A new study indicates terrorist threats against the United States have changed since the September 11, 2001 attacks, becoming smaller in scale and often originating from domestic sources. The report was issued Friday by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
The 19 hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, were all Arabs. None was a U.S. citizen.
In the nine years since, much has changed.
The study by the Bipartisan Policy Center says the threat has shifted to Americans aligned with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, and the United States has been slow to prevent it. Stephen Flynn, a security analyst, took part in the study.
"Much smaller scale attacks, particularly if drawn from domestic recruits, are almost impossible for our national security intelligence community, as it's currently constructed, to detect and intercept. As a practical matter, it means we will almost certainly have successful terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and we need to start coming to grips with that," he said.
An example is the foiled Times Square bombing. The Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty to terrorism was drawn to the cause and trained overseas. The study ties at least 43 American citizens or U.S. residents to terrorism crimes last year. That is the most in any year since the 2001 attacks.
Bruce Hoffman, a specialist on terrorism, co-authored the study. "Individuals looking to receive terrorist training, unfortunately today have more destinations they can select to go to. We've had incidents just in the past month of individuals attempting for instance to go to Somalia, rather than Pakistan," he said.
Recent public outcry over plans to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site, and a Florida religious group's threats to burn copies of the Quran, play into the hands of al-Qaida, says Thomas Kean. He helped to lead the study.
"These kind of debates do not help when we are trying to prevent people from being recruited. And, they do not help I don't think, in the war on ideas," he said.
Another study leader, Lee Hamilton, says the United States must reach out to the world's Muslims. "1.3or 1.4 -whatever it is - billion Muslims from London to Jakarta. An enormously important force in the world. We have to understand it much, much better than we do and how to address it," he said.
Kean and Hamilton say one way to do that is to recommend U.S. policy changes. Which they promise to do, in a later report.