Safer than We Think? Would Be a Pity to Be Wrong

Posted on September 13, 2010

In today’s Washington Post, my friend and colleague Fareed Zakaria writes that our response to 9/11 has gone too far and that we are really “safer than we think”:

Al-Qaeda “central”—Osama bin Laden and his gang—has been whittled down to about 400 fighters. It has been unable to execute large-scale attacks of the kind that were at the core of its strategy—to hit high-value American targets that held military or political symbolism … So the legitimate question now is: Have we gone too far? Is the vast expansion in governmental powers and bureaucracies—layered on top of the already enormous military-industrial complex of the Cold War—warranted? Does an organization that has as few as 400 members and waning global appeal require the permanent institutional response we have created?

In my Post column today, I argue that it is precisely because of our institutional response over the past nine years that we have not suffered another attack like we did on September 11, 2001. Just four years ago, they attempted to mark the fifth anniversary by simultaneously blowing up seven transatlantic flights en route from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York, Washington, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, and San Francisco. The plot was just weeks from execution when it was disrupted.

They also had plots in motion to repeat the destruction of 9/11 in Europe by flying airplanes into Heathrow Airport and downtown London; blow up high-rise apartment buildings in a major American city; fly an airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles; blow up the U.S. consulate and Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan; blow up our Marine camp in Djibouti; and many other plots whose details remain classified. These plots were disrupted thanks to information provided by detainees in the CIA interrogation program—a program that has since been dismantled.

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