On Sept. 11, 2001, our way of life in the United States changed forever.
On that unforgettable day, our homeland was attacked by 19 Islamic terrorists belonging to the international organization known as al-Qaida. Using hijacked commercial passenger airplanes as weapons of mass destruction, the terrorists flew the planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A third airplane, United flight 93, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passengers attempted to retake the hijacked plane.
The attacks resulted in 2,996 immediate (attack-time) deaths — 2,624 of which were U.S. citizens, including hundreds of heroic firefighters, police and medical professionals dutifully caring for victims of the violence.
The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution that lists its mission as formulating and promoting conservative public policy, has tracked terrorist plots against the U.S. since 9/11. It has identified 60 such publicly known Islamist-inspired terrorist plots, 53 of which were foiled by law enforcement, three identified as being foiled by luck and four that were successful.
The four identified as being successful were (1) the intentional driving of an SUV into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2006; (2) the shooting at an Army recruitment office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009; (3) the shooting by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, also in 2009; and (4) the Boston bombings on April 15, 2013, when brothers Tamerlan and Tsarnaev Dzhokhar placed two backpacks filled with homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in retaliation of U.S. wars against terrorists in Muslim lands. The bombs were detonated 10 seconds apart, killing three people and maiming 245 bystanders.
Terrorism, even in our homeland, now is a part of our lives and will continue to be, despite our best efforts.
Shortly after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security was created to ensure a safe, secure and resilient homeland protected against terrorism, with then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge being appointed the first director.
Since that time, Georgia has played a major role in our nation’s homeland security.
Georgia is one of 21 states that has complied with the REAL ID Act of 2005, an act of Congress that sets forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes” such as boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear-power plants.
Other projects undertaken by our state are the Counter-Terrorism Task Force (CTTF), which serves as a state-level protective-security/rapid-reaction task force, and the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC), which assists in the information/intelligence-sharing challenges between federal, state and local agencies.
But perhaps the most significant contribution by our state to our nation’s homeland security is the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) headquartered in Glynco, near Brunswick.
FLETC, whose mission is “We train those who protect our homeland,” serves as an interagency law-enforcement training organization for 91 federal agencies and provides training to state, local, rural, tribal, territorial and international law-enforcement agencies.
Established in 1970, FLETC has trained over 1 million law-enforcement officers and agents. FLETC is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and trains officers and agents from all federal departments and all three branches of government.
Situated on 1,600 acres in Glynn County, FLETC has modern conventional facilities as well as 18 firearms ranges, including a state-of-the-art indoor range complex with 146 separate firing points and eight semi-enclosed ranges with 200 additional firing points.
In Georgia, we are doing our part in establishing programs to protect our citizens from terrorism, and with FLETC in Glynn County, we are helping “train those who protect our homeland,” because we must do all that we can as a nation to avoid another terrorist attack.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.