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Counties - this question's for you. Since returning from the National Association of Counties meeting in Chicago three weeks ago, what steps have you taken ...

counties-1.jpg Counties - this question's for you. Since returning from the National Association of Counties meeting in Chicago three weeks ago, what steps have you taken to guard against terrorism?

The only reason I ask is that people are so gung ho when they attend conferences and then what happens when they go home? Anything?

Boaz Ganor, the speaker on the topic at the NACo meeting, has served as a consultant on security to many Israeli administrations and the Israeli police. He named the five characteristics of today's terror threat:

    • it has international reach and no state is immune;
    • terrorists are quite expert at what they do after years of guerilla warfare and insurgencies;
    • their ideology is extreme and they believe in fulfilling a divine command;
    • their method of attack - the suicide bomber - is smarter than any smart bomb a government can come up with, including being able to change its mind and direction at the last minute;
    • although jihadists have been unwilling to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons until now, they are likely to in the future.
So what are counties supposed to do?

Ganor says they must engage in prevention and preparation. There needs to be a public awareness campaign that stresses the need to be aware of suspicious material and people. Governments need to communicate with people in their Muslim immigrant communities, 99.9 percent of whom have nothing to do with terrorism but will be the first to suffer after an attack. Enlist them to join in the fight against terrorism.

And there needs to be a preparedness campaign, like many of us had for nuclear attack in our schools years ago. Some people say, "Why do you mess with the minds of kids," Ganor said. "Because we immunize them like a vaccination." If they have to face the problem they will be much more prepared.

First responders also need to be prepared to deal with this specific phenomenon. Even if a county isn't the biggest or most likely county to be targeted, all counties should analyze the risk and the threat, figure out which are the potential targets and choose the best way to defend them.

Ganor said he wished it were only a "theoretical presentation."

I went home and stuck my head under a pillow for the rest of the afternoon.

Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.
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