NPLI Faculty Respond to Recent Terror Attacks

The world has been rocked by recent attacks in Beirut, Baghdad, and most recently, Paris. Faculty and guest speakers from the NPLI have been among the most widely quoted experts. Here is a summary of their comments.

NPLI founding Co-Director Leonard Marcus has been active with local Boston media on the topic. Links to those stories were not available as of the time of this post. However, Marcus provided this synopsis of his comments to WCVB-TV:

“What we are seeing is a well coordinated, carefully communicated operation that fell below the radar screens of European and global terrorist watch networks. The attacks were simultaneous though not uniform, different from the 9/11, Madrid and London attacks that all targeted transport systems.  In this case, there were bombs at the stadium, guns and bombs at the concert hall and shots fired at the restaurants. Clearly, this organization is working hard and carefully to avoid detection.  By deploying different methods of attack, it is more difficult to detect patterns of activity that could be useful in mitigating future attacks.”

Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, Lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and program faculty of the NPLI told PRI, ““There are three pieces to any terrorism incident,” Kayyem explains. “We call them the ATM. Arms. Training. Money. So those three things are all being implemented by the terrorists. And the fact that none of those pieces were picked up apparently with any precision by French or international intelligence agencies is surprising.”

Kayyem is also a news analyst at CNN and spoke about the impact of the attacks on the Syrian refugee situation, “Without a refugee program in the United States,, this will say to Europe and especially right-wing elements in Europe that not even the United States in taking them in. And then everyone begins to close their borders. And then the alternative is what? …these people are still going to come so better to have a formalized process than not.”

Kayyem spoke with the Harvard Gazette on the topic of ISIS going global, “I know there are people on TV saying this is phase two, but I view this as their response to their diminishing strength in the region, and the reason why I say that is ISIS knows the consequences of attacks like this. They know there’s going to be a response, and the response will likely be greater Western footprints in places like Syria and Iraq. And so, that’s a tactic on their part, to engage us regionally.”

Kayyem was among those commenting in the New York Times as was Matt Olsen, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Olsen is a regular guest speaker at the NPLI. Olsen told the Times, “All of this raises the stakes for the U.S. and increases pressure on the U.S. and the West to respond more aggressively,”

Farah Pandith, former State Department Special Envoy to Muslim Communities now with the Council on Foreign Relations is another regular NPLI guest speaker, She appeared on Face the Nation and challenged viewers to think beyond military options as the sole response to the attacks, “One is stopping the ability for money to flow to these terrorist organizations. And that’s something primarily government can do and it’s also something to build public awareness about, the ivory trade, the sale of antiquities. There’s also (INAUDIBLE) in terms of the emotional and psychological moment that is taking place with this group, moving into the minds of all of us, whether it’s fear, whether it’s emotions that are moving us in a particular way.

But the most critical component is the idea space. And that is what we would call the war of ideas.How do we engage in bringing down the number of recruits so that ISIS doesn’t have armies?”

Pandith also appeared on public radio’s Radio Boston.

NPLI Director of Research Eric McNulty shared his reflections on LinkedIn:“There are more things that unite us than divide us – the more we remind ourselves of that, the less likely hate-mongers will be able to use difference to turn us one against the other. The future is built with bridges, not walls. Let’s meet on the bridge.”