I thought that this article was very interesting. Here are a couple of selections.
There can be little doubt that Al Qaeda is trying to strike the American homeland before Nov. 2. “We are in the midst of Al Qaeda efforts to attack the U.S. on a scale as big or larger than 9/11,” says John Brennan, chief of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the interagency operation that consolidates threat information (and produces the Putter). The decision to raise the threat level to Code Orange (“high”) last week was not, as partisans and conspiracists suggested, a Republican political stunt intended to slow John Kerry as he came out of the Democratic convention. But the announcement was clumsily handled, and the confusing press accounts that followed mostly obscured a larger and more important story.
The uncomfortable truth is that a frantic, multibillion-dollar, global intelligence effort has not been able to answerâ€”definitively, at any rateâ€”the scariest and most basic question: are there Qaeda operatives inside the United States? “We have to assume there are,” says Townsend. “But we don’t know. The reports are mixed.” Certainly, at least a few Qaeda operatives have entered America at some point since 9/11. The FBI is hotly investigating whether Khan was one of them. And Khan’s arrest has already led to the detention of some major Qaeda operatives in England and Pakistan, and will flush out still more in days to come.
There are no surprises in any of this. What really is scary is how much we really do not know.
A British intelligence source, speaking on background to NEWSWEEK, was indignant that Americans blew a chance to secretly watch al-Hindi while he continued to move around and make contact with other Qaeda operatives. An old intel rule is “Let the plot run.” Historically, the British have been astonishingly patient, even coldblooded, about not revealing their sources. During World War II, British intelligence allowed U-boat wolf packs to attack convoys rather than prematurely reveal that the Allies had broken the German codes.
There are many people who are convinced that a lack of successful attacks means that AQ has stopped trying. I never believed that and I think that this story and others provide ample support, as well as support that our efforts have at least slowed AQ down and prevented some attacks. But the issue in so many ways is not how long we can keep this up, but how we can root out the cancer and kill it so that these types of stories disappear.
Sadly, I am not real optimistic, I think that there will likely always be some kind of enemy, but you have to dream big or you never really succeed.