Navy Yard: Could it have been prevented?

Expert: Truck bombs and conspiracies are easier to stop; lone wolfs harder

Joseph Trevithick | Special to CNN | 9/17/2013, 9:16 a.m.
While significant details about the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday remain obscure, as with every such ...
Aaron Alexis,34, is the contractor the FBI has identified as a suspect in the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 16, 2013. FBI.gov

— A number of these responses were seen in the September 16 attack in Washington: The rapid response of law enforcement (including helicopters with airborne cameras), use of social media to quickly distribute warning messages and other information to civilians and the lockdown of the area in question (including adjacent facilities).

Of course, many questions as to how the attacker, or attackers, entered the Washington Navy Yard initially remain unanswered.

As the details of this incident come out, there may be operational changes required so that even those with valid identification badges -- already obtained through a lengthy security clearance process -- will have to receive further security scrutiny.

The level of scrutiny that could be applied regularly on a daily basis, also taking into account privacy concerns, might prove to outweigh the security provided against this nebulous and generally limited set of attackers.

Would the employees be willing to submit themselves to airport style security checks? Multiple times? Would they be willing to have their car visibly searched or even partially dismantled without probable cause? Regardless of what measures are taken, they will also not necessarily deter 100% of such attackers.

Those who commit acts of violence are unfortunately only bound by their resourcefulness. It becomes the unpleasant job of those who protect us against such violence to balance our security against a reasonable expectation of what can and cannot be prevented.

While details of this attack might shine light on things that can and should have been reasonably done, it is just as likely that they will shine light on the sad fact that it is simply impossible to prevent these tragedies all the time, no matter how hard we try.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joseph Trevithick

Joseph Trevithick is a research associate at GlobalSecurity.org, an organization that follows defense and security issues. He has provided expert commentary on various defense and security issues, including terrorist attacks, to various media outlets domestically and internationally. He has also written and otherwise contributed to a number of original published works on defense and security topics.