Terror Tragedy In London
Tufts international security experts react to the coordinated terrorist attack on London’s transit system that killed several dozen people.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.08.05] In the wake of the terrorist attack on London’s public transportation system that killed more than 50 people, countries including the U.S. tightened security in their own transit systems and a somber vigilance occupied the minds of commuters around the world. Security experts from the Fletcher School believe that more can be done to prevent incidents like this from recurring.
"The bad guys only have to win once. We have to win all the time," retired naval intelligence expert and Fletcher doctoral candidate Erik Dahl told New England Cable News.
Dahl disagreed with popular sentiment that the best sort of information comes from human intelligence achieved through infiltration of terror organizations.
"What really works, when we’re able to prevent a major terrorist attack, such as the British have been able to do several times since 9/11, is essentially police work, information on the ground," he said on NECN. "Most of these terrorist groups have been in place, working, for several years before these attacks. That’s where we need to stop them."
Increased public awareness, he believes, is also key.
"What I want is for all American people and British people to realize that they’re part of the intelligence system," Dahl told NECN. "They shouldn’t rely on having some spy somewhere or some satellite somewhere to detect an attack coming. That’s not going to happen."
The logistics of increased vigilance, however, are demanding.
"What are we going to do – control the entrance to every subway station? It's impossible," Richard Shultz, director of the International Security Studies program at the Fletcher School, told The Boston Globe.
Focus on domestic security is sure to increase as a result of the events in London, but success is far from certain under even the best of circumstances.
Though MI5 – Britain's high-level intelligence agency – is ''much more aggressive" than the FBI, Shultz told the Globe, "these sorts of things can happen."
One question intelligence experts in Britain will be asking, according to another Tufts expert, is where the terrorists gathered the material for the bombs.
"Given the experience of the British with the IRA, which used bombs, and given they work so closely with other security organizations, my question would be, 'Where did the explosives come from?'" Tufts political science professor Richard Eichenberg told The Windsor Star of Canada.
Dahl told the Boston Herald that MI5's failure to prevent the attacks in London may not bolster support for a centralized homeland security agency in the United States – one of the cornerstones of Bush's response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"This case actually is one in which our strongest ally, our closest ally in terms of intelligence, an ally that has a great internal intelligence system in the MI5 organization, they were still hit by a major terrorist attack like this," Dahl told NECN.
All the more reason, said Dahl, for the U.S., Britain and other nations to continue working together to combat terrorist organizations.
"We certainly need to keep on working on our intelligence coordination," he told NECN. "The message is, unfortunately, that nobody can truly avoid this."