Today, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “Understanding the Homeland Security Threat Landscape.” In announcing the hearing, committee chairman Peter King (R–NY) explained:
U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence communities have made significant progress over the past 15 months since the killing of Osama bin Laden. However, even with the killing of the likes of bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Samir Kahn, the terrorist threat against the Homeland continues—with terrorists adapting and new threats emerging.
And he is exactly right.
In 2007, Heritage became the first and only organization tracking thwarted terrorist plots against the U.S. At that time, the number stood at 19. Today, there have been at least 51 publicly known thwarted terrorist plots since 9/11.
While the fact that the U.S. has not seen a large-scale successful terrorist attack in the years since 9/11 speaks to the successes of our law enforcement and intelligence systems, the number of terrorist plots foiled also serves as a reminder that al-Qaeda and its affiliates continue to seek to harm the United States.
Of course, the threat posed by Islamist-inspired terrorism does not come only from abroad. With the global operating environment for terrorist networks having become increasingly hostile, homegrown terrorism has become more appealing to al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks. In fact, of the 51 thwarted terror plots since 9/11, at least 42 could be categorized as homegrown plots, meaning they were planned by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized predominately in the U.S.
While the death of bin Laden marked an important victory in the long war on terrorism, the war has not yet been won. Congress and the Administration should be mindful of what is needed to combat the continued threat of terrorism both at home and abroad. This means preserving existing counterterrorism and intelligence tools, such as the PATRIOT Act, and plugging gaps to halt terrorist travel. It also requires enhancing cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities, as well as mutual trust and partnerships with Muslim communities throughout the U.S.
Today’s hearing should really bring little surprise. The homeland security threat landscape is clear: Terrorists continue to seek to harm the U.S. and its people. The nation must remain vigilant.