Terrorists Avoid United States, But Continue to Target Its Citizens
Aug. 23, 1988
CHICAGO (AP) _ Terrorist attacks within U.S. borders remain few and far between, but Americans are targeted in one-quarter of all such attacks worldwide, law enforcement experts said Tuesday.
''On a global scale, terrorism continues to grow, and it continues to plague several nations,,'' said Donald Lavey, an FBI agent who heads the anti- terrorist squad for Interpol, the international police agency.
''Though this is not the case within the territorial confines of the United States, Americans remain prominent targets,'' he said, ''and authorities have their work cut out for them.''
Lavey was among the speakers at a three-day international conference of law enforcement officials titled ''Terrorism in the Decade Ahead.'' The meeting, which began Monday, was sponsored by the University of Illinois-Chicago's Office of International Criminal Justice.
Anti-terrorism experts and law enforcement officials from a dozen nations attended to compare notes, techniques and tactics for combating terrorism.
Lavey said terrorist groups are increasingly better financed, better equipped and more sophisticated than in the past. But attacking targets on U.S. soil provides more of a logistical challenge than almost anywhere else in the world.
''Even though this is 1988, the oceans still provide a formidable obstacle,'' he said.
''Terrorists view Europe as much more vulnerable because it provides ... great freedom to travel between one country and another,'' he noted. ''It's much easier to get lost.
''By the same token, U.S. citizens seem to stand out wherever they travel,'' Lavey said. ''And the terrorists know the easiest way to get publicity for their causes are to attack Americans. That's why 25 percent of all attacks are directed against us.''
William Dyson, the supervising special agent in charge of the FBI's anti- terrorist squad in Chicago, argued that the U.S. law enforcement community's reputation is well-deserved and backed up by its record.
''Throughout the late '60s and early '70s, plenty of U.S. agencies didn't know what they were doing in relation to terrorism,'' Dyson said. ''The Weather Underground (a radical student group) alone was responsible for 385 terrorist incidents and do you know how many were solved? Not one.
''And plenty of people got a chance at them ... they were equal opportunity bombers. They went all over the country.''
But Dyson said the agency made domestic terrorism a national priority in 1981, after the capture of former underground radical Kathy Boudin following a deadly armored-car heist in upstate New York.
''There were elements of the Black Liberation Army involved, the (Puerto Rican independence group) FALN and some other Weather Underground people,'' he said. ''It was an indication of how much of a network existed between groups that we once considered essentially separate.
''What we learned is that we needed a network of law enforcement agencies to deal with the problem,'' he said. ''The New York terrorism task force, which brought federal, state and local authorities in a cooperative effort, came out of that and it's been a successful model.''
Dyson said the success of such programs can be measured by the range of terrorist organizations that have been rendered ineffectual in recent years - from the white supremacist Aryan Nations, which once staged armed robberies to finance its attacks against black and Jewish targets, to the conviction of members of the El Rukns, a powerful black Chicago street gang, on charges of conspiring to carry out bombings on behalf of Libya.
''I don't know how long it may be before a terrorist attack (inside the United States) happens,'' he said. ''It may never happen. But as long as terrorists know they can get the world's attention, it would be dangerous to let our guard down.''