Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, terrorism has taken front stage in American and international politics. As the world continues to change and evolve, terrorist organizations also adapt and evolve to the changing world around them.
Walter Purdy, of the Terrorism Research Center, delivered his lecture, "Terrorism In a Changing World," to a full house Friday at UT's College of Law. The event was free and open to the public.
The lecture focused on terrorism as a constantly changing and evolving force. The cases of several infamous terrorists, such as Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" from 2001, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" from 2009, were discussed in great detail, and Purdy explored the history of some of the most important issues and events in the evolution of terrorism. The lecture also explored the possibilities of the future of terrorism and how terrorist entities are changing their tactics.
Purdy pointed out the recruitment of terrorists among youth, even in the U.S., that continues to grow and threaten national safety.
"Al-Qaeda and other groups have continuously used the internet and media to attract new individuals, bring people into chat rooms, radicalize them (and) get them to give donate money," he said.
Purdy also addressed some of the more controversial issues surrounding terrorism prevention. He criticized the length of time that has been taken to bring accused terrorists to trial, citing the Nuremberg trials as an example of a successful military trial.
"We had the stomachs to do hard and complicated things," he said.
The issue of drone strikes against foreign targets came up, and Purdy acknowledged both sides of the national argument.
"I think in some places there is great utility for drones, but it must be tempered with some kind of guidelines of how they are supposed to be used," Purdy said.
Dr. Susan Speraw, director of UT College of Nursing's Global Disaster Nursing Program and chief organizer of the event, saw great student value in the informative event. She wanted to bring Purdy, a renowned expert on terrorism who has had an enormously successful career in the field of terrorism research and prevention, in order to help nursing students understand the people they want to help in emergencies.
"Humanitarian relief that is required demands that professionals are ready to deal with the needs of those who experienced terror and the emotional trauma of these types of events," Speraw said. "We try to give our students a broad understanding of the social, economic and political context."
The lecture lasted about 90 minutes and was followed by a brief Q-and-A session that included tough questions about the balance of security and civil liberties, the trial process of accused terrorists, the idea of Islamophobia and other issues.
Purdy boasts an impressive résumé, currently serving as the director of the Terrorism Research Center, located in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1996 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the organization conducts research on terrorist documents, analyzes terrorist groups, studies their various methodologies, collects first-hand materials and performs other activities geared toward understanding and preventing terrorism.
He has been sent around the globe, including to areas such as Asia and the Middle East, on behalf of both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of State. He has also worked extensively with various law enforcement and intelligence agencies throughout the anti-terrorism community to develop programs and techniques to reduce the threat of terrorist activity on an international scale.
The event was sponsored by the UT College of Nursing's Global Disaster Nursing Program, as well as the UT College of Law and the International House. Funding was made possible through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.