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The persistent threat of terrorism

"[O]ur security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al-Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat." -- President Obama, West Point, Dec. 1

"Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale." -- President Obama, Oslo, Dec. 10

Not that President Obama wanted or needed an incident to buttress his assertions at West Point and Oslo, but the attempted downing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit is a chilling reminder that there are people out there who want to kill us.

The latest failed martyr claiming ties to al-Qaeda is Nigerian. And if the details that have emerged so far prove correct, that's further evidence that the enemy the United States faces is not confined to or by a national border.

But when I say "us," I don't just mean the United States. Al-Qaeda talks about wanting to bring down the free world. In addition to the Sept. 11 attacks, the group has claimed responsibility for hitting Bali (2002) and Madrid (2004), to name just two.

Of course, terrorists understand the significance of trying to smack America around Christmastime. Remember Richard Reid? His attempted shoe bombing played out on Dec. 22, 2001.

Thankfully, the alleged Northwest Firestarter didn't succeed. Federal authorities may get valuable information from this suspect. Unfortunately, that information may only confirm our worst fears.

By Jonathan Capehart  | December 25, 2009; 9:16 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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"Federal authorities may get valuable information from this suspect. Unfortunately, that information may only confirm our worst fears."

No to be cynical, but my "worst fear" is that the feds will respond to this terror attempt with yet more hysterically unnecessary security measures. I'm afraid that my civil liberties will be further eroded, that my flying experience will become even less pleasurable, and that my way of life will be more compromised by people who really don't seem to know what they're doing. I'm afraid that another attack by a terrorist who fits the profile to a T will lead to oppressive security measures against millions of innocent people while nothing is done about the actual bad guys.

Posted by: simpleton1 | December 26, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Terrorism is a risk that won't go away for a long time. As long as people have grieviances and see themselves as unable to effect changes except by violence, individuals will continue to attempt violence.

Terrorism has been with us as a risk since Reconstruction when it was used as a method to defeat emancipation. Terrorists often see themselves as freedom fighters. They fight for freedom for themselves and slavery for others.

Moslem terrorism is no different from other older forms. It cannot be eliminated. Efforts to try to only substitute state terrorism for individual terrorism. We have to learn to live with terrorism, to stand on our two feet and fight terrorism by strengthening communities, and bring back the principle of a "militia of a whole" which puts the responsibility for dealing with criminality of all kinds on the community.

It was brave people on that flight who foiled the terrorists not all the millions in dollars spent to surveil and arrest them.

Posted by: chris_holte | December 26, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

The American media do exact what the al-Qaeda bandits want to achieve : spread fear!

Posted by: mixedbreed | December 27, 2009 5:12 AM | Report abuse

I do not know why we bother with more restrictions on air travelers. Any terrorist who wants to can simply go to Mexico, get the weapons and equipment to create destruction on a huge scale and carry it across our southern border with no problem. Our government seems to think that we should not control our southern border because we need to unskilled labor coming from there. Unemployment is at an all time high, but we still need the unskilled labor from Mexico?! Any terrorist worth his salt has probably already brought a nuke across that border. The 'coyotes' who escort people across say they have taken many people who do not even speak spanish but who are obviously from the middle east. The coyotes don't care - they just take the money and get the people into the US. There is no reason to blow up a plane when you can nuke the super bowl, for example.

Posted by: tenshi1 | December 27, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The Nigerian `suspect' has lawyered up-- which is par for this this Administration. What we get out of him will zippo.

The way to thwart these religious perverts? The Israelis have done it for years. Their airline security system works. Why re-invent the wheel?

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | December 27, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

When it comes to airline security, we can 2 options:
1) Ever fly El Al? Your lugggage and person gets searched, you get interviewed as to why you're flying; and there are armed security people aboard to prevent any trouble. Problem is, this takes time, and can be inconvienant.
2) Our current system where we rely on watch lists, and poorly paid airport screeners.
That's what we have when we fly. So we shouldn't be surprised when one falls between the cracks.

Posted by: sfmaster | December 28, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Capehart:
My husband and I flew in last evening from London on a BA Flight to San Francisco. It took 2 hours to board the plane as each passenger went through an additional bag check (I will comment on this check in a moment) and very perfunctory patdown. These procedures--as BA announced repeatedly--were required by the U.S. Government. In addition, all pillows, newspapers, blankets, etc. were thrown into the overheads by the flight attendants an hour before landing. When my hand luggage was checked, I asked if they also wanted to pen my purse. The answer was "no." The latter supports my feeling that these procedures are nothing more than public relations window dressing by an embarrassed Administration. We are supporters of the Administration, but, in this case, trying to blame the Bush Administration and also declare that the Northwest/Delta Christmas flight was proof that the system works is ludicrous.
How is it possible that a credible Nigerian businessman's warning about his own son was not a highlighted red flag? How is it possible that--once again--someone paying cash for a ticket and having no luggage on an international flight was not a major red flag? How is it possible that he had a U.S. Visa that was not questioned after his father's warning, his time in Yemen, the British government's reservations, etc., etc. We and the Administration need to recognize that the system is not working, that the TSA measures are reactionary at best (we take off our shoes, but no one opens or screens a purse!).

Posted by: bettina3 | December 28, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Obama adminestration new DHS rule no. 1. Fend for yourself. Napolitano is working on amnisty for illegals and don't have time for Americans. New DAS rule no. 2. Pray a lot. Perhaps the terrorists will screw up or we will get rid of Napolitano. New DHS rule no. 3. Reread rules nos. 1 and 2. It is the best Napolitano can do.

Posted by: jdonner2 | December 28, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I thought 9/11 was all Bush's fault; Hey I have some ideas on how we can stop this:
-- Stop calling this a "war on terror"...come up with something else...manmade disfunction or something..
-- Repeal all the Homeland Security erodes our liberties.
-- Stop warrantless wiretapes - see above
-- Stop profiling young male Muslims - see above
-- Prosecute all CIA agents who dealt with Al Qa'ida (by the way are they STILL lying to Pelosi? If not when did they stop?)
-- Put in rules of engagement which will keep American soldiers, those right-wing brutes, from pulling a trigger and if they do, prosecute them.
-- Prosecute Bush DOJ lawyers; charge them with war crimes
-- Have New York Times reveal more US govt secrets
-- Send KSM to civil court so he can have his legal day on the world stage; make sure he's judged by his peers, meaning at least 6 Muslims on the jury.
-- Send ICRC to investigate the conditions Abdulmutalab is being held in; Charge those holding him with violation of human rights for burning him.
-- Close Guantanamo and either release the prisoners there, return them to their countries(only those like Italy which will let them go), or bring to USA and give them US Citizen rights.
-- Appoint a high-powered "defense team" of lawyers (all Democrat) for Abdulmutalab
-- And...oh yes....BLAME GEORGE BUSH!

Posted by: wjc1va | December 28, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

KABUL — As the U.S. and its allies try to overcome logistical hurdles and rush some 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan in 2010, intelligence officials are warning that the Taliban-led insurgency is expanding and that "Time Is Running Out" for the U.S.-Led Coalition to prove that its strategy can succeed.

The Taliban have created a shadow "Government-in-waiting," complete with Cabinet ministers, that could assume power if the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails, a senior International Security Assistance Force intelligence official said in Kabul, speaking only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of ISAF policy.

As the Obama administration and its European allies face dwindling public and political support for the eight-year-old Afghan war, the Taliban now have what the official called "a full-fledged insurgency" and shadow governors in 33 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, including those in the north, where U.S. and other officials had thought the Islamic extremists posed less of a threat.


The U.S. has already spent $70 million on military efforts on Yemen in 2009, up from [[0.00]] Nothing in 2008.

An additional 30,000 troops are scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan, where some estimates peg the total number of al Qaeda as low as 100. The surge will raise the U.S. commitment to nearly 100,000 soldiers, along with up to 160,000 private contractors.

President Barack Obama announced the surge during a speech on December 1, also declaring, "Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold - whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere - they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships."

Officials are still trying to verify Abdulmutallab's claim that he received his incendiary device and instructions in Yemen.

Posted by: omaarsblade | December 28, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Once more Iranians take to streets in opposition to the injustices and oppression of the Mullahs.

Once more, President Obama is AWOL.

Truly... in the great tradition of Jimmah Cawter...

"Obama ahkbar!!!" Mullah Omar

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | December 28, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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