Our U.S. Senator, Mark Kirk, sent a letter to President Obama about toughening screening for Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. after the Paris attacks. Kirk, a former Naval Reserve Intelligence Officer, failed to display leadership or expertise in his letter. Humanitarian concerns have been covered elsewhere. Here I want to rebut some counterterrorism-related aspects and assumptions of Kirk’s letter.

Kirk says the Paris attacks were “designed deliberately to kill as many innocent people as possible.” This is extremely unlikely. As Edwin Bakker, director of the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism of Leiden University Campus, The Hague explains, “Spreading fear is more important than spreading death. … The goal [of terrorism] is not many dead, but many afraid.”

Kirk tries to scare us further by selectively quoting FBI Director Comey’s remark during Congressional testimony that many Syrian refugees are not in the FBI’s database. Shouldn’t not being in the FBI’s database count in one’s favor? 

Watch that committee hearing. You will learn: 

1) Our intelligence services have refugee vetting protocols beyond those they can talk about in a public hearing — possibly using the database of worldwide phone, text, and email records the NSA has been vacuuming up. 

2) The figure of 10,000 Syrian refugees was arrived at in consultation with our various intelligence agencies as a number they could handle. 

3) ISIL is unlikely to succeed in infiltrating the U.S. using the flow of Syrian refugees, according to Director Rasmussen of the National Counterterrorism Center.

If Kirk and Republicans were interested in leading, they would act to mitigate public anxiety instead of doing ISIL’s job by engaging in partisan fear-mongering. Parisians have embraced their — and our — ideals with strength, resolve, solidarity and openness toward refugees. 

Parisians refused to be terrorized. We should too.

Howard Hansen

Forest Park