What to make of reports that ISIS may try to pull off a terrorist attack on Independence Day?
Let’s look at the facts.
It is not the first time after 9/11 that U.S. authorities have expressed concerns about possible terrorist attacks timed to coincide with significant dates like the 4th of July. In 2011, a senior U.S. official told reporters, “We have received credible information very recently about a possible plot directed at the homeland that seems to be focused on New York and Washington, D.C.,” timed for the anniversary of al Qaeda’s big attack on the two cities. Some hold that the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi was scheduled to coincide with 9/11. In fact, warnings of impending terror threats from authorities go back as far as 2002.
Next, we know that ISIS is active—both promoting and inspiring transnational terrorist attacks. Just last week near simultaneous assaults occurred in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.
Further, the US remains a prime target for terrorist activity. There was another Islamist terrorist related plot uncovered last week—the third in less than a month.
Additionally, we can’t even be sure of where an attack might happen. Terrorists have contemplated hitting everything from high-profile targets in big cities to shopping malls in the suburbs.
None of that necessarily means that something bad will happen between grilling the hot dogs, cheering on the main street parades and watching the fireworks over the capitol.
Coordinating a terrorist attack to happen at a specific time and place, particularly when there will likely be heightened awareness and security, complicates the challenge of pulling off a terror strike–though those obstacles didn’t thwart two relative amateurs who bombed the Boston Marathon (and who had also considered conducting an attack on Independence Day).
Still, if an attack does occur the odds of any particular American being a victim are pretty small. That’s cold comfort, as the real purpose of terrorist attacks is to terrorize us, killing us is just a consequence.
Best advice is to have a nice day, but take the common-sense precautions that people should always take in public. There are plenty of lists out there of the right steps to take. Read one.
The reality is that even the best security can’t child-proof a free society. On July 4, of all days, Americans shouldn’t want it any other way. When a free society gives up on freedom the terrorists win.