|Fleeing the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers|
By Alan Caruba
Two recent polls suggest that Americans are still well aware of the threats to the nation’s security. A Fox News poll found that four out of ten Americans think that the nation is less safe today than before 9/11. Overall, however, 51% thought it was safer. A Rasmussen poll found that respondents thought that an attack on the scale of 9/11 was entirely possible. At least 69% felt that way.
Twelve years past 9/11, it’s a good time to ask or at least conjecture about how safe we are from another attack by Islamic extremists.
On May 1, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen attempted to pull off a terrorist car bombing in New York’s Times Square. Two street venders spotted smoke coming from the vehicle and alerted police. The bomb had been ignited but had failed to explode and was disarmed.
On August 28, 2013, Nidal Malik Hasan, formerly a psychiatrist with the United States Army Medical Corps, was sentenced to death at the conclusion of his court-martial. Four years earlier on November 5, 2009 he had fatally shot 13 soldiers and injured more than thirty other at Fort Hood. Hasan’s behavior and comments had given so many signals that, in retrospect, it raises the question of why he was not booted out of the Army for the risk he posed. The Obama administration called it “workplace violence”, not an act of terrorism.
On April 15, 2014, in Boston, we learned that not only could terrorists strike at will, but could do so even though Russian intelligence authorities had warned U.S. law enforcement that the Dzhokhar and Tamerian Tsarnaev were a threat. The FBI concluded they could not tap their phones or conduct a more thorough investigation.
These three post-9/11 examples of the threat that fanatical Islam represents are mercifully few. We are told that our intelligence and law enforcement services have been able to thwart other threats. When asked recently how much a part luck played in thwarting terrorist attacks in New York, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that luck is always a welcome factor. Diligent police work, however, remains the reason the city has not suffered a major attack since 9/11. Its anti-terrorism budget is $200 million.
Eleven days after September 11, 2001, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was appointed the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security in the White House. With the passage of the Homeland Security Act in November 2002, DHS became a Cabinet-level department, combining twenty-two departments and agencies with a mandate to improve the security of the United States.
The Department's work includes customs, border, and immigration enforcement; as well as emergency response to natural and manmade disasters; antiterrorism work; and cybersecurity. Since the creation of the DHS, Congress has passed other legislation to improve security at our ports and has transferred the Radiological Preparedness Program and Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program to FEMA, the federal emergency response agency.
Anyone who has ever been to an airport knows the rigors of getting on one’s flight now years passed the failed December 22, 2001 attempt by Richard Reid, a Muslim convert, to blow up an American Airlines flight wearing shoes filled with explosives. Eight years later, a Nigerian Muslim gained fame as the “underwear bomber” when he tried to detonate a bomb on December 25, 2009 to bring down another airliner.
We should remain mindful that, while deterring what could have been many more terrorist threats, we really don’t know if it is because fewer have been planned, whether terror cells exist in the nation, or whether the Islamists are taking a far longer view of their war than we are. How likely is it that they have concluded that, having driven the U.S. military presence from Iraq and soon from Afghanistan, they would prefer to impose their grip on the Middle East and then expand their jihad from there?
Clearly the government has gone overboard in its effort to surveil all communications, presumably to detect a potential attack. It is a price that most Americans seem prepared to make. In the wrong hands, however, this could mark the end of privacy in America and a tyranny as bad as our enemies would impose.
There is a further problem that is rarely noted and this is the way the Obama administration has fostered a view regarding terrorism that has infected all elements of the military and law enforcement agencies. It is why the FBI failed to more aggressively follow up on the warnings regarding Boston’s Tsarnaev brothers and why it removed content from its training manuals that might be offensive to Muslims.
The Obama administration has rendered the government culturally blind to the obvious threat that radical Islam represents.
Are we safer from terrorist attacks such as 9/11? One would think so. Are there a lot of Department of Homeland Security personnel and those in our National Security Agency, our Central Intelligence Agency, and in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, intent on protecting us? Yes, there are, but the degree to which they are permitted to do so is unknown. The larger a bureaucracy gets, the more risk-averse it becomes.
It is reasonable to conclude that the nation is “safer”, but that does not preclude the potential for future attacks from individual jihadists or a far larger one from al Qaeda. It waited from its first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 until 2001 to finish the job.
© Alan Caruba, 2013