The Cell

Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. That was the theme of The Cell (The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab), a new Denver Museum dedicated to understanding the threat of terrorism. It’s a thought provoking exhibit that reminds people that terrorism isn’t something that started September 11. The exhibit includes footage of terrorist attacks, recent examples of cases such as a Colorado shuttle driver, Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges related to a subway plot, and quotes from subject matter experts and political leaders on issues related to terrorism, with one quote dating back to a speech President Kennedy delivered about terrorism.

And, of course, what do I think of, but September 11, 1979. For it was on that day that Millicent Fenwick introduced an antiterrorism amendment to the Export Administrations Act. The irony of the date is hard to forget. The original intention was to close a loophole that allowed countries such as Libya and Syria to purchase civilian equipment that could be used for military purposes. Among the triggers for the legislation was the Department of Commerce’s approval of a license to sell trucks to Libya. Although the trucks in question were not armored, there was concern. Those same trucks, with armor, were used by the United States and Canada as a military tank transporter.

The legislation became law when President Carter signed it on September 29, 1979. One of the first sales impacted by the new law was of gas turbine engines to Iraq intended for missile warships. Those same ships could have been used against the U.S. during the Gulf War. The law itself applies to export licenses to “such countries [that have] repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Who could have imagined more than thirty years ago that this legislation would still be a valuable resource in the fight against terrorism.

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