I couldn’t resist.Â While the press and the public try to divine what Secretary Chertoff might have meant when he described a â€œgut feelingâ€ that indicated a heightened threat to the U.S., but not one that registered on the color scale, most responded with more questions.Â No surprise there.Â We have trouble nowadays really defining what the threat is to the U.S. Is it a terrorist or a tornado?Â Nuclear weapons or naturalized immigrants?Â
Its all under the purview of DHS to some extent, and thatâ€™s probably why the Secretary of Homeland Security has that feeling: It is hard to rule anything out when the threat is so difficult to define.Â As Iâ€™m often inclined to do, I looked overseas for some guidance on how to define the threat posed by terrorism in a general sense.Â It seems the UK is always said to have recent experience in terrorism plots and attacks, and their stiff upper lip often lends itself to a level of candor uncommon on this side of the Pond.Â Here is what MI5â€™s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre explains might be behind that feeling:Â
The US, UK and Israel, and their representatives overseas, remain the prime targets for international terrorist networks, particularly Al Qaida. However,Â Usama bin Laden has variously identified a number of other countries as allies of the US which should also be targeted.Â
Countries that are participating in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq have also been identified as targets.Â On 18 April 2005, a statement claiming to be from Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s terrorist network in Iraq, linked to Al Qaida, appeared on several websites, threatening attacks against British forces in Iraq and “all the agents, spies offering them protection and their human shields”.Â â€¦Â While some countries’ interests may be singled out, however, attacks on generic “Western” interests, irrespective of the specific nationalities of the likely victims, are seen as equally valid.Â
Official personnel and property, such asÂ diplomatic missionsÂ and military forces, are still seen as priority targets for attack, as shown by the attacks on the British Consulate in Istanbul in November 2003, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in September 2004Â and the US Consulate in Jeddah in December 2004.Â
However, terrorist cells are increasingly looking at less well-protected “soft” targets where Westerners can be found, such as social and retail venues,Â tourist sites and transport networks (rail, road and airports), as illustrated by the attacks in Bali in October 2002,Â Madrid in March 2004 and Egypt in July 2005.