Insights Shared on Terrorism Threat. (Terrorism Forum)

Security Management, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Insights Shared on Terrorism Threat. (Terrorism Forum)


NO ONE EXPECTED the seminar and exhibits would be business as usual just weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and many speakers already on the program tailored their remarks to address events making headlines.

To help meet the immediate need for in depth education about the heightened terrorist threat, ASIS responded by adding new sessions on the many aspects of terrorism. Held mainly on Wednesday, October 3, which was also Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the ASIS Forum on Terrorism was a day full of insights and resolve.

Call to action. The attacks on September 11 have aroused a slumbering superpower, but "Do we have the will, the sustaining power, the controlled rage to win this war?" former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen asked a packed auditorium at the Wednesday morning general session. In a rousing speech, Cohen predicted that Americans would have the resolve, but he described a tricky path that Americans will have to walk to preserve democratic freedoms while defending against global threats.

"We have been living in the land of lotus eaters," Cohen said, explaining how the government has become lax with immigration policies, border control, military funding, and maintenance of fire and police services. "We pay athletes and actors millions, but we don't pay people who help defend our freedoms"--police, doctors, nurses, and the like--he said in a part of the speech punctuated by applause. "We have got to do more."

Cohen then sketched some of the major threats that lie ahead. Hundreds of tons of anthrax have been produced, he aid, and it only takes about five pounds or so properly distributed over Washington, D.C., to wipe out 6o to 70 percent of the population. But gas masks and rifles are a waste of time and a source of false hope, he warned. "Terrorists ant mass casualties. A rifle won't help."

A better response, he said, is through a focused military attack and a sustained effort to dry up the flow of money, weapons, and support to terrorist groups. Diplomacy is vital, he said, noting that the American-led coalition is constantly shifting. "We have to quietly work behind diplomatic doors and not make public statements," he said. "Lots of leaders are sitting on volatile populations."

The response must not trample basic American principles, however, Cohen warned. Maintaining a balance between security and privacy will be vital. "We don't want to become a society that undercuts the ideals we have," he said. Judicious use of force is called for as well, according to Cohen: "Even though our blood lust is high...that is not the American way. We don't want to target innocent civilians for retribution."

Cohen also spoke about specific threats to corporate security, including industrial espionage. State-sponsored spying is rampant, he said, and it affects national security. He advised companies to perform due diligence on all firms to which they outsource, and to which the out-sourced firms outsource, and so on. Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations also expose companies to the weakest link in their partners' security scheme.

Online threats are even more dangerous, he observed, identifying the phenomenon of STD--sensitive technology distribution. "Promiscuity in the cyberworld is as bad as in the physical world," Cohen said. "Whenever you have a relationship [with a business partner], you're having a relationship with every business with which they've had a relationship."

Cohen remained at the convention center for the balance of the morning, answering questions for media and attendees. In responding to the queries, he elaborated on the defiant note he used to end his speech: "We have taken the good things for granted. Now we have to work for them.... Our country will respond.... We are going to win that long struggle."

Panel of experts. On Wednesday afternoon, attendees heard four eminent speakers who were in unique positions to give attendees insider views on events leading up to the September 11 events and security's role in the aftermath. …

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