Reasons They Haven’t Hit Us Again

“The official position of our government is that it is not a matter of if there will be another attack on the United States again, but when. On this, George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden seem to be in agreement. This is especially troubling to New Yorkers, who feel, with some degree of certainty, that our city remains the most inviting target for terrorists.

Everyone has methods for dealing with the anxiety. Mostly, we try to ignore it; sometimes, because of the news or a sudden loud noise outside the window, that becomes impossible. Wherever we go, we see how easy it would be for a terrorist to cause serious harm. A bomb left in a Times Square trash can; a man with a heavy backpack moving through a crowded subway car; a van stuffed with explosives entering the Midtown Tunnel—this is part of how we experience the city now. But if it seems so easy, why hasn’t it happened? That’s the question that obsesses us, around which we build theories and start arguments. An attack wouldn’t have to be on the scale of 9/11 to set off a major panic. A single explosion, just one of the many little bombs that rock Iraq every day, would make midtown feel little safer than the Green Zone. But nothing has happened.

In that first year after 9/11, mysterious attacks in other parts of the U.S. began sounding a warning “like an accelerating drumbeat,” as one security expert puts it: The anthrax, the stabbing of Greyhound bus drivers, Richard Reid being wrestled to the floor of a plane with ten ounces of triacetone triperoxide in his black suede sneakers. The bizarre variety demonstrated just how unpredictable the next plot could be. “We still have no idea who was responsible for anthrax after 9/11,” says Dr. Irwin Redlener, head of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “How that could elude very smart people to this day is a very troubling sign of what could happen in New York.”

So how come nothing has happened? “That’s what everyone in our field is wondering,” says Juliette Kayyem, a national-security expert from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The answers they give make up five principal theories that attempt to explain why we’ve stayed safe this long—and what sort of threat remains.”

This is worth reading. Lot to think about, I’d write more but I have an infant in my arms. No really, I do. My daughter is sleeping, back later.

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