Christmas Tree Plot an Inside Job

Jena McNeill /

On Friday, a Somali-born man attempted to blow up a van full of explosives at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The FBI, however, had supplied him with a fake bomb and was able to arrest him immediately as part of a well-orchestrated string operation.

Kudos to the FBI for taking this plot down. Similarly to the recent D.C. Metro plot, the public was never in any danger—and that, of course, is a good thing.

What isn’t a good thing, however, is the recent focus on throwing security measures at airports. This isn’t the right way to tackle terrorism. Terrorists have proven—and this plot is one example—that they don’t just stage attacks against airports. America has an endless array of potential targets, each with their own vulnerabilities. Protecting every potential target or trying to child-proof America is unsustainable.

Conversely, this isn’t an excuse to throw in the towel on countering terrorism. We have been successful at stopping plots. In fact, there have been at least 34 foiled terror plots on U.S. soil since 9/11. The right formula, based on the lessons learned of these plots, is to stop terrorists before the public is in danger. Friday’s plot confirms this data even further.

In the next few days, there will be a lot of talking heads commenting on how the threat of homegrown terrorism is uncontrollable and can’t be stopped. Don’t be misled. Activities aimed at sharing information among local, state, and federal law enforcement—as well as between U.S. and its allies and using law enforcement tools to find and track down leads in local communities—is still the best way to stop terrorism, whether domestic or international.