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"The Terrorist Next Door"

All too frequently in the years since September 11th the statement has been made "the United States has been infiltrated by terrorists." Perhaps, rather, it was that there were already "sleeper cells" in our midst. Could it be that they've been here all along, and we just didn't notice them? Or is it possible that through other indoctrinations, that they have morphed from being the "boy next door" to the "terrorist next door?"

The recent culmination of the yearlong sting operation in which four men were snagged just before they could stage a car bombing attack at the Jewish Center and synagogue in Riverdale NY was another reminder. Then, even more audaciously, use what they thought were Stinger missiles to down American airplanes flying over New York City, the sobering thought is that men (and probably women) who live and work nearby have adopted the cause of jihad. Our government took them down and prevented any real mayhem by using a confidential informant. One report has at least one of the would be terrorists claiming entrapment.

In the summer of 2005 as the second London terror incident was unfolding, there were some people who bemoaned the fact that the terrorist attacks had been perpetrated by "regular looking people" and basically asked the question, "what are we to do?" For years a "terror bomber" in Israel has walked into a bus or restaurant and blown himself/herself up, and in the process, killed numerous other innocents in the name of jihad. One of the clear lessons from the London bombings is the in this world, there are "terrorists among us." We all live (mostly) in a blended society. In our open society, it is difficult to ensure that terrorism will not strike from the indigenous population.

A year and a half ago, it was "strange" to read the headline of the article written by James Gordon Meek in the NY daily News, " Experts see rise in Western-looking recruits training in terrorist camps". It was "strange," not just because it was unexpected, but also because it came as a surprise to some people.

Before September 11th we already had our share of domesticated terrorists. In the U.S., we have been, and continue to be, a "melting pot" of peoples from around the world...all colors, all races, all creeds. Neither imported nor homegrown terrorism is new in the U.S. There has been a succession of domestic terror incidents. What makes Americans turn against other Americans is beyond my understanding. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in Oklahoma City, Eric Rudolph who bombed women's' health care clinics and was responsible for the bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the madman acts of Theodore Kaczynski and even the bio-terror, salmonella attacks by the Rajneeshis in Oregon are all previous examples. This was actually reviewed last May in Terrorism - Domestically Speaking

In that particular incident, the arrest of Jeffrey Don Detrixhe was discussed how he planned to mix cyanide with acid to release a poisonous gas cloud. Not so reassuringly, there were some reports that despite telling the informant that he had a 25 gallon drum of cyanide pellets, that he didn't have any real intention to carry out an attack.

Of course previously, there was also the JFK Terrorist plot involving three men from Guyana and one from Trinidad in June 2007 and the case of the Lackawana (Buffalo) Six, Yemeni-Americans (by birth) who were convicted of providing support to al Qaeda. Additionally, we've had the Detroit Sleeper Cell and the planned attack on Ft. Dix, NJ.

Are there more "sleeper cells" lying in the bushes waiting for a signal to launch an attack against our citizens? By "regular looking guys?" The question remains, how do we determine who is a terrorist, and who is a "regular guy?"

We are now confronted with the altered state of perception of the war that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11th in which nearly 3000 innocent Americans brutally died in horrific circumstances, some burned to death, others pulverized by collapsing tons of building materials and glass. Apparently, it is now acceptable to minimize the importance of those attacks, and to allude to the fact that the concerns over a repeat attack are or were overdone.

A recent study funded by the Department of Homeland Security and conducted from open source information by the National Consortium of the Study of Terrorist and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland claims that "The events of 9-11 are the quintessential example of the high-cost, low probability event." Most accounts indicate that the attacks of September 11th cost less than $1 million.

START, based at the University of Maryland and primarily funded by DHS, analyzed more than 80,000 attacks from 1970 to 2007. Of those attacks, only 1,350 attacks, or 1.6 percent, hit American targets -- mostly overseas. This small percentage plummets to 0.08 percent when attacks on domestic targets are calculated.

As for the "probability" of the event, at least according to the series of reports of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century by Gary Hart, Warren Rudman and Stephen Flynn, the was an inevitability of home soil attacks, with little uncertainty.

One of this Commission's most important conclusions in its Phase I report was that attacks against American citizens on American soil, possibly causing heavy casualties, are likely over the next quarter century. This is because both the technical means for such attacks, and the array of actors who might use such means, are proliferating despite the best efforts of American diplomacy.

Aside from the stated belief that, the attacks of September 11th cloud Americans' view of terrorism, maybe the most distressing statement is from Gary LaFree, director of START:

Because 9/11 has become the very symbol for terrorism, we tend to think of all terrorist attacks as being similar, 9/11 poses a policy dilemma. On the one hand, there is no denying its impact. On the other hand, if we consider it to be typical of terrorist attacks, we will have a very misleading view of terrorism."

Misleading view of terrorism? Is this revisionist history is now being promoted that minimizes the threat posed by terrorism intended to cleanse history of the reality of what happened on September 11th? The very fact that we weren't listening before September 11th contributed to our vulnerability that day. We need to be on guard and aware all of the time.