News, On Campus

‘The Nature of the Terrorist Threat Has Become Complex:’ Schwartz Says at Panel

A week before the United States presidential election, the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy held a panel on an issue that has been heavily addressed this campaign season: terrorism.

On Nov. 4, the Center hosted a discussion titled “Terrorism: Threats and Responses.” Peter Krause, a political science professor, moderated the panel, which was composed of Mia Bloom, a professor at Georgia State, former Boston police commissioner Edward F. Davis, and Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Krause began the panel by asking Bloom what the effects would be if ISIS lost territories like Mosul and Raqqa. Bloom referenced her research into the social media chatrooms of ISIS supporters.

“When ISIS is winning, their chat rooms are talking about ‘we’re making orange soda, pizzas,’ etc. showing shelves stocked with food,” Bloom said. “When losing, they will say they’re winning. In real time, we’re seeing a shrinking of ISIS.”

Bloom said that ISIS itself consists of approximately 35,000 people.

“It leaves us with a high degree of threat perception and we are constantly on edge.”

-Mia Bloom, a professor at Georgia State

Krause then asked Davis how he sees the threats of ISIS changing over the next couple of years. Davis spoke about U.S. strides in crime control after Sept. 11. After the terrorist attack, the U.S. responded again by passing bills, including the Patriot Act.

Davis also commented on the Boston Marathon bombing and said that he does not believe anyone could have built the bombs with just instructions from the internet, as the media reported.

“The terrorist brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev] had to have had real, hands-on training,” Davis said. “There are a small number of people who are radicalizing things and getting people to do things just by a remote control.”

Schwartz noted the importance of first understanding the nature of terrorist organizations’ threats.

“The nature of the terrorist threat has become complex,” Schwartz said. “When you’re reading the news, what exactly are we reading? We’re not necessarily aware of an immediate threat.”

Bloom agreed with Davis that the U.S. is not always aware of an immediate threat. She also talked about how the media portrays the constant danger of terrorist attacks when, in reality, a person is more likely to die in a bathtub.

“It leaves us with a high degree of threat perception and we are constantly on edge,” Bloom said.

One of the final questions Krause asked the panelists concerned the governmental efforts in the area and the need for improvement.

Bloom explained that community engagements have been at the heart of prevention.

“The more knowledge kids have about the Islamic faith, the less susceptible they are to the radicalization of Islam,” Bloom said. “We should not talk less or learn less about Islam. The more we know as Americans, the more we can fight radicalization and the more capable communities are of fighting it.”

She talked about the need for diversity within the police force to have it accurately represent the public, which will make it a more trusted presence.

Bloom closed out the panel by warning the audience that not every person who claims to be with ISIS is actually affiliated with the organization.

“Just because someone says they are with ISIS does not make it true,” she said. “ISIS is more than happy to take credit for any bad things that happen. Attacks in Belgium, France, Syria, etc., versus a guy taking a gun into a nightclub and saying ‘I am with ISIS’ is not the same authenticity. We cannot keep assuming every single attack and someone randomly saying ‘I’m with ISIS’ is true.”

Featured Image by Kristin Saleski / Heights Staff

November 6, 2016