On Dec. 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a plane from Amsterdam to Detroit with an explosive device. He attempted to detonate the device in flight, but was unsuccessful. He was quickly overpowered by two passengers.
Terrorist have targeted airlines, but what about other venues were large numbers of people gather, such as a college campus?
“College campuses are not likely to be targeted by terrorists,” Former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Senior Fellow at American Progress Lawrence Korb said. “A terrorist seeks to do the most damage with the least effort. A college campus doesn’t offer the same death toll as hijacking a plane would,” Korb said.
Reinsford said that universities and other acadamic settings are occasional targets for sectarian Jihadis in Iraq and elsewhere.
“The Taliban also enjoy blowing up girls’ schools in their part of the world. However, I haven’t heard anything about universities or colleges in America being potential targets for Islamic extremists. Military bases, landmarks, transportation venues and commerce centers seem to be their primary interests,” Reinsford said.
UTSA is preparing faculty and staff for possible attacks by conducting Active Shooter Training.
President Barack Obama said that when a suspected extremist can board a plane with a bomb the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way.
“And it’s my responsibility to find out why, and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future,” Obama said.
In a speech on Jan. 5, Obama said that Abdulmutallab had traveled to Yemen and joined up with extremists there.
“It now turns out that our intelligence community knew of other red flags that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sought to strike not only American targets in Yemen, but the United States itself,” Obama said.
The President said that the U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas day attack, but that the U.S. intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the “no fly” list.
“In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” Obama said.
Obama then outlined a number of steps to try and avert future terrorist attacks. His plan involved new screening and security for all flights, domestic and international, more explosive detection teams at airports, more air marshals on flights, deepening cooperation with international partners and closing Guantanamo prison.
“Guantanamo has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda,” Obama said.
Two days later the President addressed reporters again after meeting with advisors from different branches of the intelligence community. He outlined the three reasons that U.S. Intelligence had failed.
“Although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland,” Obama said.
The President said this contributed to a larger failure of analysis – a failure to connect the dots of intelligence that existed across our intelligence community and which, together, could have revealed that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack.
“This, in turn, fed into shortcomings in the watch-listing system which resulted in this person not being placed on the “no fly” list, thereby allowing him to board that plane in Amsterdam for Detroit,” Obama said.
Korb said that the reason there has been an increase in the number of attacks is directly correlated to the war in Iraq.
“After the United States entered Iraq it inflamed many Muslims. These outraged Muslims were then recruited by groups like Al Queda,” Korb said.
Glen Reinsford, editor of “The Religion of Peace” said that extremist Islamic groups will always have an excuse for terrorism.
“Just as there has always been since Islam’s prophet Muhammad first attained power in the seventh century. In his time, aggressive raids and campaigns were directed against Jews, Christians and Arab polytheists, with the goal being domination over other religions,” Reinsford said.
Reinsford said that the only difference between the Mujahideen (Freedom Fighter) of then and now is that today’s terrorists exist along the margins of the Islamic community.
“The teachings of Islam, from the Qur’an to Sharia, remain the same, and those Muslims who take them most seriously will always be the most violent,” Reinsford said.
Korb said that the most likely target for future attacks are airlines.
Reinsford explained that as long as political correctness remained a higher priority than protecting American life, there will be successful attacks sporadically mixed amid the billions of dollars spent to contain them and the millions of innocent people needlessly inconvenienced for the cause.
“The threat of Islamic terror will always be a reality wherever the freedom of the individual to reject Islam exists. Instead of playing to the Muslim ego, we should challenge the Muslim community to clean house and make Islam a religion of peace,” Reinsford said.
Muslim children are taught about the Qur’an in different ways depending on where they live in the world. Reinsford said that at one extreme are the overseas madrassahs (schools), which teach strictly from the Qur’an and Hadith. Children sent there don’t stand much chance of developing the ability to think independently,” Reinsford said.
Reinsford said that some Muslims, particularly those in the West, propagate a sort of pseudo-Islam in which the harsh details of Islamic history and theology are filtered and replaced by Judeo-Christian values.
“The vocabulary may be Muslim, but the teachings are a long way from the violent and supremacist ideology found in the Qur’an,” Reinsford said.