Written by Ted Sexton
Every week the headlines and lead stories in the media are about persons injured or killed in terrorist incidents worldwide. In fact, at the time I am writing this blog the TV news outlets are reporting on a shooting at the United States Capitol. Fortunately the event is being called an isolated incident. However, in Washington D.C, they have seen terrorism firsthand and dealt with the prolonged aftermath. Tragic events have occurred at the Pentagon, the United States Capitol, The Naval Yard, and the Holocaust Museum. Each event has brought additional security concerns and corrective actions, which often times are manifested in the form of physical security barriers, enhanced technology or additional personnel.
Just weeks ago, the horrendous terror attacks in Brussels shook the world, killing 35 civilians and injuring 300 more. The two locations for these attacks during the Christian religions Holy Week have raised concerns that the attacks carried out by ISIL may have targeted United States’ assets and citizens. The Airport departure hall where the explosion occurred housed three United States based commercial air carriers and was full of American citizens. The Metro Station where the second explosion occurred was used by the United States Embassy and NATO, targets that would draw Americans. In just more than a year ISIS is now credited with 70 attacks in more than 20 countries, killing 1,280 people. ISIS now claims territories in at least 10 countries as they attempt to build their Caliphate. History shows an upswing in terrorist attacks when the physical size of terrorist organizations’ proclaimed territories has been reduced by various governments’ military intervention particularly the United States.
I have heard numerous times in discussions that European law enforcement agencies have an advantage over United States police based on their federal or state organizational structure. The terrorist attacks in Europe appear to show that the ability to rapidly gather and disseminate critical information moves no faster or even slower than here in the United States. The facts are beginning to bare out that six agencies in Belgium did not share intelligence and that the matter goes even deeper to sovereign nations not sharing information within Europe. The expectation to interrupt the “Threat Continuum” and disrupt threats as they develop is simply not being met. There is an immediate need to enhance the intelligence cycle and further develop the ability to collect pre-event social media and other information in an organized fashion, which is already available to law enforcement authorities. There is an emerging need for the European Union to develop a centralized intelligence center in one location, where information can be collected, analyzed, and disseminated for the purpose of prevention, protection, and response to a rapidly escalating threat.
It is believed that there are approximately 5,000 ISIS fighters currently in Europe, many with European Passports. This means there is the potential that these individuals may attempt to travel here to the United States. However our country’s intelligence capabilities are far more developed than our European counterparts. We have made mistakes ourselves which have been pointed out by Congressional and independent watch dog reports. Numerous studies of previous terrorist incidents worldwide have reported numerous intelligence failures. But these same reports state clearly the need for the first responding law enforcement agencies to take immediate action, with sound tactics, well equipped and highly trained personnel in the response to a terrorist attack.
In a time when our nation is trying to balance law enforcement authority, use of force, equipment, transparency, training, and trust I hope that we don’t lose sight of the numerous domestic issues and potential international threats that we face. If there is ever a time for needed planning and dialog in our communities it is now.
Ted Sexton, Executive Vice President of UNIT Solutions, is also the retired Sheriff of Tuscaloosa County, a former National Sheriff's Association "Sheriff of the Year," and former Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.