­ping at least forms of ve­hic­u­lar ter­ror­ism that he sup­ports is bol­lards – thick steel posts that can line side­walks and en­trances to gath­er­ing ar­eas.

In the past many peo­ple ob­jected to se­cur­ing build­ings and pub­lic ar­eas be­cause the se­cu­rity rec­om­men­da­tions would ren­der ar­eas ugly, he said. In con­trast, he said bol­lards are rel­a­tively at­trac­tive and un­ob­tru­sive for pedes­tri­ans.

Bol­lards can also be used more ag­gres­sively to en­tirely block off cer­tain pedes­trian-ori­ented ar­eas of a city. While this could in­crease traf­fic con­ges­tion else­where, Par­rino said some of the ad­just­ment re­quired just mak­ing a men­tal shift in un­der­stand­ing the scale of the ter­ror­ism chal­lenge.

“Fifty years ago, no one was wear­ing seat belts,” and now that has be­come stan­dard, he said, adding that “giv­ing the streets back to pedes­tri­ans is not the worst thing.”

He con­cluded that he “loves the mis­sion of shar­ing in­for­ma­tion,” and is proud of his ac­com­plish­ments in ad­vis­ing New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo and var­i­ous part­ners on how to bet­ter pro­tect “crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture and a range of softer tar­gets.”

(Carlo Al­le­gri/Reuters)

FORENSICS INVESTIGATORS work at the scene of a mass shoot­ing at the Pulse gay night club in Or­lando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Omar Ma­teen, a New York-born se­cu­rity guard, killed 49 peo­ple and wounded 58 oth­ers in an Is­lamist ter­ror­ist at­tack.

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