In Boston Aftermath, No Way To 'Zero Out' Threat of Terror

As police closed in on 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men alleged to have been the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was regretfully noting that there was little chance that the United States could absolutely protect itself from such acts of terror. “This is the cost of an open society,” Cusimano Love told America on the evening of April 19, taking a break from following the real-time coverage of the hunt for the younger Tsarnaev. His older brother Tamerlan had died during a shootout with police in the early hours of the same day.

“There is no way to zero out the threat of terrorism,” she said. “What you do is the same thing you do to protect your home. You have a layered approach to security. You lock your doors; you have strong windows, good relations with your neighbors; you leave the lights on. One thing alone won’t work,” she said. “But what you end up with is a pretty good package…that’s going to get to a 90 percent solution.” But in a free, open society like the United States, she said, “There is nothing that is going to get you to 100 percent.” Cusimano Love points out that even comparably closed societies, like China and Russia, remain vulnerable to acts of terror.


Cusimano Love said the comprehensive response to the attack indicated that antiterrorism efforts in the United States have improved since the shock and lack of coordination experienced after the attacks on Sept. 11. This time, she said, federal, state and local agencies launched a well-coordinated, united response. “The public is your best line of defense,” she added. After the bombing, the public provided the raw data of the investigation in photos and videos of the marathon that anti-terrorism forces culled to track down the Tsarnaev brothers.

Could the response and preventive efforts have been better? “Well, we are not at the heightened state of awareness of Israeli society,” Cusimano Love said. But she believes that over all the nation has been effective at thwarting terror strikes since 9/11. “The threat of Al Qaeda core groups has been greatly diminished through the killing of their core leaders and the disruption of their network,” she said. But “lone wolf” attacks, as the marathon bombing appears to be, are much more difficult to defend against.

The brothers, U.S. residents for years, hailed from Chechnya, where they maintained family and cultural ties. All the same, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a visiting research fellow at the International Center for Counter-Terrorism–The Hague, said in an e-mail that it remains too early to say if the Boston attack was directly connected to the ongoing conflict in Chechnya. “The attackers could have a different radicalization trajectory and a different purpose,” he said. “I think we will know more soon, but it’s always perilous to have an overly static conception of what motivated an attack when there are still so many possibilities.”

Al Qaeda has been the focus of much of America’s anti-terrorism effort in recent years, but Gartenstein-Ross would not say that campaign has meant other threats have been improperly discounted. “The potential for attacks from homegrown as opposed to international terrorists has been widely discussed, and the F.B.I.’s sting operations have largely focused on homegrown extremists,” he said. “This case may ultimately point to aspects of transnational terrorism that security experts have overlooked, and less prominent violent non-state actors may be one of them. But, again, we can’t say that with any degree of certainty. While the time Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent in the Caucasus is known, it’s not clear that he liaised with extremist groups while there.”

It is possible, in fact, that the brothers are not connected to any particular terror network but became radicalized independently. Tamerlan “favorited” YouTube videos that depict radical Islamist messages, but “we shouldn’t consider radicalization that occurs over the Internet to be ‘self-radicalization,’” Gartenstein-Ross said. “Thinking of it that way will cause us to fundamentally misunderstand why the Internet can serve as such a powerful medium. Relationships formed over social media are real relationships; and an individual who radicalizes through social media without meeting any of his influencers is in no way radicalizing alone,” he said. “In fact, some social science studies suggest that online bonds may form more quickly.”

“The materials are out there,” said Cusimano Love. “Even back when the first U.S. attacks took place in Afghanistan, every second fleeing Al Qaeda militant had an AK-47 and a laptop. You don’t need to go to the remote areas of the world to learn the tools of the trade anymore."

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laura sabath
5 years 9 months ago
I checked out this book last month, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, The Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, 2007. Eboo Patel, concerned about youth caught up in terrorist organizations, founded the Interfaith Youth Core to give young people a positive way to express their faith and idealism. I was so struck by one paragraph that i copied it. He was interviewing an Evangelical Christian woman for a staff position. His witness showed me how to express myself as a Catholic, because I've wondered how not to water down my own tradition when talking with others and still respect theirs. "Now she was worried that she would appear to be too Christian because she firmly believed that Christianity was a uniquely true religion and that Jesus was Lord and Savior. She confessed that worry during our initial interview. 'I have the deepest respect for your faith, i told her. I sure hope you think it's true because otherwise there would be no reason to stay committed to it. I think my religion is true, too, so let's make a deal. We can both believe our religions are true. We can even privately hope the other converts. And we can work together in this organization to serve others. In that way we, an Evangelical Christian and a devoted Muslim, can model what we say this organization is about. People from very different faith backgrounds finding common purpose in helping others.'" IFYC folks talk about religious pluralism, which they define as "respect for people’s diverse religious and non-religious identities, mutually inspiring relationships between people of different backgrounds, and common action for the common good" (there are other views that try to erase differences). Their website and blog tell more
Craig McKee
5 years 9 months ago
The LIE that was perpetrated to declare war on Saddam Hussein and his non-existent WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION ten years ago has come full circle and reincarnated on American soil in the forms of two young terrorists who lived in our midst for much of that very same decade.. The VIOLENCE that America has EXPORTED around the world packaged in the banner of democracy, freedom and justice has boomeranged into our own backyards. The old school economic formula that WAR is good for the economy has failed, but the tweedle dum and dumbers in Washington still have not read and understood that memo from the rest of the planet, who quite frankly, love our foreign aid DOLLARS, but despise the hands that are feeding them. We no longer have the luxury of maintaining troops on foreign soils, building on-base Burger Kings and bowling alleys from Wiesbaden to Borneo to distract our youth until they are returned home in boxes wrapped with the same stars and stripes they died to protect. The armed forces of the future are needed today to protect Americans at home - once Congress and the President have the good sense to bring them ALL home! Let the world chase US for 5-10 years of quasi-isolationism. Let the world pick and choose its own battles without our backing and see how reckless they really are when they have to go it alone. Let North Korea bomb South Korea. Let Israel and Palestine have the showdown they are both itching for. Let China and Japan duke it out over the mineral rights above and below the waters surrounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. And why do we need a brand new military base in desolate northern AUSTRALIA? More cost-effective iron ore? It is sheer legislative LUNACY to believe that we can sustain and support a global police force for every insurgency and revolution that breaks out around the globe. Good luck, Egypt! Good luck, Mali! Good luck, Myanmar! And yes, even best wishes to Syria - especially with that $123 million dollar check Secretary of State Kerry just wrote to their rebel forces this week. Yes, in the middle of the SEQUESTRATION with airplanes full of AMERICAN passengers grounded across the nation due to lack of air traffic controllers, and while Washington fiddles with White House chef furloughs and tour cancellations, we're buying guns for the Syrians. No wonder background checks never had a prayer in Congress! Charity begins at home, and as long as even ONE wounded AMERICAN veteran's low tech manila folder full of paperwork lies on some V.A. paper pusher's desk for more than 48 hours, we have no time and NO MONEY to help some other country start or continue THEIR wars! America strong! America FIRST! Is that so crazy? The author is correct, there may never be a way to ZERO OUT terrorism foisted upon us on our home turf, but we can certainly find a way to ZERO OUT the DRONE DRIVEN bloodshed we are currently test-driving around the planet, leading brainwashed young men and women to declare private, individual wars against us and imbed themselves into our neighborhoods and schools, just waiting for the right moment to kill and maim as many of us as they possibly can! And all the while, American bishops are foaming at the mouth over same-sex marriage, the right to choose, and how a bunch of American religious women -most of whom should be enjoying their golden years- are not vocal enough to back them up! Jesus isn't weeping...he's LHFAO!
Christopher Rushlau
5 years 9 months ago
"Israel's heightened state of awareness". That's what they call racism these days? I'm sure that concept came easily to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, for the pain-killing affect, the mind-numbing effect. Where can we turn for effective euphemisms in these days of uncertainty?


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