Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 11, 2007

Where Are We Six Years After 9/11?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 11, 2007

Conflicting opinions emerging these days about the state of our homeland security.  Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick noted in their coverage of official statements yesterday that while Secretary Chertoff was explaining to the Senate how the threat of terrorism is as bad as it was six years ago, the President’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Fran Townsend, struck a different chord in an interview with Wolf Blitzer by calling al Qaeda’s leader an “impotent… man on the run from a cave.”  Where to go from here with a threat assessment like this?

In addition to invoking the need for greater investments in HLS capabilities, intelligence gathering resources, and a general sense of resolve, the recently foiled attacks in Germany came to be useful fodder for assessing the risk today.  The DNI suggested that the plans of those aspiring terrorists in North Rhine-Westphalia were uncovered due to warrantless surveillance of communications traveling through the U.S.  (The Senate Committee pointed out that the German cell was located almost ten months prior to that surveillance law being passed.) 

So what can we learn about the recently disrupted cell in Germany on this sixth anniversary of 9/11?  What materiel was too easy for them to procure in preparation for their plans?  How were they able to coordinate and communicate without notice until the late stages as it were?  Could we see the same trend emerge here in the U.S., and would we be able to detect it early enough?  How well could we manage the aftermath of an attack with 700kg of hydrogen peroxide were we not to stop it beforehand? 

I’ve noted the work of a London-based group here before named Exclusive Analysis.  They are kind enough to send me their proprietary products and I’m, as they say over there, keen on sharing it here on occasion.  They recently assessed the terrorist threat in light of the foiled Germany plot.  The main findings, backed up by proper British prose, are as follows: 

The intercepted plot does not demonstrate an evolution in capability of European jihadi networks. 

Currently the risk of attack is moderated by flaws in leadership within jihadi networks.  

European jihadi networks will likely evolve better organisational leadership in a gradual ‘survival of the fittest’ fashion; attack targets are likely to be chosen in order to maximise human fatalities. 

According to this, we’re lucky that the terrorists are unlucky — or at least unsophisticated.  Both of these mitigating factors are due to change, and so is the venue.  This places the “fight’em over there so we don’t have to fight’em here” mantra into a different perspective.  Note how rarerly this rationale is invoked on this anniversary of 9/11.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 12, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

Postpone the celebration until after we see what the next attack looks like. Even more so will our reaction be the correct one or a effort to mask past mistakes by foreign adventures.

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