The Garden City Telegram
12/16/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

High alert

Kansas incident a reminder of importance of vigilance.

A situation Friday at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport was cause for both alarm and relief.

Investigators claim 58-year-old Terry Lee Loewen, a worker at the airport, planned a terror attack in a plot aimed at supporting al-Qaida. He was arrested Friday as part of an FBI sting after he allegedly drove a vehicle loaded with what he thought were explosives into the airport.

Loewen had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the United States, law enforcement officials said. An undercover FBI agent befriended Loewen, and undercover agents worked with him on a plan to launch an attack on the airport.

The case undoubtedly will be questioned by civil rights activists and others who say FBI terrorism stings often single out people who may have radical views, but would be incapable of launching attacks without help from undercover agents.

While Loewen's case must make its way through the justice system, the incident still delivered a reminder of the need for vigilance at a time individuals in the United States and beyond do indeed want to hurt innocent people to make some sort of twisted political statement.

Such was the case when nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, by al-Qaida terrorists flying hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Another plane targeting the nation's capital was downed in a Pennsylvania farm field.

The 9/11 terror attack exposed our nation's vulnerability, and led to stepped-up security measures that became part of everyday life.

Friday's arrest in Wichita also put a spotlight on the behind-the-scenes work of investigators charged with identifying threats as part of the war on terror. The Wichita case was the result of a cooperative effort between federal agents and state and local agencies.

Others can and should help by always being on the lookout for anything suspicious, and reporting something that seems out of place to authorities.

It's as important as ever to be vigilant every day in a world where terrorists at home and abroad remain determined to expose our vulnerabilities.