“Every once in awhile, we ought to let facts guide what our fears are,” Rothkopf said. “When you look at polls of the top 10 fears of the American people, it tends to be things like public speaking, flying, things that will never kill anybody, when it really should be sugar.”
“Are we focused on the right bad guys? … Are we too guided by what dominates the headlines?” Rothkopf asked Jane Holl Lute, the former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“I think we’re way, way too dominated by a national-security mindset,” she responded. “And I think we need to understand the difference between looking at these issues with a national-security mindset as opposed to a homeland-security mindset. National security is strategic, it’s centralized, it’s top-driven. Homeland security is transactional, it’s decentralized, it’s bottom-driven—driven by the states and localities of this country.”
“What’s been our theory of the case for 12 or 15 years following 9/11?” Lute asked. “Our theory of the case is the bad guys are out there, trying to come here. … How are we going to deal with that? We’re going to find them and fix them, in a military sense, abroad. We have three tools: We have an intelligence tool, considerable. Our military, best in the world. And we have our security partnerships with NATO and with other countries bilaterally.”
“That’s great,” she continued. “What if [the bad guys are] here? What if they’re already here? What terrorist strike can succeed in this country unless there is already a basis of support [for the terrorist group in question]? How good is our intelligence capability going to serve us? Is the military deployed domestically? The Brits? NATO? Not really. So we need to think about the questions that you’re raising … from the perspective of homeland security.”
“We know, in Europe, that they’re there,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German diplomat and the chairman of the Munich Security Conference. “It’s much easier for [terrorists] to come into our countries because it’s, for all practical purposes, not possible to completely control these many, many different borders. It’s a little easier for the United States with only two neighbors and the open sea on both sides.” Ischinger suggested creating an FBI-like organization for the European Union to help coordinate intelligence and homeland-security efforts—to “hunt a terrorist from Sicily to Norway and back.”
Such calls to reorient contemporary counterterrorism toward the homegrown terrorist threat—to, in Lute’s words, prioritize homeland security over national security—are a rejection of the logic that inspired Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. They’re also more reflective of reality. Belgian and French citizens perpetrated the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels; American citizens were behind the carnage in San Bernardino and Orlando. U.S. citizens have been involved in 80 percent of the post-9/11 U.S. terrorism cases tracked by the New America Foundation.