The elements of an attack are available, including the weapons, manpower and a ‘permissive environment.’
In the afternoon of Nov. 13, when news of the horrific Paris attacks began to reach the U.S. and the fear and chaos there began to sink in, many Americans asked one important question: Could a similar attack by jihadists linked to Islamic State occur in a major American city? The answer is yes.
To understand why, it is vital to deconstruct the Paris attack and the factors that enabled it and then see if they can be mapped onto an American urban environment. During my tenure as director of intelligence analysis at the New York Police Department, this is what we did after any major attack around the world to stay ahead of ever-evolving terrorist threats.
While more operational details of the Paris attack will be uncovered, four necessary ingredients have already emerged: First, European citizens willing to kill themselves and their countrymen. Second, material for the attack, including assault weapons and hydrogen peroxide for suicide bombs. Third, the technical and paramilitary skills to make improvised explosive devices and operate assault weapons. And fourth, a “permissive environment” in which the national and local security and intelligence agencies were not able to detect the plot in advance.
Thankfully, the United States has—in absolute numbers and per capita—significantly fewer members of its Muslim population who are alienated from American society, inspired by Islamic State’s toxic ideology and radicalized to violence. But they do exist. As FBI Director James Comey recently noted, the bureau has more than 900 active ISIS investigations in 50 states. Those are just the domestic ISIS supporters that the FBI knows about. In May two ISIS-inspired American citizens, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, stormed an event featuring Muhammad cartoons in Garland, Texas, wearing body armor and carrying assault weapons. If it were not for the good work of law enforcement, who shot and killed the men, scores may have been murdered.Read the rest of this Mitchel Silber op-ed HERE.
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