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Wed, Dec. 11

Academic: U.S. safer 9 years after 9/11

PRESCOTT - Nine years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the United States appears safer because the country has enhanced its security measures, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University said.

"I think we are safer from a 9/11 type of thing because we have taken steps" to prevent it from recurring, said Phil Jones, who chairs the global security and intelligence studies department.

Jones, a former CIA analyst who spent his youth in India and Pakistan, cited improved intelligence.

However, Jones commented, "We are not there yet. We still have to improve intelligence."

Jones indicated a larger intelligence infrastructure comes with problems on its own because it may not be able to respond as fast as terrorist groups operate.

He cited Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber who tried to blow up an American passenger plane over Detroit this past Christmas Day, as an example where intelligence officials could have moved faster to avert a terror threat.

A growing threat to national security also is coming from homebred terrorists whose families emigrated from Somalia and other predominantly Muslim countries, Jones said. Some young men have received terrorist training in Pakistan and other countries.

"Most Muslims in America do not agree with this (conduct)," Jones said. He added some parents are "appalled" and alerted the FBI.

Jones reflected on the continuing threat of terrorism during an interview Friday in his office at the Prescott campus of Embry-Riddle.

While he acknowledged Islamic extremism poses a threat to America and other Western countries, he said extremists account for only a "small proportion" of the worldwide Muslim population.

"Unfortunately, in the United States we have a very simplistic view of Islam," Jones said.

Jones chairs a department that Embry-Riddle created during the fall of 2003. The program, which offers a bachelor's degree, previously was one of the three areas of concentration of an existing major that the college established in 1997: science technology and globalization.

The program offers classes that include Political Change, Revolution and War; Intelligence Analysis, Writing and Briefing; International Security and Globalization; and Islam: Origins, History and Role in the Modern World.

The program currently has about 225 students, and is the third largest enrollment of any academic programs at Embry-Riddle, Jones said. The most popular major is aeronautical engineering, followed by aviation science.

Jones said global security students tend to be middle class and idealistic, and care about the nation's security.

One of them is Adam, a senior who requested the Courier not report his last name because he is weighing job offers from national security agencies.

Adam, 22, said 9/11 inspired him to major in the program.

"Everybody remembers where they were on 9/11," Adam said. "I was in seventh-grade homeroom, and the TV came on."

Adam described reaction to the terror attacks, which took about 3,000 lives in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa., as "shock, fear and confusion. Everybody was so confused."

Adam, who has taken two years of study in Japanese and is learning Chinese now, said he is flexible about where to begin his career after he graduates.

"I am young and fit and ready to go," Adam said.

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