Last week's terrifying episodes in Ottawa and New York City have forced national security officials in both places to wrestle with the question: how do you stop terrorists who act alone? Homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem joined Boston Public Radio to discuss the unique challenges presented by "lone wolf" actors.
To put it bluntly, it's not a challenge easily met. "There's very little way [to prevent them,]" Kayyem said. "It's going to be like Whack-A-Mole."
But while unpredictable, Kayyem maintained that "lone wolves" are typically not highly trained and are unsophisticated in their attacks. That means that the best course of action is proactive: by preventing radicalization at the roots before it metastasizes into violent action.
"Our best defense against it isn't closing websites. It's integrating, as we have, new communities, religiously diverse communities, into the American fabric," she said.
"Our best defense against [terrorism] isn't closing websites. It's integrating, as we have, new communities, religiously diverse communities, into the American fabric."
According to Kayyem, America's diverse population is—in its own way—a built-in safeguard against terrorism and radicalization. "We essentially don't have radicalized populations," she explained. "Muslim communities, Arab communities, Hispanic communities, believe—and the literature is just clear on this—believe in the American dream, because America has embraced them."
To overreact to the threat of "lone wolves," then, would only do more harm than good, she maintained. "The worst thing we can do is begin to isolate these communities," Kayyem said. "We work with them as law enforcement, as individuals, we ask them to help us if they see radicalization in their midst. It's the only way."
To hear more from homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, tune in to the full interview on Boston Public Radio above.