Current Issues Discussion Tackles Terrorism

Ana Abraham

The Current Issues Discussion series is in its second year at UNH, and the first event of the 2012-2013 academic year occurred on Thursday, Sept. 13. The topic of discussion was one made even more immediate by the recent attacks on American ambassadors overseas: is global terrorism coming to the United States?

Dr. Woodworth of the History Department introduced the three speakers for the discussion. Professor Stoffer of National Security in the Criminal Justice Department, Dr. Markovic of the Criminal Justice Department and Dr. Carr of the Psychology Department all gave their unique perspectives based on their experiences and research.

Professor Stoffer said that the recent attack on the United States Embassy in Libya was a targeted attack on sovereign U.S. soil, and in response to the question of whether terrorism had come to the U.S, he said, “it’s here.”

He said that the country as a whole, and the intelligence community specifically, have been very vigilant since attacks of 9/11, and that vigilance has paid off.

Dr. Markovic has a Ph. D. in criminal justice with a research focus in suicide bombings, and she works closely with the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups on campus. She spoke about a few different groups that are currently operating in the United States. Some groups operate mostly through vandalism and property theft, such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Others, such as the Sovereign Citizens, are much more violent, sometimes killing law enforcement officers in the line of duty.

Both Professor Stoffer and Dr. Markovic agree that the U.S will be very vulnerable in the future in the area of cyber terrorism. Cyber attacks, they said, can affect everything from power grids to the nation’s water supplies. When asked by Dr. Woodworth what the future of counterterrorism would look like, both agreed that cyber terrorism would be huge.

Dr. Carr spoke to the psychology of the “lone wolf,” speaking from his experience as a clinical psychologist. He said that many of the perpetrators of acts of mass violence have slipped through the cracks of the mental health system. He said that even though communication between the various systems of law enforcement and mental heath has improved, there is much work to be done still.

Junior RJay Irons asked an important question of the three facilitators: how are universities handling potential threats? Each professor had a different view.

Professor Stoffer said that those applying for student visas must be carefully vetted. Dr. Markovic said that the system of handling threats is actually getting better. Dr. Carr said that in the reviews that followed the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007, where a student opened fire and killed 32 people, the clarity of communications within the mental health system, while frustrating, is being improved to find and help the “lone wolf” types.

The Current Issues Discussions take place in the Faculty Dining Room in Bartels Campus Center. This discussion was given to a room full of students, faculty and staff and was also attended by UNH President Steven Kaplan and Dean of Students Rebecca Johnson.