- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 5, 2004

While rarely apparent, victories on the homefront are happening in the war against terror. They are more than simply the prevention of attacks; law enforcement agents and homeland security officers are actively disrupting plots and disjoining terror networks. Although terrorists continue to design devastating actions against the United States, the nation is fully engaged in the fight. There is no way to be certain how many plots against U.S. interests and U.S. soil have been foiled. The Department of Homeland Security keeps all such material classified, and given the shadowy world that such operations take place in, even top intelligence officials may not be certain. But none doubt that there have been successes — plots disrupted and operatives arrested. In April 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft testified to the Senate that FBI information indicated that more than 100 terrorist plots against the country had been interrupted since September 11. According to Rep. Mike Rogers, Republican from Michigan and former FBI special agent, there have been far more than 100 interdicted plots, including some on continental soil. Not long ago, Mr. Rogers said, a group of terrorists got far enough in planning to rent a facility as a staging area for a potential attack. They fled when law enforcement agents got close. Mr. Rogers said that other such cases continue to happen. The last interrupted plot to come to public attention was on Christmas Eve, when the cancellation of six Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles likely foiled a September 11-style attack near the latter city. An FBI counterterrorism official told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s a fair chance we dodged a bullet today.” Other foiled attacks include the August 2003 arrest of Hemant Lakhani, a London arms dealer who attempted to smuggle shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles into the United States, and the June 2003 arrest of al Qaeda operative Lyman Faris, who had planned to cut the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. A May 18, 2003, story in the Boston Globe stated, “the United States and other governments have foiled at least a dozen terrorist plots in various stages of planning.” Several terrorist networks on U.S. soil have been disrupted, as demonstrated by their court convictions. For instance, in March, three members of the so-called Virginia jihad network were found guilty on terrorism charges in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Most of the 11 members of the group have been convicted. According to Ian Cuthbertson, senior fellow and director at the World Policy Institute’s Counter-Terrorism Project, “It’s a hell of a lot harder” to attempt such attacks in the United States because the system of security is working well. Al Qaeda has been bloodied badly since the war on terror began. Its members have been harried and held. According to the State Department’s Patterns of Global Terror 2003, “More than 3,400 al Qaeda suspects have been arrested or detained worldwide.” As a consequence, in 2003, acts of international terrorism fell to their lowest level since 1969. However, terrorists continue to plot spectacular attacks against the United States, and their use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is of particular concern. On that front, the invasion of Iraq had the positive effect of depriving terrorists of access to either WMD development facilities or actual WMD. Nonetheless, as Mr. Rogers said, al Qaeda operatives have a high degree of discipline and patience, which makes “a very deadly combination.” He added, “We can never take our guard down. Every day, someone wakes up and asks how to pull off an attack in the United States. We are fooling ourselves if we don’t think it’s happening.” To counter such terrorist cells, law enforcement officers are using the techniques they learned in going after organized crime. They have had, and continue to have, successes. At home and abroad, a degree of optimism is warranted in the war on terror.

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