SHAFAQNA – U.S. Sen. Angus King said Friday that despite robust intelligence gathering, Islamic State terrorist attacks are “more or less inevitable.”
Yet he cautioned strongly against discriminating against or marginalizing all Muslims, especially those in this country.
King spoke to reporters Friday at Bowdoin College near his home in Brunswick following a weeklong trip to Europe with four other members of the Senate Intelligence committee: chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Dan Coats, R-Indiana; and Mark Warner, D-Virginia.
The delegation was in Paris, about 200 miles away, when terrorist attacks rocked Brussels this week, killing 31 people and wounding hundreds more. Suddenly, they had something very immediate to talk about.
The reaction to the Brussels attacks among French officials, whose country had endured a massive terrorist attack last fall, was not one of surprise, but of resignation.
“It was not shock and surprise, they have been expecting something like this, particularly in Belgium,” King said. “I would call it disappointment and a renewal of determination.”
Asked if he was shocked, King said he was not.
“I think these things are more or less inevitable,” he said. “The difficultly in this country – the thing that keeps me up at night – are what I call lone wolf attacks. Someone who is an American citizen, is radicalized online, who gets a terrorist APB saying go out and kill people and they go to their basement get a gun and go somewhere.”
That’s why King said it’s so crucial not to succumb to abject fear and stereotyping of Muslims, a reference to calls by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the country and by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also a candidate, to more closely monitor Muslim communities in the U.S.
He said isolating Muslims in other countries has created, “cauldrons of discontent and frustration.” He said there has to be a better way to protect U.S. citizens while preserving the thing that makes the U.S. great.
“We are asymmetrically vulnerable because we are asymmetrically free,” he said. “And that makes us vulnerable to people willing to commit uncivilized acts. We don’t want lose that. But if we stop moving, or traveling, or going places, that’s a small victory for (ISIS).
“A friend said to me, couldn’t we have prevented the bombings at the Boston Marathon? Yes, if we’d had National Guard troops shoulder to shoulder for 26 miles on both sides of the street. That’s not a world we want to live in. That’s not who we are.”
King said his biggest takeaway from the trip to Europe, which included stops in Poland, the Ukraine, France and Germany, was that countries need to communicate better.
“Europe today is where the United States was before Sept. 11,” he said. “Their law enforcement intelligence agencies are separated, fractured … they don’t talk to each other.”
King said European countries would do well to have a neutral repository for sharing intelligence – he suggested Interpol – that doesn’t compromise sovereignty.
He also said the lack of communication is exacerbated by Europe’s open-border policy, something he says Europe may need to address to avoid future attacks.
Although much of the trip was spent talking about fighting the Islamic State, King said Polish and Ukranian intelligence officials talked about their worry of Russian aggression.
King said the U.S. has a difficult balancing act when it comes to diplomacy with Russia.
“The challenge as I’ve framed it … is how we – we being the West, the United States – deter Russian ambitions and aggression in Eastern Europe without provoking Russian aggressions and actions.”