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9/11 panel: Don’t become complacent after 16 years, America

By Phyllis Zimmerman, Special to the Press & Journal
Posted 9/12/17

Most Americans alive on Sept. 11, 2001 will never forget the horrific events that irretrievably changed our nation when radical terrorism killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. Our nation reeled …

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9/11 panel: Don’t become complacent after 16 years, America

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Most Americans alive on Sept. 11, 2001 will never forget the horrific events that irretrievably changed our nation when radical terrorism killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. Our nation reeled with shock and was united in grief.

With this, the United States leapt into action, initiating a national Department of Homeland Security, heightened travel security, and countless other pro-active measures intended to thwart terrorism. But really, have we succeeded in eradicating terrorism since then?

On Monday, the 16th anniversary of 9/11, professionals who experienced the 2001 cataclysm firsthand met at Penn State Harrisburg for a panel discussion, “How Homeland Security Evolved and Where We Are Now.” The public event was presented by the college’s School of Public Affairs and moderated by Alexander Siedschlag, professor and chairman of homeland security at Penn State Harrisburg. Siedschlag organized the event with assistance from campus staff, he said.

“I wanted to connect with (the campus’ 9/11) memorial service that was held this morning and take a minute to step back and look at 9/11 and see what we can still do,” Siedschlag said. Monday’s panel discussion also was broadcast online for Siedschlag’s 900 online students around the globe.

Panelists included:

• Marcus Brown, director of Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Penn State Harrisburg homeland security lecturer.

• Michael Massiah, chief of capital planning, execution and asset management, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

• Bert B. Tussing, director, Homeland Defense and Security Issues, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle.

• Nicholas Eftimiades, former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency senior intelligence officer, Penn State Harrisburg homeland security lecturer.

• Officer Sean Frawley, former U.S. Capitol police officer, Police Services officer, Penn State Harrisburg.

• Mike Londregan, director of security, Defense Intelligence Agency.

Brown said he was working as a commissioner of special operations for Baltimore police on Sept. 11, 2001. He and other police were deployed to Washington, D.C., that day in response to the terror attack at the Pentagon.

“We all believed right after 9/11 that the next terrorist act was going to be organized in other countries,” Brown noted. “The threat much more now is the lone wolf who attacks in the U.S. The development of the Internet and social media has a lot to do with it. Now we have gun attacks, knife attacks, attacks with vehicles. As cyber ramps up, it will be harder to recognize who’s the next threat.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, Massiah was deputy director of human resources for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. A portion of the Port Authority’s operations were based at the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, resulting in employee injuries and deaths. Massiah was spared because he hadn’t yet arrived at work that morning.

Since then, the Port Authority has increased its security budget from 12 percent of operations in 2001 to 23 percent in 2016.

Tussing urged citizens “not to succumb to complacency” even if it has been 16 years since terrorist planes hit New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania.

“It used to be a lot easier for us to tell who the enemy was. Now we have a trans-national or sub-national threat,” Tussing said. “If catastrophe comes, it’s time to come together and not blame. Think about what you can do before something happens.”

Eftimiades concurred that the sources of terrorist threats have changed since 2001.

“I see cyberthreats. We always think that homeland security ends with a bang. That’s not always the case. Now we have bioweapons, dirty bombs and more,” Eftimiades said.

Frawley was on duty as a U.S. Capitol police officer in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was the only car going into the city at that time and I thought, ‘This is where I want to be.’” Frawley said. The other two lanes of traffic were all going out of the city. On the eastern front, shoes and purses were left behind on the sidewalk. People were running so fast, they were running out of their shoes.

“Now our threats are extremist mindsets and cybercrime,” Frawley noted.

Londregan participated in the panel discussion via phone conference. He said that he believes that the public’s attitude about terrorism has become too relaxed since the 2001 attacks.

“I think we have a permissive society now, but we can’t be complacent 16 years later,” Londregan said.

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