Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze discuss some of the personalities behind the counterterrorism training programs around the country.
On a bright January morning in 2010, at Broward College in Davie, Florida, about sixty police officers and other frontline law enforcement officials gathered in a lecture hall for a course on combating terrorism in the Sunshine State. Some in plain clothes, others in uniform, they drifted in clutching Styrofoam cups of coffee, greeting acquaintances from previous statewide training sessions. The instructor, Sam Kharoba, an olive-skinned man wearing rimless glasses and an ill-fitting white dress shirt, stood apart at the front of the hall reviewing PowerPoint slides on his laptop.
As he got under way, Kharoba described how, over the next three days, he would teach his audience the fundamentals of Islam. "We constantly hear statements," Kharoba began, "that Islam is a religion of peace, and we constantly hear of jihadists who are trying to kill as many non-Muslims as they can." Kharoba's course would establish for his students that one of these narratives speaks to a deep truth about Islam, and the other is a calculated lie.
"How many terror attacks have there been since 9/11? Muslim terror attacks," Kharoba asked the room. Silence. "Let's start the bidding."
"Over a hundred," someone volunteered.
"I got a hundred," Kharoba called back. Another audience member, louder now, suggested three hundred.
"Three hundred!" Kharoba declared.
"Over a thousand," offered another voice in the audience.
Kharoba stopped the bidding. "Over thirteen thousand," he said. "Over thirteen thousand attacks." He paused to let the statistic sink in.