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RI’s Naval War College Terrorism Expert: Marathon and Ricin Scare

Thursday, April 18, 2013

 

Monday shook with bomb explosions in Boston at the famed Boston Marathon.

A terrorism expert from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport discusses the shaky week that has been filled with domestic terror scares, from the bombing at the Boston Marathon to the ricin scare that has rocked D.C.

Professor Marc A. Genest is also the Area Study Coordinator for the Insurgency and Terrorism electives program at the college, as well as the Forrest Sherman Chair of Public Diplomacy in the Strategy and Policy Department and Co-Director of the Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups.

Genest said that while the week’s events are most likely unrelated, acts of terror are “here to stay.”

“A Hallmark of the Twenty-First Century”

Although motive and involvement are much too early to determine, Genest said that to put the week’s happenings into context, “We can’t think of this as a war on terror, in the traditional sense of a war.”

“The problem of terrorism is here to stay,” he said. “This tactic is used by radicals of all stripes, and there is not going to be a victory or defeat in the traditional sense. Right now, we are learning how to manage these incidents without sacrificing our liberties.”

“Incidences like these are going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We can only try to reduce their number and impact. It’s a hallmark of the twenty-first century.”

“Fascinating Clues”

On the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing, a letter addressed to President Barack Obama tested positive for ricin, a deadly poison.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon that occurred on Patriot’s Day/Marathon Monday left three dead, and over 100 injured. As details come out about the pressure cooker bombs, and suspects involved, Genest says that we have to be careful not to rush to conclusions.

“The clues to this are fascinating. It comes on Tax Day and Patriots' Day,” he said. Genest said that the situation can read either domestic or foreign, depending on how you look at it.

“Those two clues would lead you to think it was a domestic act, but it could be international. This was done at a large event, where there would be media coverage and a large group,” he said. “It’s all over the map in terms of how you want to think about this. Anything said right now is pure speculation. Because of methods used [in the attack], it could be a long time before we find out.”

Coincidence?

The second incident this week, a letter addressed to President Obama that tested positive for the highly toxic poison, ricin, Genest says, is most likely unrelated. The FBI announced the arrest of a suspect in Tupelo, MS, Wednesday evening.

“You can’t rush to premature judgment,” he said.

When speaking about the ricin scare, he added, "I don’t know if this wild coincidence or campaign of terror that is more widespread. If they are connected events, this is a completely different kind of well-planned attack than we have seen in the past.”

Genest said that it does make for an “odd coincidence.”

“If it’s coordinated then it has signs of both types of domestic and international terrorism,” he said. “Mailing of poison was initially assumed to be domestic, with incidents like the Unabomber, anthrax scares – those are commonly domestic.”

Genest said that the situation is a complex one: “With the Boston Marathon bombings, because it was a bomb made to kill as many as possible, it shows more traditional international terrorist trends, yet in those cases, they tend to go for symbolic buildings.”

 

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