NASHVILLE,Tenn. — The bombing that rocked downtown Nashville exposed what security experts said is a critical weakness--the protection of America’s communications infrastructure.
The RV containing the explosive device or devices detonated outside of an AT&T building on Second Avenue. The explosion caused service interruptions, including to that of first responders, and is, perhaps, the most potent of attacks when it comes to bringing down infrastructure critical to American life.
“It’s a significant vulnerability, only because we typically don’t think as much about protecting property,” said Colin Clarke, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, an international security think-tank.
Clark has studied security and terrorism for 20 years and is also an assistant teaching professor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) at Carnegie Mellon University, according to his biography on the website.
The blast that knocked out cell service across wide swaths of Tennessee, in Memphis, and into parts of Kentucky well into Saturday, Clarke said, is concerning. The explosion also brought down the 9-11 systems of several Middle Tennessee police agencies.
On Friday, just hours after the explosion, the Federal Aviation Administration called for a ground stoppage at Nashville’s airport before flights continued about an hour later.
“My concern is that this could be a model or template for others that want to do the same,” said Clarke.
Investigators are looking for a suspect and motive and are attempting to piece the bomb back together.
“Was there some kind of political or ideological factor at play here?” Clarke said. “Forensics teams will be looking at the signature of the bomb trying to see if this is something that looks familiar to other attacks.”
Among considered motives, whether the initial sound of gunfire was intended to draw law enforcement for a planned attack; so, too, is knocking out communications infrastructure, which Clarke said must now be protected in new ways.
“The same thing we do in Time Square to prevent against vehicle attacks,” Clarke said, referring to concrete barriers that block vehicle traffic. “Just making (communications hubs) a little more resistant to these types of attacks.”