Instilling fear is goal of attacks, expert says

By Barrie Barber
and Laura A. Bischoff
Columbus Bureau


A weekend bombing injured dozens in New York City and rattled nerves, but the biggest impact is the fear it may create in the public, a local terrorism expert says.

The chance of experiencing a terrorist attack is “pretty small,” even as the number of cases of homegrown terrorists has risen from 38 cases in July 2010 to 124 in 2015, said Terri L. Oroszi, a Wright State University assistant professor and co-author of book on terrorism as a weapon to instill mass fear.

“I absolutely believe this is going to be an ongoing trend and it’s going to increase,”

she said.

She cited FBI data that cited hundreds of investigations into potential ISIS-inspired extremists and hundreds or thousands of Americans watching “recruitment propaganda” over social media. Oroszi co-authored “Weapons of Mass Psychological Destruction and the People Who Use Them,” published this year.

Authorities apprehended 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami after a gun battle Monday in Linden, N.J. The suspect, a naturalized citizen from Afghanistan, was wanted for questioning in connection with a bombing that injured 29 in New York City, and a pipe bomb explosion before a charity race Saturday in Seaside, N.J., authorities said.

An Ohio congressman said such attacks “are already more common.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “nearly every attack on U.S. soil has been a lone wolf attack,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Lone wolf attacks on soft targets are the easiest to carry out,” he said. “They don’t require significant coordination and so they are more difficult for law enforcement to discover the plots before they are executed. They are still thwarting these types of attacks, but it’s very difficult to stop them all.”

Fighting terrorist groups overseas and disrupting communication that would inspire others is key to stopping terrorism in the United States, Chabot said.

Softer targets such as the Orlando nightclub killings of 49 and the attack at an office in San Bernardino seem to be the trend, said Glen Duerr, assistant professor of international studies at Cedarville University. They are also more attractive to terrorists because it causes “mass panic,” he said.

Americans have about a one in 20 million chance of falling victim to a terrorist attack in the United States, said John Mueller, a senior research scientist at the Mershon Center for International Studies at Ohio State University. About six Americans per year die in the U. S. because of a terrorist attack, he said.

Terrorism watch

Preventing and responding to terrorism threats depends on citizens’ willingness to report suspicious activity and on local, state and federal authorities working together to share information, said Brian Quinn, chief of operations for the Ohio Statewide Terrorism Analysis and Crime Center.

Quinn said tips can be shared via the smart phone app, Safer Ohio, or through the state’s hotline, (877) 647-4683.

He said he is unaware of any Ohio connections to the weekend attacks in New York and New Jersey.

Wright-Pattersonremained at the current threat level of Bravo on Monday despite the terror attacks in New York City and New Jersey, according to a base spokesman.

“While we do not discuss our security tactics, techniques and procedures, our Security Forces and individual unit security managers constantly vary specific security measures to ensure we do not set a predictable pattern, especially during major events like the Air Force Marathon,” spokesman Daryl Mayer said in an email.

The base hosted more than 15,000 runners and thousands of spectators from around the world Saturday at the Air Force Marathon, the same day a 5K Marine charity run in New Jersey reported a pipe bomb exploding in a trash container prior to the start of the race. No injuries were reported in that incident.

Mayer said Monday the Air Force Marathon has had no security incidents.

In November 2015, a 31-year-old Beavercreek man breached base security when he drove through Gate 22B near Interstate 675 after a sentry told him to stop his vehicle. The man, who faces charges in federal court, later entered a building in the Air Force Laboratory Sensors Directorate, causing an hours-long evacuation in two AFRL buildings and a “shelter-in-place” order at a nearby child care center.

State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, who is vice chairman of the Ohio House Public Safety Committee, said communication between local, state and federal authorities is much improved over the pre 9/11 days.

But soft targets, such as a recreational running race, continue to present challenges. Perales said it is difficult to secure every mile of a marathon route or protect every weekend festival.

“These are the kind of things that these guys (at the Terrorism Analysis and Crime Center) are looking at daily and analyzing and figuring out what to do,” Perales said.

Security at the Ohio Statehouse, which gets 225,000 annual visitors, increased after a 2013 review, said spokesman Luke Stedke. The review was prompted by concerns about terrorism, shootings and other incidents, he said.

Metal detectors operated by state troopers now screen every visitor who doesn’t have a building pass.

Since 2013, taxpayers have spent $1.48 million on security upgrades at the Statehouse.

Dayton, like many other communities, has the potential to become a target, especially considering it has a major military base, said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.

The sheriff’s office does its best to protect soft targets in the community through information and intelligence gathering, but community members are law enforcement’s best assets, Plummer said.

When people see something odd or suspicious, they should call police, because one simple tip may be all that’s needed to prevent or solve a crime, he said.

“Don’t feel like you are bothering the police,” he said.

Staff writer Cornelius

Frolik and WHIO-TV’s Mike

Campbell contributed to this