On Monday, two men were arrested trying to leave JFK Airport in New York. The men, Moahamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte planned to fly to Somalia to join al Shabab—a known terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda.
The arrest of these two men is a victory no doubt—and very well could have stopped a future terror plot before it could even get off the ground. However, what these guys were doing is anything but ground breaking. As my colleague Jim Carafano emphasizes they were joining a terrorist group well-known to U.S. counterterrorism authorities—one that we have been tracking for some time and are familiar with their efforts to recruit individuals from the United States to stage terrorist attacks abroad.
Given our knowledge of this group, the U.S. government should be quite successful in stopping them from staging attacks here at home. In the more than 31 foiled plots since 9/11, there have been more than a few that involved individuals trained and radicalized by a terror groups overseas. The Times Square plot and the Christmas Day attempted attack, however, raise serious questions about whether the Obama Administration has the political will to preserve the counterterrorism tools necessary to do this job effectively.
Waiting until an individual detonates a bomb, and just hoping it doesn’t work, is destined to fail. Given the successes in stopping plots since 9/11—the best path seems obvious, and it isn’t to radically change course. Staying successful means repeating again and again the information sharing and intelligence gathering activities that work to give CT authorities the right information at the right time to penetrate terror groups, root out terrorist sanctuaries, and most importantly, stop terror attacks.