New York University (NYU) professor has landed herself in the national spotlight after several of her students spoke out about a controversial class assignment that involved plotting the details of a realistic terrorist attack. As reported by The New York Post, Professor Marie-Helen Maras, who teaches a graduate-level course at NYU on transnational terrorism, instructed her students not only to devise a hypothetical terrorist attack scenario as part of course requirements, but also to calculate funding, targets, and various other real-life logistics that would be needed to actually carry out such an attack in real life.
“In your paper, you must describe your hypothetical attack and what will happen in the aftermath of the attack,” states the class syllabus about the assignment. In addition to figuring out how the attack will be funded and executed, students taking the course are also told they will have to assess how the target government will react to the attack, as well as formulate a realistic game plan that keeps the chosen terror group’s “goals, capabilities, tactical profile, targeting pattern and operational area” in mind.
Since many of the alleged terrorists involved in attempted terror plots on U.S. soil attended American universities, such course material is being perceived by many as highly inappropriate, and has led to much outcry in recent days. Several local law enforcement officials in New York, for instance, have come out to express disgust over the assignment, referring to it as a callous affront to the “11 years of hard work the NYPD has done in tracking down terrorists to the far reaches of the globe to make sure they never strike again.”
In her defense, Prof. Maras says the course material is appropriate for properly training her students to work in the field of transnational terrorism. In order for them to fully understand how terrorists think and how they go about initiating terrorist attacks, students are basically being encouraged to think outside the box, and imagine what it would be like to be a terrorist. And since the assignment is part of a grad-level class, it is apparently expected that students will be mature enough to recognize that the assignment is hypothetical and for educational purposes only.
But to some, the assignment is still dangerous, and could be used as a primer to plot a real terrorist attack. Even though the assignment also includes conjuring up hypothetical counter-terrorism measures that would likely be initiated in response to an attack, opponents claim the students’ final reports could end up in the wrong hands, and potentially be used to launch real-life acts of terrorism.
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