The story has become and all-too-familiar one, all around the world: On Wednesday, March 23, members of the terrorist group ISIS detonated bombs in a public place. This time, it was an airport and nearby subway station in Brussels, Belgium. In the busy, early-morning rush hour, two explosions (40 minutes apart) killed 35 people and injured another 270. The weapons were identified as “nail bombs,” handmade explosive devices containing small bits of sharp objects (like nails and broken razor blades) called shrapnel that cause great devastation when set off in crowded spaces.
Two brothers (both died detonating the bombs) have been identified as responsible. They were Khalid (27) and Ibrahim (29) El Bakraoui. Both had criminal records and were tied to ISIS, who claimed responsibility for the bombing shortly after its occurrence. In recent years, Brussels has become a particular hotbed for both extremist organization and recruitment. The country has the highest number of foreigners fighting in Syria, with many who return home facing arrest. Jihadi recruiters exploit the lack of opportunity in the country and growing sense of disenfranchisement. Its strategic location (within a few hours-drive to many major cities, including Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam) and reported failure of its government to integrate immigrants, has intensified this problem.
President Obama was in Cuba during the time of the attack. He received criticism for not returning to the U.S. in light of the news. Critics were particularly angered that he attended a baseball game. Republican candidates in particular voiced their disapproval, urging the president to, “respond with strength against the enemies of the west.” (John Kaisch via Twitter.) In response, Obama said that his actions showed that terrorists, “make people afraid and disrupt our daily lives and divide us.”
Belgium, as well as large cities around the world, has tightened its security. In New York City, around 400 members of the National Guard have been stationed in various transit hubs. The State Department issued a warning for U.S. citizens traveling abroad to exercise extra caution in crowded places and when using mass transit.
Dig Deeper Since the bombing on the 23rd, law enforcement has conducted many raids on those linked to this or other incidents, including the Paris attacks. Find out what (if anything) has been learned about any future attacks and what is being done to thwart them.
Latest on FBI vs Apple
Earlier this year, btw put a You Decide question to you whether Apple should be forced to assist in the investigation of the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino. In the meantime, the Justice Department has announced that it may not need the tech company’s help after all. It claims to have found a third party capable of unlocking gunman Syed Rizwan’s phone. This new development led the judge in the case to postpone the latest hearing between Apple and the FBI.
The identity of the potential third party will be kept confidential. If it is successful in circumventing security on the iPhone, the larger debate of security versus privacy will surely intensify. If it is not successful, the government will likely go back to the courts for assistance. For the record, President Obama release a statement in favor of the FBI, saying that law enforcement must be able to collect evidence from electronic devices.
What Do You Think? If you did not participate in the original You Decide, revisit and cast a vote. Go to the Opinion pages of a national magazine and read at least one pro and one con piece regarding this matter. Does the information you gained change your stance? Why or why not?
Upheaval in Brazilian Government
The Brazilian government is facing significant disruption in its leadership. President Dilma Rousseff was indicted on corruption charges last month. She was accused of misusing public money in an effort to hide evidence of a growing deficit. Her campaign strategist, Joao Santana, was also arrested and accused of receiving illegal payments. Opponents have called for Rousseff’s resignation. So far, she has refused, calling the accusations a right-wing conspiracy against her. Leading the charge is Speaker of the Lower House of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, who opened impeachment proceedings against her in December. Around the same time, Cunha found himself linked to a sprawling scandal involving bribes from the state-run oil company, Petrobras.
In a recent poll of nearly 3,000 Brazilians, 68 percent are in favor of impeachment proceedings for Rousseff. Despite an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the government, many are unsure of the best choice of a replacement. This speaks to a larger skepticism of the country’s political system. The country is experiencing its worst recession in decades. Further thwarting Rousseff’s administration is the court blocking her appointment of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (known as “Lula”) as a cabinet member because of his own ties to the Petrobras scandal.