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US Attacks -  A Horrific Political Message - 2001-09-11

Experts who study terrorism say one goal of the horrific attacks on New York and Washington was to gain attention. A former top officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation says the killers have gotten their time in the spotlight, and will now be the focus of a massive investigation and a devastating response.

Political science professor Paul Senese says terrorists generally want to bring attention to a cause or grievance and, in this case, they are likely to succeed. "Every television station, almost every television station on your TV is plugged into the situation," he said, "in Canada, probably around most of the world. And the same thing for the Internet. So they are getting a lot of attention, and that is always the first goal for these high profile terrorists groups."

The University of Buffalo professor says the terror attacks that destroyed the world trade center, several civilian airliners and damaged U.S. military headquarters, were a brutally blunt way of sending a political message. "To show the United States that there are serious forces and groups out there in the world that don't support the things that the United States supports," Mr. Senese said, "whether that is the spread of rampant capitalism or the spread of American ideals and American influence."

But who was responsible? Experts say the Federal Bureau of Investigation will coordinate the massive investigation aimed at answering that question.

Professor Lee Colwell was once the FBI's second in command. He now teaches criminal justice at the University of Arkansas and says many law enforcement and every intelligence agency in the United States will be on the case. "There will be the mechanics of an investigation at each of the crime scenes," Professor Colwell says, "and also the airports to trace back what kind of support these fanatics had, and attempt to identify those who were not on the plane who contributed, who are in this country, who contributed to this terrible tragedy."

Professor Colwell says analysts will take the information turned up by police, spies, and electronic monitoring and draw up a list of options for policymakers. "An assault like this against a country that is so vulnerable, and so open and has such great respect for rights, can not go unanswered," he said.

He says angry Americans will likely demand stern justice.