Opinion

Shootings, terror attacks replace our freedoms with fear

Bob Ehlert
Bob Ehlert

Though the massacre of 49 people at a gay Orlando, Fla., nightclub and the wounding of another 53 did not happen in Idaho, we better come to terms with the reality that it could have happened here — almost anywhere.

Whether our assailants are mentally ill or motivated by hate or religious extremist ideology doesn’t matter if we can’t stop them from the next attack.

Some in this state have invested their suspicions into the potential of would-be Syrian or other refugees to commit terror here, yet the Orlando killer was born a U.S. citizen, a man known to the FBI who worked as a security guard and followed all protocols to purchase a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle earlier this month.

Boise’s most recent brush with terrorism did involve a refugee: Fazliddin Kurbanov, a Boise resident, who was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist group in Uzbekistan and possession of an unregistered destructive device — a bomb.

“He intended to carry out jihad on the United States,” Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge said at the time of Kurbanov’s 25-year sentencing in January. “He intended to explode a bomb in the U.S. to send a message, much like that delivered in the 9/11 attacks.”

If you categorize the Orlando shootings a hate crime, consider the recent murder of Steven Nelson, a gay Nampa man who was lured to Lake Lowell and then beaten and murdered. Four Nampa men have been indicted for robbery and murder in connection with the case. Though no official determination of a federal hate crime has been ruled in their cases to date, the circumstances and settings certainly don’t indicate we in Idaho are immune to such acts of violence.

Orlando teaches us yet again that terror — in whatever form — targets us all, from some of the most powerful to the most vulnerable. It is no respecter of persons or nationalities or minority status. Outside of the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly terror massacres exacted on our soil have been carried out by U.S. citizens: Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of killing 168 people (including 19 children) in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; and now Omar Mateen, who wielded the guns that resulted in the deaths and casualties Sunday morning in Orlando.

Though lives have been saved by foiling attacks, they still come. We need to redouble our efforts to reflect on the commonalities, using all of our existing forensic resources — and commissioning new ones.

We could stop the sale of semi-automatic rifles weapons tomorrow, but the country is already awash in them. We could stop the immigration of Muslims we might be suspicious of the next day, but never know when our own home-grown “lone wolf” subjects are about to strike.

It is time Congress and our presidential candidates abandon purely political agendas and hammer out the proper anti-terror policies and manpower needs to better identify and neutralize our threats.

The FBI spent time and resources investigating Mateen back in 2013— during which he was on a watch list. But when that scrutiny ended and Mateen was off the FBI radar three years later — there were no red flags, no obstacles to his purchase of the guns used in the massacre.

If the FBI or any security/intelligence agency needs more people, better policy tools or less-restrictive options to track suspected terrorists — and this has got to be a growing concern because of Islamic State recruitment efforts — we need to find a way to make this happen.

Our military is engaged in our national security. But if we can’t determine and thwart our homeland and cybersecurity risks, the carnage will continue and our “freedoms” will be diluted daily by our fears.

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