Look closer to home for potential terror

The following editorial appeared in the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa., on Jan. 8:

Americans must shift their gaze to the domestic front when it comes to combating terrorism. That’s where experts say the most trouble lies.

Yet too many folks continue looking abroad, fearing the infiltration of Islamic terrorists into the country and calling for everything from tighter air travel security to all-out bans on all Muslims. They’d be better off keeping an eye on their own neighborhood.

Sure, Islamic terrorist suspects are out there, as recent arrests show: In December the FBI and state law enforcement officials arrested a 19-year-old Harrisburg man they accuse of using the Internet to spread ISIS propaganda, advocating violence within the U.S. and aid to terrorists traveling to the so-called Islamic State. Authorities found military-grade ammo, high-capacity gun magazines and a tactical backpack on the home that Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz shared … with his parents.

Then there was Emanual Lutchman of Rochester, New York, a 25-year-old arrested on New Year’s Eve and charged with trying to provide material support to ISIS. Police said Lutchman was following orders from an ISIS member overseas with whom he’d been on contact, and planned to bomb an upstate New York bar and restaurant.

Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. And certainly not all terrorists are Muslim. In the Poconos alone, a young loner from Canadensis gunned down two state police officers, killing one of them, in September 2014 and led police on a six-week manhunt before his arrest. The year before that, a disgruntled squatter in his late 50s shot to death three people — neighbors and local municipal officials — during a township meeting.

Don’t forget Aurora, Colorado, theater shooter James Holmes, serving a life sentence after gunning down 12 and wounding 70, or Adam Lanza, who killed 24 children and teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school.

And of course there’s Timothy McVeigh, the angry Gulf War veteran who became the most infamous domestic-bred terrorist. McVeigh killed 168 and injured more than 600, including dozens of children, on April 19, 1995, when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. No Muslim connection there.

Muslim or non-Muslim, societal misfits live in any community, and some of them may turn violent. Could family members notice? Neighbors? Co-workers?

Rather than fearing refugees, ordinary, law-abiding citizens should remain alert to signs closer to home that something might be awry. Government officials and citizens alike can’t focus solely on potential Muslim terrorists from abroad or Islamic terrorism alone. There are plenty of serious public safety threats that have nothing to do with jihadism.

We’ll never stop every act of terrorism. But expressing a healthy dose of skepticism over an acquaintance’s streak of paranoia or reporting the weapon-hoarding tendency of someone with a history of mental illness? That just might save some lives.


(c)2016 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.

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