The Counsel of Fear
Testifying in early 2012, James Clapper told Congress:
While a "mass attack" was unlikely, groups like Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula have expressed interest in acquiring the capability to carry out a limited attack using such weapons.
Recently, the BBC reported:
Al-Qaeda could gain access to Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons with 'catastrophic' consequences, a parliamentary committee has warned.
After hearing evidence from senior members of the intelligence agencies and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), the committee highlighted "serious concern" among its witnesses that Syria's weapons stockpiles might be compromised.
Assessments of their contents "vary considerably", the report said, but suggest they include sarin, ricin, mustard gas and VX, which the committee described as "the deadliest nerve agent ever created".
"There has to be a significant risk that some of the country's chemical weapons stockpile could fall into the hands of those with links to terrorism, in Syria or elsewhere in the region," the committee concluded.
"If this happens, the consequences could be catastrophic."
Thus, while the underlying source of the security alert remains unclear, open source data suggests the threat of a chemical or similar attack on a Western target cannot be wholly discounted. Of course this is pure speculation, although it is consistent with the known facts.
The larger point is that the administration's counter-terrorism strategy, if such a word can be used to describe their actions so far, is not working.
It has failed to buy off the enemy and it has apparently failed to exterminate al-Qaeda to the desired degree. Now the West is facing some counteroffensive of large, but unknown, character. The terrible "ifs" accumulate, and failure may now have produced the Perfect Storm.
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