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The Boston Herald May 24, 2013

Experts weigh role of 'political correctness' in terror

By John Zaremba and Antonio Planas

The Boston Marathon bombings and the butchering of a British soldier, attributed to terrorism suspects who had already faced official scrutiny, are further proof of how hard it is for free societies to stop small-scale jihadist offensives, security experts say, but critics say law enforcement is handicapping itself with excessive political correctness.

Critics point to the blackballing of terrorism instructors such as John Guandolo by the FBI and Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley by the military when their remarks about extremist Islam were considered culturally insensitive, and removal of Islamic references from some training materials.

Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism said President Obama’s measured words in cases such as the underwear bomber and the Fort Hood shootings sends a message that he isn’t serious about tackling Islamic extremism.

“They were jihadists, and when the president called them deranged and alienated, he excused their motivation,” Emerson said. “The problem is radical Islam and jihadism.”

After the marathon bombings, Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas complained the FBI handicapped itself from pursuing Islamic terrorists last year when, in response to Muslim groups, the agency removed hundreds of pages of training materials that the agency deemed stereotypical or inaccurate. “They can’t talk about the enemy … can’t talk about Islam,” Gohmert said.

But John Pike of Globalsecurity.org said, “I think that what they have been successful in doing over the last decade is stopping their capacity to launch spectacular events in the United States or anywhere — the mass-casualty events. But a couple of guys setting off a few bombs, or somebody walking down the street being hacked to death by a couple of people, I don’t know that that’s stoppable.”

The terrifying daylight street assault in the Woolwich area of London — followed by a blood-covered suspect giving a chilling jihadist rant on camera — was the work of two men who’d been probed for terror links in the past, British officials said. The FBI had investigated marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 on the request of Russian authorities. He’d also been booted from a Cambridge mosque after a pair of outbursts.

Democratic U.S. Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts, a member of the House Homeland Security committee, said, “One of the things we can improve on … was just to build the strongest community network possible, where people are sharing information and coming forward. It’s incumbent upon everyone — in and outside of a mosque.”

Imam Talal Eid of the Islamic Institute of Boston said Muslims are at a loss on what they can do about radicals who work on their own or in 
small groups.

“This is the most challenging issue for us,” Eid said. “There is no straight answer for us.”

Copyright 2013, The Boston Herald and Herald Media.