Attempted terrorist attacks are on the rise and we should expect more to come according to a recent memo from the Department of Homeland Security. Three weeks after the country saw the attempted Times Square bombing, an unclassified DHS intelligence memo asserts not only that “the number and pace of attempted attacks against the United States over the past nine months have surpassed the number of attempts during any other previous on-year period,” but also that terrorists can be expected to attempt attacks on the U.S. with “increased frequency.”
With the addition of the Times Square attempt, there have now been a total of 31 known terrorist plots thwarted since 9/11. Of these plots, seven occurred in the past nine months- inspiring some, like White House chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, to assert that the U.S. has come upon “a new phase of the terrorist threat.” The fact, however, that terrorists are trying to attack Americans is not a new phenomenon—and has happened every year since 9/11.
Last year, for example, Najibullah Zazi attempted to use the same liquid bomb explosive employed by the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2001 to bomb the New York Subway system, while in 2006, 24 individuals were arrested in the UK for attempting to explode 10 U.S.-bound airliners. Likewise, in 2003, Iyman Faris was stopped in an attempt to use blow torched to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge. These are just a few attempted plots.
While terrorist attacks may indeed be on the rise, it seems premature to assert that they are occurring at increased frequency given that terrorists have been plotting against Americans since 9/11. Regardless, ensuring the security of the United States and success in countering the terrorist threat requires the same formula, including a robust commitment by U.S. leadership to supporting counterterrorism authorities and ensuring a seamless flow of intelligence and information sharing, increased visa coordination, and efforts to root out terrorist sanctuaries abroad. Hopefully the Obama Administration’s future announcements will detail how it plans to ensure that the Obama counterterrorism strategy conforms to the lessons learned from the 31 foiled plots.