(HERITAGE FOUNDATION) — The Orlando attack was the 86th instance of Islamist terror in the U.S. since 9/11. In the aftermath of such a horrific attack, America can learn vital lessons on how to stop the next attack. The U.S. must first commit to proactively combating terrorism at home and abroad.
Of the 22 plots or attacks since the start of 2015, 19 have been committed by individuals inspired by ISIS (Islamic State) or other terrorist groups in Syria, such as the al-Qaeda–linked al-Nusra. Defeating radical Islamism abroad is critical to defeating it at home. Some have rashly promoted gun control as the solution to this kind of terror attack. Rather, counterterrorism policies are what would stop attacks like Orlando from occurring again.
Proactively Defending the U.S. Homeland
DHS and the FBI stand at the center of many of the U.S.’s efforts to combat terrorism. Despite their importance, their efforts are often plagued by inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. To better protect the U.S. from terrorism, Congress should:
Expand Active Shooter Threat Training across the country. Mass shootings in busy areas will always be a threat given America’s free society. Since state and local law enforcement officers will be the first to respond, training for active shooter events should be expanded through existing programs such as the Active Shooter Threat Training Program and corresponding instructor training program.
Stress community outreach as a vital tool. The U.S. should facilitate strong community outreach. Such capabilities are key to building trust in local communities, especially in high-risk areas. If the U.S. is to thwart “lone wolf” Islamist terrorist attacks successfully, it must put effective community outreach operations at the tip of the spear.
Maintain essential counterterrorism tools. Support for important investigative tools is essential to maintaining the security of the U.S. and combating terrorist threats. Legitimate government surveillance programs are also a vital component of U.S. national security and should be allowed to continue. The need for effective counterterrorism operations, however, does not relieve the government of its obligation to follow the law and respect individual privacy and liberty.
Ensure that the FBI more readily and regularly shares information with state and local law enforcement, treating state and local partners as critical actors in the fight against terrorism. State, local, and private-sector partners must send and receive timely information from the FBI. Despite the lessons of 9/11 and other terrorist plots, the culture of the FBI continues to resist sharing information with state and local law enforcement.
Combatting Terrorism Abroad
Rolling back—and defeating—ISIS requires a global approach in which the U.S. leads a multi-pronged, multi-nation effort that seeks to deny ISIS the ability to hold territory, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan; disrupts its recruitment of foreign fighters; and counters its destructive ideology. The U.S. must:
Deny territorial gains. One part of the solution must be military. The Islamic State derives much of its cachet and legitimacy from its success. Driving ISIS from its conquered territories will undermine the group’s legitimacy in the eyes of aspiring jihadists, thereby hurting its ability to recruit.
Shut down the foreign fighter pipeline. The key to shutting down the flow of foreign fighters is intelligence. The U.S. and its allies must work together to identify those individuals who intend to act on the violent Islamist ideology. This requires hard intelligence work and even closer coordination between countries to identify suspicious travel. This includes pushing allies to take greater intelligence and security measures that reflect the global nature of the threat. The U.S. should make greater use of state and local law enforcement, both as intelligence sources and as intelligence users.
Counter Islamist ideology.
The other important task is to defeat the ideology of Islamist extremism. Only Muslims have the knowledge and credibility within their communities to lead this fight.