Captain Wade Ishimoto, U.S. Army (Ret)
By Wade Ishimoto
As we near the 20th anniversary of the horrendous al-Qaeda attack on our homeland, there are those that wonder if terrorism continues to be a threat to our American national security. On September 11, 2001, 2,977 lost their lives to a well-planned and executed attack by 19 terrorists. Since that fateful day, the number of terrorist attacks by foreign terrorists inside the U.S. has been minimal. On the other hand, there have been significant attacks classified as terrorism that were perpetrated by U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
An example of a foreign terrorist attack is the 2019 Pensacola Air Station attack by a Saudi Arabian Air Force student that killed three and wounded 5. Examples of the latter category include Major Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009; a bombing of the Boston Marathon by two immigrant brothers that killed three but injured hundreds in 2013; and the Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 people. There have also been numerous other mass killings that might be considered terrorism although they may not have had a political motivation.
Terrorism has not disappeared inside America. However, the extent of foreign based terrorist events has greatly diminished thanks to the efforts of our military, intelligence, law enforcement, and security organizations. Our diplomatic initiatives with other countries have also contributed to the diminished threat. Domestically, the judicious application of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have played a key role in being able to identify terrorist threats and to act on them before they are perpetrated. JAVA members GEN Paul Nakasone and LTG Michael Nagata (USA Ret) have been at the forefront in preventing acts of terrorism. GEN Nakasone continues to lead the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command providing electronic intelligence, while LTG Nagata retired as the Deputy of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Other JAVA members like MSG Jae Kuen Lee are deployed overseas to stem the tide of terrorism from reaching our shores and to assist our allies in their fights against terrorism. D.C. Air National Guard and JAVA members Renee Lee and Jason Yee were activated to provide security at the U.S. Capitol due to the attempt to disrupt Congress on January 6, 2021. Members of Hawaii’s 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, were also activated to respond to that event.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have not gone away, but our counter-terrorism efforts overseas have also significantly reduced the threat to our homeland. However, those two organizations and others continue to pose a threat to other countries. In addition, it is important to remember that there are other non-Islamic extremist groups like the Naxalites in India that also pose insurgent and terrorist threats around the world.
Domestically, we continue to see acts of terrorism and mass killings perpetrated by U.S. citizens that are racially biased, religiously motivated, or have anti-government sentiments on both the left and right, along with deranged lone actors. It is well nigh impossible to stop all acts of terrorism. However, through proper vigilance and reporting of suspicious activity to law enforcement, security, and intelligence organizations, we can reduce the number of incidents and loss of life. We cannot and should not live our lives in fear. As President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to feat but fear itself.” We have proven that we can deal with terrorists and not allow them to rule our lives.
On June 15, 2021, the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism was published. My views on that strategy will be provided in a future edition of the e-Advocate.