December 27, 2017

GOA Students Attend OSS Press Conference

Sam Russo '18

I don’t usually walk into empty lobbies of strange buildings in New York City. On the off chance that I do that, I even less frequently walk up to the security desk and say a name. After that happens, I am never ever pointed to the elevator and told to go to the 33rd floor, where I find a major-general of the Israel Defense Forces and a British colonel.
But that’s exactly what happened to six other GOA students and me last month.
At the invitation of Our Soldiers Speak and its founder and director, Benjamin Anthony, I asked The Flame to invite some of its interested writers editors to a press conference. I let the editors-in-chief know the scant details I had: we would have the opportunity to meet with Major-General Avshalom Peled, the head of Israel’s Police Training Academy, and Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British force in Afghanistan, on the morning of November 5 to discuss how to combat lone-wolf terrorism. All of the other details, from the location of the event to the other attendees were undisclosed.
Naturally, I was excited when hours before the event, I found an email on my phone telling me to go to the 33rd floor of a building on 51st Street between Fifth Street and Sixth Street. I was excited but also a little bit nervous–I was going to lead six of my peers into an unknown building to meet with two military officers.
Early that morning, Gidi Fox, Sam Lurie, Theo Deitz-Green, Nina Robins, Jacob Bier, Sophie Goldman and I took a train to New York City. As I manipulated Google Maps on my phone, we searched through the city’s streets for the building. After checking the number of almost every building we walked by, we finally approached an imposing glass and steel edifice with the name of a major company printed on the doors.
With encouragement from the other students, I reluctantly pulled back the heavy door to reveal a dark lobby, empty save one security guard. Together, the seven of us walked towards his desk, and he asked our names. We each gave ours in turn, but he offered nothing in response, instead looking more closely at a list in front of him. I tried, stuttering, to explain to him who we were and what we were doing there, and only once I blurted out the name “Benjamin,” did he let us upstairs.
There, on the 33rd floor, we faced another set of heavy, intimidating glass doors. After again summoning up the courage to open them, we were greeted by the two military officers and a few other students. Once we met them, much of the secrecy and formality that had surrounded the press conference faded away, leaving us to comfortably speak with two remarkably intelligent and well informed men. The details of our rewarding interview can be found in other articles in this edition of The Flame.
Despite all of the incredible information and ideas the officers offered, the most meaningful part of the press conference for me came at the end, when Kemp said, “I really admire and respect and appreciate what you guys are doing.”
It made me and the other young journalists in the room feel important and empowered. Rather than treating us like little kids, Kemp appreciated our interest in him, Israel and journalism and encouraged us to continue with these passions. Peled echoed this idea and reminded us, as young Jews, of our enduring connection to Israel and the Jewish people.

“I would like to say that I am really impressed by you.” he said. “[You] are the future of the Jewish people, of the Jewish nation… Even though you are here, you are part of Israel… We have the same fathers and mothers.”

December 5, 2017

Fighting Terrorism in a Democracy

Theo Deitz-Green '19, Nina Robins '19, Jacob Bier '19

Perhaps one of the greatest civic debates of the past few centuries has been over how a government can both preserve individual liberties and ensure the security of its citizens. In an era of expanding terrorism around the world, finding the balance between these two competing needs is both crucially important and deeply challenging.
In large part because of the rise of ISIS, the world has seen a major increase in terrorist attacks and in particular, of lone wolf attacks. Lone wolf attacks, or attacks involving one person acting alone with no support of a larger terrorist organization, present a uniquely difficult task: security forces must detect a potential threat based only on the actions of a single actor.
Therefore, in order to identify and prevent all possible lone wolf terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies must monitor every person who poses any level of security threat, a task that is nearly impossible given the sheer number of people who fit into this category. Even if this could somehow be accomplished, there would still be the possibility that some people who have given law enforcement agencies no signs that they pose a threat might slip through the cracks.
Unsurprisingly, under such difficult circumstances, there have been failures in lone wolf attack prevention, seen in shootings and bombings across the world in devastatingly deadly and effective attacks.
In the eyes of many high level law enforcement and security specialists around the world, the biggest obstacle in the path to effectively protecting the public from these horrific attacks is the notion that democratic ideals cannot be compromised for the sake of safety.
This idea was seen in the battle to end the NSA wiretapping program, which provided the NSA with an effective means of monitoring the activity of suspected terrorists and stopping attacks before they could occur, but also seemed to strip people of the rights to privacy on phones. It is also seen in the debate over torture practices in the United States and around the world, which have the potential to acquire information crucial to the security of the public but are also deeply unethical and against the democratic ideal that there should be no “cruel and unusual punishment.”
To some, including Major-General Avshalom Peled, Commander of Israeli National Police Academy, and Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, the issue is deeper than just a basic divide between the ideals liberty and security; it is the question of whether or not a country fighting terrorism must hold itself to democratic principles while fighting terrorists that it holds itself to in running its own country. They believe that the difficult answer is no.
Kemp explained that there are currently believed to be 30,000 people suspected of being involved in Jihad living in the United Kingdom, including 3000 who are thought to pose an imminent threat. This number, Kemp argues, is so large that as the situation stands right now, it is not possible for the UK to prevent an attack indefinitely.   
Therefore, Kemp, based on the assumption that lone wolves have in common a connection to Islamic extremism fostered in the middle east, proposes that the UK stop allowing people coming from specific Middle Eastern areas into the country, deport non-citizens, and apprehend people in the UK suspected of being terrorists, even if there is no evidence to support any case against them.   
Putting aside the valid and crucially important questions about the accuracy of Kemp’s assumption about the fundamental connection between lone wolf terrorism and Islamic extremism, these proposals would clearly violate the ideals of due process and equal protection of law inherent to a democracy, not to mention that they would pose significant ethical questions. Kemp acknowledges as much.
In fact, he agrees that it is difficult to propose turning away refugees from the middle east in dire conditions and severe danger just for the protection of the people already living in the United Kingdom.
It is “hard to say that you [should] stop people who are in desperation [from entering the country].” However, Kemp believes that “the government's priority should be the security of its own people.”
Peled agrees with Kemp’s general assessment of the need to carry out certain undemocratic actions. He cites as an example of this an Israeli policy under which Israeli security officials are able to arrest and hold arabs/muslims who are considered to be lone wolf threats for up to six months in prison without providing any evidence at all.
This, an actual policy that has been enacted as opposed to Kemp’s theoretical ideas, serves as an actual example of a democracy stripping away due process and targeting specific groups of people based on generalizations about the group they belong to.
However, Peled, who also believes that Arabs/Muslims pose a more significant threat than people of other ethnicities and religions, at least right now in Israel, believes that the benefit this provides outweighs what the program sacrifices.
In fact, he believes that more such programs are needed.
“Democracy fights terrorism with one arm tied behind [its] back.”
If democracies hope to protect their citizens, they must level the playing field with extreme, but what Peled believes are necessary, measures like this one in order to be able to effectively fight terrorism.
Whether or not one agrees with these ideas, or even the beliefs that guide them, the ideas of Kemp, Peled, and other similar minded people will be extremely important in the continuation of the fight against terrorism and in the evolution of democracy. How these two seemingly irreconcilable ideals are balanced will determine much of the way life and liberty is viewed in the decades and centuries to come.


Israel’s Response to Lone Wolf Terrorism

Sam Lurie '19, Sophie Goldman '19, Gidi Fox '19

October 31 saw New York City’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11.  Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, inspired by Islamic State (IS), drove a rented pickup truck into a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing 8 and injuring 11.  The attack is a new entry in the continuing lone wolf terror attack crisis.  More and more often, especially in Europe,  terrorists acting individually, known as lone wolves, are radicalized by IS and commit heinous acts acts of violence and murder.  
Lone wolf terrorist attacks are spontaneous and very difficult to detect.  In a press conference with the Flame, Major-General Avshalom Peled, Commander of Israeli National Police Academy, noted that it is very difficult detect lone wolves.  He said that when an entire group of terrorists plot an attack, the intelligence community can monitor that group.  However, lone wolves are single people, often radicalized by terrorist organizations through the internet.  Therefore, it is almost completely unknown who to monitor as a potential lone wolf.  
Nevertheless, there are patterns in lone wolf terrorism.  Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, said that lone wolves all get similar directions from Islamic terrorists online, “Get a knife, get a car, kill infidels.”  Peled noted that by driving his vehicle through a crowd, “[Saipov] did what all lone wolves all over the world do today.”
Kemp said with thanks that more attacks are stopped than actually take place; many are in fact stopped because of intel provided by Israel.  “Many people in NY and Europe would be dead today if not for intel provided by the Israelis.”
Still, the big question is how to prevent these types of attacks.  Both Peled and Kemp outlined their own detailed plans.  Peled emphasized the importance of reacting quickly and efficiently after each attack in order to keep the most people safe and obtain the most intelligence possible to enhance Israel’s existing method of counterterrorism, what he calls the “six layers of security.”
The first layer is the use of operational and tactical methods to reinforce the law enforcement forces on the streets after an attack and to deploy specialty anti-terror forces to protect locations of interest from additional attacks.
 The second layer is to call together a responsive joint command where commanders and representatives from all security agencies in the country meet in a joint command center so that quick decisions can be made and to ensure that all agencies are joining their forces.  
The third layer is intelligence.  “You cannot win a war without intelligence, “ Peled added.  Immediately after an attack, Peled stresses the need of shared intelligence between agencies.  Additionally, meticulous intelligence must be obtained about the attacker and method of attack so that the counter-terrorism community can learn from each attack and develop new ways to prevent them.  
The fourth layer is dialogue with neighbors.  After an attack in Israel, Israeli agencies keep channels of communication open with leaders in Arab towns and the West Bank.  In America, this principle can be applied to channels of communication between states, or even with Mexico and Canada after an attack.  Additionally, Peled expressed the importance of speaking to Muslim religious and public figures to order their followers to turn away from terrorism.  
The fifth layer is training all law enforcement and military agencies in counter-terrorism as well as the implementation of new counter-lone wolf training.
The sixth and final layer is the public.  Peled explained, “The public is paramount.  We see them as our eyes and ears - alerting us about a suspicious object, person or [about a potential] danger.
In the continuing fight against lone wolf terrorism, Israel’s counter terrorism methods can serve as a blueprint for countries around the world follow in the effort to secure the public and prevent the devastation that just one person acting alone can bring.


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