Javed Ali draws parallels between 9/11 and COVID-19 responses

April 2, 2020

As the United States grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking to recent historical crises to provide insights into the challenges we currently face. Javed Ali, Towsley Policymaker in Residence at the Ford School, wrote an opinion piece in The Hill drawing parallels between the COVID-19 epidemic and the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Some aspects of the run-up to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States and the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 are eerily similar,” Ali writes, pointing to similarities in the breakdown of intelligence sharing, lack of attention from policymakers on emerging risks, and gaps in capabilities and resources to confront threats.

Ali also notes that the response to the attacks “forced fundamental shifts in America’s approach to counterterrorism that included a broad spectrum of offensive and defensive activity.” A similarly unprecedented set of shifts, Ali suggests, is on the horizon for the United States now. Increased production of medical supplies, additional economic stimulus funding from Congress, long-term investment in medical resources, among other measures, will need to be put in place to manage the current crisis.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a completely different type of threat than the one that al Qaeda posed two decades ago,” Ali writes. “But applying the same basic principles from the nation’s counterterrorism response to 9-11 to the coronavirus pandemic may go a long way to overcoming its damaging effects.”


Read the full opinion piece by Javed Ali in The Hill here.


Javed Ali is a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Ford School. A former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, Ali has over 20 years of professional experience in national security and intelligence issues in Washington, D.C., serving in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While at the FBI, he also held senior positions on joint duty assignments at the National Intelligence Council, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the National Security Council under the Trump Administration. Ali holds a BA in political science from the University of Michigan, a JD from the University of Detroit School of Law, and an MA in international relations from American University.