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Terrorism Experts Weigh In: What Kind of Attacks Might We Expect?

PJM interviewed several anti-terrorism experts to get an idea of what al-Qaeda and their murderous affiliates may attempt next. (Update: "Oregon Plot: This Is How You Stop Terrorists")

by
Elise Cooper

Bio

November 27, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Stewart Baker, former assistant for Homeland Security whose book Skating on Stilts covers past and future terrorist attacks, told PJM that the terrorists still have a fascination with bringing down planes.

In August of this year, a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle and multiple cell phones and watches taped together were found in luggage on a passenger plane. After the package bomb discovery, a former high-ranking CIA official said that he considers the August discovery “ a very plausible and possible trial run. It was a test to see how far they could go. It seems very suspicious.”

To combat this threat, Townsend wants “a 100% worldwide baggage screening on all passenger planes. These problems can be solved with good technology, but the private sector must be in the solution process.”

Is there still a need to worry about the nuclear and biological threat? A former high-ranking CIA official believes it is still a possibility:

We need to assume they could still do a big one. These little things could be a diversion, a distraction, so we would believe all they can do are the small attacks. There is the possibility of an attack using a bomb with radioactive material, or the use of a surface-to-air missile against an aircraft. The absolute consensus is that if al-Qaeda gets their hands on one of these, they will use it. That is a real danger. Although [risk of] nuclear war is decreased, nuclear terrorism is increased.

Townsend explains that there are states which do not provide adequate security for their nuclear arsenal. The scenarios she gives:

Nuclear capability transferred from a state — Iran — to a terrorist organization — Hezbollah, or a radical working inside a nuclear complex of a satellite state, such as Pakistan. The terrorist group can then build a nuclear IED. It can turn into a very dark world. I frankly think there is a need to deal with these threats before they manifest themselves at home and I don’t see it.

All those interviewed believe the answer is to keep the pressure on by capturing and interrogating the terrorists. Hayden summarized everyone’s feelings:

The way to counter them is not to think solely in terms of defense. We must keep on the offensive, attacking them and keeping them off balance. What we have done under the two administrations is make the [terrorist] senior leadership spend the day thinking about their survival and less time thinking about threatening ours. We have taken the fight to the enemy.

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The author is a freelance writer focusing on national security issues.
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