Launching an Effective and Collaborative International Anti-Terrorism Team

Tags: Leadership, Performance, Heroes

Examining the prevention of terrorism with an eye on leadership is a timely and important topic. I don’t know about you, but I find myself frequently thinking about the innocent people recently killed or injured in Belgium, Pakistan, Paris and other places. I imagine that most of you have your own thoughts or worries.

I would like to invite you to take a moment now to think about the victims of the attacks and their families. What are your thoughts and feelings about these families?  What are your worries about the safety of your own friends and families in the future?

I assume that after San Bernardino, Paris, and Belgium’s recent events, many people feel fear and worry regarding the future. However, in examining actual and averted events since 9/11, you can see that terrorism has been consistently present in the world during the last fifteen years.

It has been estimated that 2,753 people died at the World Trade Center during the attack in 2001 and by September of 2015, 2,620 people had developed cancer-related illnesses associated with the attacks. Early responders have been especially hit with serious secondary illnesses as the years pass. Let us also remember the thousands that were injured at the WTC as well.

In 2003, I was asked to be a guest of Larry Potash on WGN Chicago morning television to discuss the two-year anniversary of 9/11 and how people were coping since the destruction of the World Trade Center.  After viewing the clip for the first time in years, besides being reminded I had a goatee at the time, it strikes me that years later we continue to worry about terrorism – almost as much as we did a few years after the worst attack on our mainland in our nation’s history. However, during the last fifteen or so years major and minor attacks have occurred around the globe and inside our country.  Also, in the same fifteen years, about 50% of attacks have been successfully averted.

As you will remember, there have been violent attacks carried out in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Beirut, Egypt, Norway, Turkey, Tunisia, Southeastern France, Kenya, Brussels, Mumbai, London, Beslan, Madrid, Russia, Bali, and other places.

I am reminded that there have been upwards of 30 smaller successful attacks in the U.S. itself:  California, Chattanooga, Washington, NJ, Oklahoma, Boston, Little Rock Fort Hood, Seattle, Los Angeles, Colorado, Charleston, Las Vegas, Kansas, Blooming Grove, the Oak Creek Sikh Temple, Carlisle, Austin, Pittsburgh, and others.

One source from 2013 reported on more than 50 averted attacks in the U.S. in the years since 9/11.

Americans may be afraid of future attacks, but I think there is a disconnect regarding the fact that national and global terrorism has already been occurring during the last fifteen years, necessitating significantly more effective prevention efforts to be implemented by our current and future leaders.

The hit television show Homeland, in its previous 2015 season, accurately predicted the Belgium bombing of the airport and subway even though the story took place in Berlin. If Hollywood can predict acts of violence, then it is imperative that we create an international team of experts that can consistently avert tragic events if at all possible. It appears that the Obama administration has been averting about half of the terrorist plots threatening Americans which is a good start, but has to be even more successful in the future.

Therefore, since the efforts need to be even greater to have a broader scope of containment, I believe we need:

  • An extremely competent and empowered “international committee on terrorism” whose representatives originate from many nations. The committee will create egalitarian policies that enable member nations to mutually share information, databases, arrest and prison records, no-fly lists, and effectively communicate warnings from individual citizens. For example, in Brussels, several individuals, as well as the country of Turkey, notified authorities about suspicious behaviors in Brussels, which might, if they had been followed up on, have enabled authorities to avert the attacks. There is currently a UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, but since 2007 there have been reports published stating how the committee can be more effective. In any event there needs to be a highly productive international committee with broad freedom to avert terrorist attacks.
  • Brilliant innovations implemented to decrease the chances of terrorists launching attacks in general.
  • To reduce the public’s vulnerability in “soft” meeting places like airports and mass transport centers. For example, one idea I propose is to use global entry for all US citizens and more intense interviewing of anyone who is not registered (for example, the Israeli format of interviewing which has been very successful). People would walk through security quickly, getting them out of vulnerable areas open to the public. Reductions in TSA staff due to all citizens having global entry would pay for the enhanced screening.
  • Optimizing the effective communication of the worries and reports of concerned people warning of possible impending attacks without any notifications being lost or ignored, as they were with 9/11 and the recent attack in Belgium. In Belgium, warnings from multiple people had been received and never followed up on. A cab driver, a landlord, and the Turkish government all provided valuable information. Imagine if your family member was hurt or killed and someone had not followed up on a preventative lead.
  • What other ideas do you have that may help avert potential attacks?

A well-known American author, Pamela Druckerman, who has been living in Paris for 12 years, wrote an editorial recently on how much harder it is to live in Paris today.  She agrees and urges that:

  • The international committee on terrorism be empowered effectively to avert global events of terrorism.
  • The public needs to be encouraged to be vigilant and keep their eyes open. She adds that the committee has to develop a way to easily communicate important concerns to appropriate parties.

We need to honor those individuals already hurt or killed and their families, and we need to make sure our leaders do their best to foster global team collaboration for minimizing future tragedy wherever possible. We also need to be aware of our own feelings and thoughts about terrorism so we can determine the right choices for ourselves and our families. Most of all, we need a highly productive and collaborative international committee on terrorism that can avert most attacks and challenges.  This is a tall order but it is possible since we seem to be already achieving a 50% success rate.



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