As originally conceived by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida would conduct occasional massive attacks on the United States to terrify its citizens and devastate the economy.
That worked well on 9/11, but the United States has since waged a successful war to penetrate, isolate, and dismantle al-Qaida.
Like the United States, al-Qaida and its affiliates have learned to adapt, so what we are seeing now are more-frequent, less-ambitious attacks by people who have minimal training. That apparently was the case with Faisal Shahzad, who allegedly has admitted his role in the botched bombing attempt in Times Square and is talking to investigators, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Although no definite link has been announced, the area of Pakistan where Shahzad recently traveled is a stronghold of the Taliban, which works closely with al-Qaida.
Similarly, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day, received training from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula but apparently not enough to blow up the plane.
A third category of terrorist, Nidal Malik Hasan, was inspired by an al-Qaida imam but did not receive training.
The evolution of terrorism is both good news and bad news. The good news is that spectacular attacks are being prevented, thanks to the hard work of the CIA, FBI, local police, and the military.
Bin Laden is isolated, unable to plan plots. Predator drone strikes are taking out more al-Qaida leaders and operatives. Although President Obama deserves credit for continuing the strikes, the reason for the increase in successful attacks is a geometric increase in the number of drones funded by the Bush administration, improved intelligence, and good weather so far this year in target areas.
The bad news is that the terror attacks, while less ambitious, are coming more frequently and eventually will be successful.
While the Obama administration has dithered on such questions as holding a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and on closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, its most serious deficiencies have been in not aggressively interrogating terrorist suspects overseas and in motivating CIA officers to take risks.
In questioning suspects, the administration has ordered that interrogators follow the Army Field Manual, which allows suspects more rights than they would have if the FBI or local police were interrogating them. To carry out interrogations, it has created a High Value Interrogation Group, which Pakistan does not trust and will not allow into the country.
As outlined in the Newsmax story "Jim Woolsey: Nuclear Iran 'Extremely' Likely,"
Holder’s decision to revisit whether CIA officers who used interrogation methods approved by the Bush administration, the Justice Department, and key members of Congress violated criminal laws has sent shivers up the backs of CIA officers.
What has not come out previously is that, for the past year, the Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have been taking up valuable resources of the CIA conducting a parallel investigation of the enhanced interrogation program. The committee has obtained from the CIA 10 million documents, each of which had to be retrieved and reviewed by the CIA before being released to the committee. Up to 12 analysts from the CIA have been assigned to help in the review.
When you consider that CIA officers from around the world have had to help, the investigation has cost millions of dollars. It has further strengthened the resolve of many CIA officers to continue drawing their salaries without doing anything that could be considered controversial if it faced review later.
Meanwhile, President Obama continues to refer to the attacks as having been carried out by individual violent extremists, rather than as being part of a terrorist war that threatens the survival of the United States.
For all his good intentions, until Obama recognizes that fact and proceeds accordingly, the safety of the country will be in jeopardy.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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