School shootings are a form of domestic terrorism; there is no doubt of that. What else would you call it when professors and instructors step in front of a class wondering, Will this be the day someone brings a gun in and kills us all? One of my sons is a professor and the last time I saw him, he expressed that concern—he said he wonders will a shooting happen in his classroom.
How can such fear of a domestic terrorist attack on our school grounds lead to an atmosphere of learning? How can anyone concentrate when he or she is looking over his or her shoulder?
The sad truth is that the parallels between foreign terrorist attacks and school rampages predate the acts of violence.
George Tenet, the former head of the CIA, in his book At The Center Of The Storm, wrote that one of his frustrations is that elected officials ignored repeated warning throughout 2000 and 2001 of a terrorist attack. Tenet says that in 1998 he wrote eight letters to Presidents Clinton and Bush warning of a terrorist attack. As far back as 1995, a National Intelligence Estimate (the most prestigious U.S. intelligence publication) warned of a foreign terrorist attack. And then there is the infamous CIA article in The President’s Daily Brief in August 2001 asserting that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike in the United States. Decision-makers downplayed or ignored all the warning signs.
In the case of the Virginia Tech massacre, the warnings too went unheeded. Six professors complained about Cho’s odd behavior and the violence in his writing. One, Nicki Giovanni, threatened to resign (she feared for her safety and the safety of her students) unless Cho was removed from her class. Cho was taken to a mental health facility for evaluation after he was deemed a threat to himself and others. That facility released him without talking to the counselor who warned he was a threat—or even reading her report. Then-Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum, did not warn the campus that a shooter was on the loose after the double homicide in the middle of the campus. Two and one half hours later, 30 students and faculty were slaughtered in Norris Hall and another 17 were wounded.
Sadly, the parallels between foreign and domestic terrorist attacks on this country are strikingly parallel in everything from failure to heed warning signs, to cover-ups after the fact.