FAQ: Responses to Terrorism

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How has Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11, been held responsible?

Saudi Arabia may be a country that is home for terrorist organizations. However, it is up to the injured party to seek out justice. During the Obama administration, Congress passed legislation enabling individuals to sue foreign entities. Some family members of the victims of 9/11 have sued Saudi Arabia for funding terrorist organizations.

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Why don’t Muslims stand up and speak out against Islamist Extremism? Why do many people associate Islam with violence?

There are many organizations and high-ranking Islamic leaders that speak out against these extremists. The Islamic Society of North America frequently speaks against Boko Haram, in particular. One such example by Mailise Mushawarat referred to an attack by the Pakistani Taliban as “a blot in the fact of Islam,’ adding, ‘We don’t have words to condemn such barbaric act and savagery… There is no justification of killing of innocent children. It has nothing to do with humanity, leave aside Islam.” Although many Islamic leaders speak out against violence, these statements do not get much media attention because they do not fit the media’s storyline.

Islam, like many religions, is peaceful by nature. However, a small proportion of Muslims who have been radicalized and believe in a puritanical interpretation of Islam and believe that those who do not follow it are impure and stand in the way of a pure state. This leads to these radicalized groups targeting Americans, Europeans, and other Muslims who do not follow their views. The Quran, the Holy Book, is not a book that requires violence for Allah but, rather, the opposite. It is a book that is a guidebook for living a good and rewarding life. There are certain verses from the Quran that, if taken alone, would appear to promote violence. Probably the most famous being "kill the idolaters wherever you find them, and capture them, and blockade them, and watch for them at every lookout… (Quran 9:5). If you look at the verses before and understand the history, Muslims were being attacked by the Meccans and many, including Muhammad, had to flee and create peace with others. In verse Quran 9:4, it tells all Muslims to honor the peace treaties and keep peace. The 9:5 verse is a historical verse to protect themselves against the Meccans and anyone who violates the peace treaties.

It is important to mention the fact that "jihad" is a term taken out of context and perverted by Islamists. Jihad is a personal sacrifice or struggle like Lent is to Christians. Extremists exploit it as a powerful tool to kill.

How is the U.S. government protecting our homeland?

Between the government, local, state and federal law enforcement and international support, the US actively fights terrorism. The government has extensive policies on terrorism, the Patriot ACT, the Freedom ACT, as well as counter-terrorism task forces in many agencies, most notably the FBI’s Counter-terrorism task force. There have also historically been multiple travel/immigration holds and bans. Anyone with potential terrorist ties who displays behavior that shows some degree of radicalization will most likely be looked at or vetted after some time. There are multiple divisions and teams of people both at the local and federal level whose sole job is to investigate potential or suspected terrorists. They use the provisions under the Patriot and Freedom Acts to do so. In addition, there are many projects, such as the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, in the works offering an alternate choice to those who would otherwise consider a life of extremism.

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More information on that can be found at: justice.gove; judiciary.house.gov; state.gov

How do states crack down on home-grown terrorism?

Counter-terrorism initiatives rely primarily on following the federal government’s lead. State governments also have their own task forces dedicated to focusing on counter-terrorism in their own particular states. Certain police departments, such as Los Angeles and New York City, also have divisions dedicated specifically to investigating and preventing terrorist activity.

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Why does the screening process at airports vary from person to person?

Whether traveling domestically or internationally, every person is screened at airports, with the possibility of a more thorough random screening.

For more information, visit tsa.gov. Individuals who feel uncomfortable with certain processes, such as full body screenings, have the option to ask a TSA agent for reasonable accommodations.

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How many terrorist attacks are stopped that are not disclosed to the public?

Most official data relating to foiled terrorist attacks remains classified, making it difficult to know exact numbers. However, court documents are openly available, allowing numbers to be approximated. There is no way to know how many active terror threats are going on in the US every day. Some threats are just that, threats, and while hateful words are condemned, they are not necessarily illegal. Law enforcement agencies can also receive several tips about terrorist activities that may turn out to be nothing. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses an alert and bulletin system to warn Americans of credible threats. There is only one active bulletin on the site as of 3/27/17. 

Why does the government withhold information on terror suspects?

The government is not open with all the facts about threats to the United States, due to security and not wanting to worry the public. However, the focus is on suspects and not the problem at hand. This is similar to why police don’t give the details of a crime to the media. Release of this information would prevent them from properly investigating and obtaining the evidence needed for trial and conviction. In addition, federal legislation prohibits the unmasking of U.S. citizens accidentally collected in the intelligence process.

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Would a Muslim ban, such as the one provided by President Trump, make the United States safer?

No, because terrorists are not restricted by religion. Furthermore, Muslims are followers of a religion not a race so it is not possible to look at an individual and know that they are Muslim.

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Can the United States attack known terrorist safe-havens/hideouts?

Preemptively striking known terrorist camps is not effective because potential kidnapped victims and hostages may also be held there. Citizens could also be located in the general area, as the camps might be in cities or densely populated areas.

How can the U.S. assist other countries?

Currently the U.S. State department is running a program called Antiterrorism Assistance Program. The main mission of this program is to provide training in bomb detection, crime scene investigation, and security to friendly foreign governments.

For more information, please visit: state.gov

Are the U.S.’s ports protected?

Customs and Border Patrol actually do nothing at the ports, ports are controlled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the US Coast Guard. The US has been very successful in protecting our borders and security. The US has had far fewer terrorist attacks compared to many European countries because of the vetting system we have in place. Many European countries allow immigrants in then vet them instead of vetting then letting them in. The current adminstration has established executive orders to better vet immigrants from certain countries, but as there continues to be backlash, it is a sensitive topic. Whether President is able to establish an executive order or not, the US already has strong border and immigration security. Jószef Kis-Benedek in his article "Illegal Migration and Terrorism" has more to offer through multi-decade case studies and analysis.