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Vigilance and Resilience

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Report 29 October 2010

Terrorism & National Security Terrorism & National Security terrorism

As news continues to come in on the explosive-laden packages found emanating from Yemen in the last 24 hours, counterterrorism experts agree on several points:  Intelligence and law enforcement officials are working effectively, and coordinating successfully with overseas allies, to keep Americans safe.  The very purpose of terrorism is to instill fear and over-reaction.  As we gain a clearer picture of what happened, we can remember that resilience and vigilance, while refusing to succumb to fear, deprives terrorists of a victory. 

"Security professionals out exercising their business": Americans can feel good that our intelligence and law enforcement professionals are working tirelessly to keep America safe.   

Michael Sheehan, former NYPD deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and former State Department counterterrorism coordinator, said today, "We do know that the intelligence system, worked very, very well over the last few days. There apparently was information that was provided to security officials about the possibility of suspicious packages coming out of Yemen. Two of them were found. One in London and one in the UAE. Those devices have been captured and indeed are still being analyzed to determine exactly what these were... what we have is a case where the intelligence worked, the interdiction worked. And other security measures were taken as these aircraft came to, make sure they were safe and put back into the system. So far things have gone very, very well for the U.S. Government."[Michael Sheehan, MSNBC 10/29/10]

Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and homeland security specialist, said on MSNBC today:  "What happened today is our system worked. Sharing intelligence with partners produced results we got today. I think you're going to see perhaps situations where enhance the security measures may or may not go into place as a result of this. The cargo screening that does occur seems to be effective. What's really important here is what these types of groups, if this was in fact a trial run, what they will learn from our testing, what they will learn from our response protocol and how quickly we can recover from this as a nation, as an international body." [Erroll Southers, MSNBC 10/29/10]

John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism says the United States has "developed a robust security system." He praised the "redundant layers of security" in the system as the "reasons we were able to succeed... The American people should be very pleased that we were able to get insight into the fact that there were suspicious packages out there that we have to find... From inception all the way to the possible execution... We were looking for packages that were of concern." [John Brennan, via Politico 10/29/10]

Smaller-scale attacks intended to produce overreaction; staying calm denies terrorists a victory.

Frances Townsend, homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush: "this is a painful reminder that our enemies remain absolutely determined to try and launch a successful attack, but that our system is stronger and we can withstand these threats and we can thwart them because we have built a better, stronger -- both domestically and internationally, a better and stronger system." [Fran Townsend, via CNN, 10/29/10]

Erroll Southers, former FBI agent and homeland security specialist, said on MSNBC today:  "These are the security professionals out exercising their business. It's not such a bad thing as long as the president is going 30 and keep everyone calm and not overreact because that would give a victory to the terrorists they certainly don't deserve."   He later stated, "there is no need to not travel, there is no need to overreact." [Erroll Southers, MSNBC, 10/29/10]

Fareed Zakaria reminds us: "The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction.... If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work."   A smart response to terrorism combines constant vigilance by counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals with citizens and political leaders who refuse to be defined by fear. [Fareed Zakaria, 1/11/10]

Stephen Flynn, president of the Center for National Policy, recently testified that, "they [terrorists] are counting on even small-scale attacks that produce few casualties and modest destruction to generate fear, political recriminations, and a rush to put in place expensive and disruptive safeguards.  If how we react-or more precisely, when we overreact-elevates the appeal of carrying out these attacks on U.S. soil, it follows that there is an element of deterrence by denying these terrorist groups the return on investment they hope to receive." [Stephen Flynn, 9/15/10]