PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — As the world grieves those lost in Paris, attentions are also turning toward the next step in the global battle against terrorism.
“I would say the overall landscape for terrorist threats worldwide has now been changed,” said Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA District 9) in an interview with Eyewitness News Saturday.
Rep. Keating is on the House Counterterrorism Subcommittee and chairs the French Caucus. He traveled to Paris and toured parts of the Middle East in May following the January Charlie Hebdo attack there.
“What we found…was how wide open Europe is,” Keating said. “Twenty-six countries, the zone where they can travel without visas, that facts that they aren’t conducting the same passenger name records and checks that are routine in the U.S.”
Still, Keating said France appeared to have one of the tightest anti-terrorism protocols in Europe – and while the United States has tighter controls, a suicide attacker can strike anywhere.
“This is a threat here at home as well, it really represents an escalation, very quickly, of the type of threats that ISIS has at their disposal,” Keating said.
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He referred to the attacks in Paris as a “game-changer,” considering the apparently coordinated methods of ISIS to attack multiple locations at once in a foreign country.
“I think this attack in Paris is going to re-energize the entire international community to understand the seriousness of this threat, and to being committed to being part of a resolution that includes defeating ISIS once and for all,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said.
Ciclline serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He responded to developments from Greek officials that suggest at least one of the attackers may have come into Europe with the flow of Syrians.
“Refugees who are fleeing the war in Syria are fleeing ISIS, they’re fleeing the same violence, ” he said.
Rep. Keating said in his experience touring the area this year, large numbers of refugees from this crisis entering Europe have vastly more freedom of travel than those attempting to flee to the United States.
“In Europe, it’s so difficult,” Keating said. “Because they can pour in through Turkey, they can go anywhere. We went to the Istanbul airport, and they are not keeping track of where people are going, and we did have indication that they were coming back and forth from Syria through Istanbul.”
“It’s more difficult to come to the US…gaining access is more difficult,” he added. “Here, the numbers [of refugees] that are being discussed are just a fraction. They will be vetted extensively here.”
Both congressmen said the attackers targeted everyday locations – a stadium, a concert hall, and restaurants – as a scare tactic.
“We cannot let the terrorists change our way of life,” Rep. Cicilline said. “That’s what they’re intending to do. If we do that, then the terrorists have won.”