The Terror That Would Have Been
If a cure for terror cannot be achieved, prevention is an urgent requirement.
In early January, IDF border guards and military police in the Jenin area stopped a would-be terrorist carrying an improvised gun, a commando knife and 11 explosive devices. Wires were visibly sticking out of the clothes of one of the men arrested, and military police found three pipe bombs strapped to his body. Eight additional explosive devices were in his possession.
Three additional suspects, thought to have aided him were also detained. The four were stopped at the entrance to the Salem crossing and taken into custody. The explosive devices, which were live, were destroyed. According to a YNET report, their target was “unclear.”
A senior officer explained that this was an unusual incident – seeming to imply that the sheer volume was unusual. “Eleven devices is an exceptional amount in one time. We’ve had incidents this year of three or four devices seized at the same time.”
Around the same time as the incident in Jenin, a Kosovo born 25-year-old Islamic extremist was arrested in Florida and charged with plotting attacks on crowded locations around Tampa, according to Justice Department documents. Sami Osmakac, a naturalized American citizen from the former Yugoslavia wanted to bring terror to his “victims’ hearts” according to a video he recorded shortly before his arrest. An AK-47 is visible behind him. The perpetrator said “Muslim blood” has greater value than that of non believers (in Islam) and he sought “payback.”
Osmakac was arrested by FBI agents on January 7th, soon after he had allegedly bought explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent (the items had been made inoperable.) He was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Apparently his plans were known within the local Muslim community: at a press conference following the arrest, U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill thanked the community for its assistance in the investigation. Federal officials used a combination of confidential informants and an undercover FBI employee to build their case.
Osmakac had told the undercover agent “Honestly, I would love to go for the Army people, but their bases are so locked up, I have to do something else,” and outlined the populated targets he planned to bomb.
Asked how New York City works against terrorists, a Police Department spokesman said that prevention comes “through diligent police work and investigative work, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – that’s how terrorist threats are prevented and thwarted”.
Jonathan B. Tucker, Ph.D., is a policy analyst specializing in chemical and biological weapons proliferation and control. He notes that the state of Israel has faced the threat of terror attacks since its founding and has reacted with advances in technology and conscious national resilience. “The primary goals of Israeli counterterrorism strategy are to prevent terrorists from influencing the national agenda and preserve the psychological resilience of the civilian population,” says Tucker.
Noteworthy is the key role played by the vigilance of the Israeli public in preventing terrorism. The average Israeli is highly aware of suspicious packages, individuals, and actions that could pose a threat to public safety and does not hesitate to notify the police. As a result, ordinary citizens foil more than 80% of attempted terrorist attacks in Israel, including time bombs left by terrorists.
Israeli experts contend that beyond a vigilant citizenry, intelligence is the essential foundation of any systematic effort to combat terrorism. According to Gen. Dagan, “Investments in intelligence are invisible, whereas increased security is visible but often wasteful. The first priority must be placed on intelligence, then on counterterrorism operations, and finally on defense and protection.” To support its war on terrorism, Israel has developed a highly coordinated and efficient intelligence apparatus. Drawing on human and technical means, Israeli government agencies work continually to identify terrorist operatives and cells. Threats are categorized into those that appear imminent and require immediate attention, those that are less probable but could emerge later on, and those that are unlikely but still possible.
Tucker says that “the risks for the United States are substantial but not existential,” and that Israel’s sixty years of anti-terrorist experience are intimately relevant to the U.S. campaign against foreign and home grown terrorists.
At a recent “Interfaith Breakfast, “New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly said “We’re doing what we have to do pursuant to the law.”