Our elected officials at the state and local level drop everything in the hours, days and weeks following the horror of a terrorist attack to show up. They set up makeshift offices to make themselves available to the community, they light candles at prayer services and meet with the grieving families. I am sure they do these things because they care and because their presence somehow reassures people that someone is in charge and taking care of things.
Out of that same motivation I am hopeful the Florida Legislature will show up and embrace Gov.Rick Scott’s request for nearly $6 million to create a new counterterrorism and law enforcement intelligence task force to prevent another terrorist attack like the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre in my hometown of Orlando.
As has become clear in the wake of the Orlando attack, whether domestic acts of terrorism are ISIS directed or ISIS inspired, stopping radicalized Muslims in the US from murdering our fellow citizens is as much a state responsibility as it is a federal one. Additionally, the asymmetric nature of terrorism has eroded the divide between national security and law enforcement when it comes to effective counterterrorism policy and tactics. Ignoring these facts, puts us all in danger.
Having an effective state level counterterrorism capability should be a priority and should be implemented so as to combine certain aspects of all-source counterterrorism intelligence collection and analysis with local and state law enforcement activities focused on protecting public safety. Having served on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Orlando I can attest that there is a need for consistent counterterrorism expertise at the state and local levels. I saw firsthand that counterterrorism responsibilities were an additional duty for the local sheriff intelligence units and Florida Department of Law Enforcement representatives. Terrorism is the enemies first and only job, not an additional duty. While most agencies participating on the JTTF have evolved to provide a full-time representative and recently increased resources have been made available by the federal government, Gov. Scott’s proposal will ensure we have dedicated resources and an enhanced counterterrorism capability to protect our state.
We need a dedicated group of law enforcement officers that focus solely on domestic counterterrorism with the resources and time to dedicate in order to understand the current and ever evolving domestic threats, international affiliations, trends in Islamic extremist social media exploitation and best practices in mitigating the threat of another Pulse styled attack. An aspect of the proposed effort to fund counterterrorism capabilities within FDLE could function to cross reference gun permits against known or suspected targets of previous or active investigation. A dedicated intel capability could also serve as liaison to the National Counter Terrorism Center and intelligence community to link reporting and analysis with local and state law enforcement investigations and collection.
I recognize the ever-growing demands on the state budget and applaud the governor for taking the lead on dedicated funding for domestic counterterrorism intelligence and law enforcement activities under FDLE. We face an ever evolving and diligent enemy that wants to kill us. We too need to evolve, and this funding is a step in the right direction. Florida needs to fund a dedicated cadre of counterterrorism intelligence officers under FDLE protect our public safety.
Gov. Scott is giving the Florida Legislature an opportunity to show up again and demonstrate they're taking care of things now - not after the next attack.
Todd Wilcox is a businessman, former CIA officer and an Army veteran. He ran for the Republican nomination in 2016 to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but withdrew after Rubio announced for a second term. He currently serves as the chairman of Restoring American Leadership.
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