The most recent successful terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California raises not only a number of security issues but also issues about the media and public policy. There is no doubt that attacks provoked media frenzy. Major news outlets in the US and Europe dedicated whole days to the attack. In fact they created a sense of national or international panic. If terrorists seek publicity and provoke public fear, then we are forced to ask the question: have the media become unwilling allies of the terrorists? Certainly no one would question that this attack, at least in the US, was a major news story. The question then becomes how do the media do their job without reinforcing the terrorist narrative or becoming a new item within the news? Besides the tragic loss of life, this most recent terrorist attack has provoked a number of public policy questions.
Among these are:
1) Should there be additional gun controls and if so, how much and what type of gun control?
2) Should the US remain an open society or should it exclude certain groups as visitors and immigrants?
3) Has the US (and Europe) gone so far with political correctness that people are now afraid to report questionable actions to the authorities and thus security officials have become hostages to a false political narrative? In other words has liberalism sown the seeds or its own destruction?
The recent Presidential address underscores the fact that the United States is divided on the issue of gun control. As noted in previous articles the issue stems from the 2nd Amendment to the US constitution. The current debate is not about the amendment but rather what type of arms should be legal or illegal. Those pushing for gun control argue that there is no need for private citizens to have assault weapons (it is not clear which guns are not assault weapons) and that people who are on the US no-fly list should be banned from purchasing weapons. Gun control advocates also point to the fact that in heated arguments, having easy access to a gun may result in a non-reversible tragedy and that it is much easer to take the life of another human being with a gun rather than with other weapons such as a knife.
Those on the other side of the argument argue that (1) the no fly list is nothing more than a bureaucratic sheet containing numerous mistakes and even includes government officials who work in security! Often names are placed on the list by mistake or for seemingly no reason at all.
If the gun control argument is both difficult and political messy the second issue is even harder to solve. The question is: should the US allow to enter people who may be its enemies and can people be categorized by religion? The argument centers on people of the Muslim faith. It is more complicated then most westerners realize for the following reasons: (1) politicians have muddied the waters with constitutional issues that have nothing to do with the topic. There are no constitutional protections for non-US citizens regarding entry into the US, (2) Islam is both a culture and religion and does not fall into the western category of religion, (3) although there are no constitutional issues, there are both political issues and the fact that good security requires good intelligence work and such a ban may hinder intelligence agents, (4) the US (as do all other nations with the exception of the Dominican Republic) is guilty of prejudice during the years leading do World War II when it banned Jewish refugees’ entrance from Nazi persecution and death for reasons of anti-Semitic prejudice. The memory and guilt of this tragedy and injustice still hangs over all nations.
The final issue that most be confronted is that liberal institutions, such as universities, have created new forms of permitted and not permitted speech. This twenty-first century mind control has now resulted in people being afraid to report suspected incidents and thus rendering the motto: “see something/say something” meaningless. How do we try not to use prejudicial speech and yet allow people to aid authorities? Once again, arguments can be made for both sides, and once again social and political issues will impact the way security professionals do their job.
These issues then spawned by the California and Paris attacks are not easy to solve and perhaps go to the heart and soul or western society. How we solve these issues will tell us a great deal about who we are.