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Schumer calls Bin Laden death turning point in war on terror

Published: May 6, 2011
Section: Summer News

Senator Schumer discusses the state of the American economy on campus May 6. Photo By Alan Tran/The Hoot

Osama Bin Laden’s death signifies the weakening of al Qaeda and, as a result, the United States will shift its strategy by targeting isolated, individual terrorists, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in an exclusive interview with The Hoot Friday afternoon.

Schumer compared Bin Laden’s death to the famous battles of Gettysburg during the Civil War and Saratoga in the American Revolution.

“This is a turning point in the war on terror, a little like Gettysburg or Saratoga, but it doesn’t mean the war is over,” Schumer said. “Al Qaeda is much weaker; the other groups are much weaker, mainly because we’re able to listen in on almost anything they do electronically. But it will be more loan wolves; individuals who are infected with this pernicious philosophy who will try to do things on their own.”

Schumer said that while isolated terrorists are less threatening in some ways, they can make it more difficult to obtain intelligence than when monitoring groups.

“And in one sense, it’s better than the groups,” Schumer said. “They can do less damage a single person, but on the other hand its harder to detect them because they’re not always communicating electronically.”

Bin Laden, who planned the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was killed by U.S. special operations forces during a raid in Pakistan, on Sunday. On Wednesday, President Obama decided not to release photos of Bin Laden’s dead body.

“Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain that this was him….It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” Obama said during an interview with Steve Kroft on CBS 60 minutes Wednesday. “That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”

Schumer said that he agreed with the decision not to release the photos, explaining that the CIA and other civilian and military officials who planned the operation executed it successfully and know what is best.

“Everything else went so well they probably guessed this one right too, and they have them in their back pocket if something happens. The people who are not going to believe he’s dead wouldn’t believe it if you put out a hundred pictures,” Schumer said.

Al Qaeda confirmed the death of Bin Laden in a statement on Friday and warned of retaliation against America.

“It will remain, with permission from God the Almighty, a curse that chases the Americans and their agents, and goes after them inside and outside their countries,” the statement said, according to a transcript from the SITE Intelligence Group reported on by The New York Times. “Soon — with help from God — their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears.”

Schumer said that until Wednesday or Thursday, there had been no significant threat detected from intelligence that was out of the ordinary. He cautioned that the U.S. is always vigilant. Schumer sits on the Senate Judicary committee subcommittee on Terrorism Technology and Homeland Security.

“It is not an accident that praise God we haven’t had a successful terrorist incident in the United States since 2001. We’re always vigilant, and I think they’re staying extra vigilant this week,” Schumer said. “As of a day or two ago, they had not detected in all their listening any focus on stepping things up yet, but they’ll have to stay vigilant.”

Asked whether it is appropriate for Americans, and specifically college students to celebrate Bin Laden’s death, Schumer responded by saying, “yes.”

Schumer was on campus Friday to deliver the inaugural Saul G. Cohen memorial lecture, a program named after a famous Brandeis science professor who died in April 2010.