Last weekend saw horrifying attacks in Paris and Beirut from the Islamic State, killing over 170 people. The attacks in Paris, have had an especially significant impact on the American people and society. In an interdisciplinary panel discussion on the subject, Dr. Stephen Flynn, Director of the Center for Resilience Studies at Northeastern University, reminded the audience that it is important to remain resilient as a society in the face of these attacks. He emphasized the context of risk, and cautioned against the politicization of these events that can lead to overreactions by politicians, which can be damaging to American society.

Paris Attacks Memorial
A memorial at the Place de la Republic for the victims of the Paris attacks (Flickr/Takver)

Much of the debate in the United States has been over the accepting of Syrian refugees following the discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the attackers. The U.S. has a long and arduous process for vetting refugees looking to enter the country. After applying, refugees go through a series of background checks, personal interviews, biometric checks, and investigations by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and National Counter-terrorism Centre.

However, some in the intelligence community have cautioned the public of trusting this system in totality. Specifically, they point to a disparity in the information needed to make these cautionary measures effective due to the lack of American presence in Syria. These concerns have led to a number of proposals from politicians, including a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would require “the director of the F.B.I., the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence” to confirm the non-threat of each refugee from Syria and Iraq before they be admitted into the United States. Some other proposals include the creation of a Congressional study group and the requirement of a special travel visa for those who have been to Iraq or Syria in the last five years.


  1. House Approves Tougher Refugee Screening, Defying Veto Threat – The New York Times
  2. Northeastern experts analyze recent terror attacks abroad – Northeastern News
  3. Syrian refugees in America: separating fact from fiction in the debate – The Guardian
  4. Trump: ‘Absolutely no choice’ but to close mosques – The Hill
  5. What Is Known About the Syrian Passport Found at the Paris Attacks – Newsweek
  6. Yearning to breathe free – The Economist