June 29, 2003

The Three Deadly Elements

Is al'Qa'ida really on the run, close to being washed up, rendered powerless, and its members finding themselves confined to a small room with a Readers' Digest Condensed Koran? Opinions vary, but the Rand Organization's Bruce Hoffman is not a wild-eyed optimist. In his detailed and insightful Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities [NB: in PDF format], he examines what is known about the current condition of the terrorist group. For them to be rendered operationally harmless, they would first need to be stripped of three essential elements:

[W]hat was critical to the success of 9/11 were three capabilities that al Qa'ida likely still retains. First, was the ability to identify a key vulnerability or gap in the defenses of its principal enemy—America—that could be mercilessly exploited (e.g., the U.S. commercial aviation security structure). Second, was the effective use of deception on board the four hijacked aircraft where, the passengers and crew, were deliberately lulled into believing that if they behaved and cooperated as they were told—the standard operating procedure for crew and passengers on hijacked aircraft that historically had enhanced chances of survival—they would not be harmed. Third, suicide attack was employed to ensure the attack’s success. None of these essential qualities was dependent on al Qa'ida having a base of operations in Afghanistan—and thus could likely be replicated in some future plan that successfully identifies and exploits a gap in our defenses and then cleverly and adroitly assembles the operational requirements for that attack to succeed.

All of which suggests that the current administration's obsession with making air travel safe from all possible terrorist approaches, is just that, an obsession unlikely to stop future attacks. Indeed, it would seem that all this concentration on inter-city public transport security is a waste of assets. The pure fact is that all it would take to bring New York City of a halt again, murder thousands of its citizens, and send the US economy back into a tailspin would be three dedicated members of al'Qa'ida currently living in Brooklyn, and possessed of burning down death wish and a terrible intent.

Of this more in the days to come.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 29, 2003 12:20 PM
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Posted by: p at October 20, 2003 11:59 AM