Terror expert: Terrorists will stop at nothing

Posted: 2/15/2007

Original link: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2007/feb/15/terror_expert_terrorists_will_stop_nothing/?print=1

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joe Ruffini’s eyes widened slowly whenever he got rolling on a topic.

His animated hand gestures became dangerous to anyone sitting too close. His voice steadily rose to a point where it nearly echoed through the near-empty Edison College auditorium Wednesday.

His late-afternoon audience of four active law enforcement officers didn’t even flinch. This guy, they vocalized often, and Ruffini reciprocated, was one of them.

The officers discovered quickly, during Ruffini’s terrorism seminar on the college’s Collier County campus, that it doesn’t take much to get the Army defense expert-turned-lecturer going.

Just one word sets him off: terrorism.

In turn, “terrorism” sets off countless strands of related vocabulary: underestimate, stupidity, vigilance, animals.

Ruffini spent the morning preaching the importance of terrorism awareness to classes of history students at Edison College. The afternoon was reserved for cop talk, frank discussions of the dangers facing the United States and graphic videos of overseas terror attacks to drive the lesson home.

“Americans need to understand the bad guys’ tactics to know how to prevent them,” Ruffini said, following a laundry list of gritty worst-case scenarios he presented to officers. “People say to me, ‘Joe, you’re sick. How do you think of things like this?’

“I tell them, ‘I get paid to think like the enemy.’”

Ruffini’s lecture on the dangers of terrorism captivated officers throughout the six-hour session. Ruffini emphasized the importance of believing terrorists will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and acting accordingly.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that he has that we aren’t exposed to,” said Collier County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Perry Mapes, who attended the seminar. “This gives us a better understanding of the enemy, and how they operate.

“The county will be safer if everyone in the county is on the same sheet music.”

In the morning, Ruffini spoke to about 35 students, whose history professors escorted them to the seminar during class time. Ruffini urged students to keep their eyes open for abnormalities during their daily routine, and to report such anomalies, no matter how trivial, to authorities.

“It’s good that the students got the opportunity to see this, and have some dialogue about current history,” said Warren Heltsley, coordinator of Edison’s adult education program in Collier.

“This is five and a half years after 9/11, and I just felt it was time to look at what’s going on. There are a lot of fears in this community, and we really need to look at the underlying perceptions and causes of things so we can be better prepared.”

Ruffini, a hardened anti-terror agent, Army expert and author, did little to sugar-coat terrorist scenarios that could occur in any community. To stress the point, Ruffini distributed free copies of his book, “When Terror Comes to Main St.,” to officers, urging them to seek more information on anti-terror tactics after the seminar.

“When the next 9/11 comes, and it will, whether it’s this week, next week, this year or next, the terrorists will need to do something even bigger to put 9/11 on its back,” Ruffini warned. “These are ruthless animals, and what we need to do to stop it is turn off the spigot of hate.”

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