One man’s terrorist is just another pipe bomb builder perhaps

I have spent much of today on my cellphone taking interview requests from a variety of Canadian media outlets. The current interest is what has happened in New York and elsewhere in the US over the past few days when several very public personalities – former presidents Obama and Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, philanthropist George Soros and a couple of congress members – received what look to be crude pipe bombs. The devices were intercepted by authorities and no one was hurt. Investigations are ongoing.

Despite the paucity of information, the mayor of New York Bill de Blasio declared that these were clearly acts of terrorism. His rationale: they were an effort to terrorize and “to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence.”  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Except it isn’t.

We know very little about the who, why and where of these incidents. They could be the work of one person or several. They could be the result of a warped mind or a crafty one. They could be targeted (more on this below) or random. To call them terrorist acts is far too premature. Dear Mr. Mayor, the definition of terrorism is not “to terrorise”. Until we learn a lot more about the underlying motivation if there is indeed any we cannot make that call.

If I were to try to analyse these events, as I was asked today, I would point out the following, keeping in mind that there is so much more unknown than known:

  • the targets seem to be linked: Democrats and ‘lefties’ (Soros);
  • the bombs were unsophisticated perhaps indicative of a lack of expertise;
  • in the current atmosphere of American polarisation and outright hatred it is surprising it took so long to see this happening;
  • that President Trump said “threats or acts of political violence have no place in US” is hypocrisy of the tallest order as he has bred the environment in which these acts are natural follow ons;
  • finding the perpetrator(s) could be a challenge for US law enforcement agencies, unless there is a ton of evidence to date or soon to be gathered.

I know we live in the era of 24/7 instant news. This does not mean we need to do ‘instant analysis’. In the spirit of a lack of information I will keep this blog short. When I, or anyone else has more to say, I will weigh in again perhaps.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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