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BC Alumnus William Tarry ’81: What Price Are You Willing to Pay for Safety?

Photo of William Tarry

by Andrew Peters ’15

Former principal deputy undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Bridgewater College alumnus, William Tarry ’81, asked BC students what price they were willing to pay for security as he spoke on Nov. 13 in Cole Hall.

Tarry began by asking who in the past five years has felt unsafe while traveling on public transportation, whether that transportation was by train, boat, plane or car. No one in the audience raised a hand.

“Over 963,000 people enter the U.S. every day,” said Tarry. “If we have a 99.9 percent success rate [for detaining terrorists], we still let almost 1,000 illicit people into the country every day.”

During his career, Tarry learned that he loves to travel and that he believes there is no place in the world like the United States. “[It becomes a] balancing act between freedom and the requirements to keep you safe.”

Terrorism is personal to Tarry. On Sept. 11, 2001, eight people from his top team were working right at ground zero in the Pentagon. They were all killed when the plane struck.

Today Tarry is worried about the future of security in the United States. “The American people [are] beginning to forget that terrorism is very real.” However, he was happy to report that America had “been pretty effective [since 9/11] in breaking up [Al Qaeda].”

Still, he stated there are many terrorist groups to “be up at night” about. Domestic terrorism has been typically conducted by neo-Nazis, animal liberation groups and radical extremists. Since 2012, there have been more than four cases of domestic terrorism in the United States. But domestic terrorism is far from the only concern. “I don’t care if it is domestic or international terrorism. To me, it is just terrorism,” said Tarry.

Lone wolves – a person acting on his or her own – are the highest risk to national security according to Tarry. “It is much more difficult to detect a lone wolf, [than an organized terrorist group.]”

Fighting terrorism has become “a team sport.” Often, the public are the first people to see something, so “if you see something, you say something.”

Tarry emphasized to students that “you’ve got a voice, you’ve got a responsibility, and you’ve got to use it.”

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