Outgoing Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis -- rumored to be on the short list to take over the Department of Homeland Security -- said yesterday the United States faces no known threat of a terrorist attack on a shopping mall similar to the siege in Kenya that has left dozens dead, including a pregnant Harvard graduate.
"There's no indication that there's any threat here in the United States," Davis stressed after delivering the keynote speech at the opening of the Center for Terrorism and Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to a veritable think tank of the state's top law enforcement minds.
Still, he said, "The idea that citizens are being targeted right now in Nairobi is disconcerting, and it should be on everybody's radar. We have to recognize what prevents it and how to respond to it when it happens."
UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan said the center has brought in faculty from around the country to help law enforcement stab at the heart of terrorism -- why it happens and how to prevent it.
"It's something that's going to be with us for a long period of time. It's worldwide, and the University of Massachusetts wants to be a leader in this area," Meehan said.
It was a bleak reality that Davis, FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi, Nicholas J. Rasmussen, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral painted for the gathering.
Lisi, who took the reins of the Boston bureau in late July after serving as assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, said al-Qaeda and others are going to keep coming at the United States, in greater numbers and with greater frequency.
America's enemies, Lisi said, have "radicalized the Internet and they're saying, 'Don't tell us, just do it,' and they've had great success.
"Now what they're doing is increasing the number of people coming at us and how they're going to do it. We've got to get ahead of them," he said.
Davis told his audience, "There is no magic bullet to deal with terrorism," adding that people in Massachusetts who think the state is safe now because Boston has already been the target of a major terrorist attack "should rethink their position."
"We're not immune to it," he said. "We need to be prepared."
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