Since the attacks of 9/11 there have been many plots that have been thwarted by a combination of excellent intel and dumb luck. There has also been some CYA carried out by officials who have warned previously of a 9/11-type attack that never materialized.
This latest warning however, seems to be the real deal and is being given to Obama by experts not only here but overseas as well:
Lord West of Spithead, the Home Office Security Minister, spoke recently of a “huge threat”, saying: “There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.”
Intelligence chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic have indicated that such warnings refer more to a general sense of foreboding than fear of an imminent or specific plan.
Referring to the attacks in 1993 and 2001, General Hayden told a Washington think-tank on Thursday night: “For some people two data points create a trend line. For others, there may be more hesitation to call it that.” He said that the chief danger comes from remote areas in Pakistan that border Afghanistan.
“Today virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it’s command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the Fata [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas].”
General Hayden said that al-Qaeda remained a “determined, adaptive enemy” operating “from its safe haven in Pakistan”. He added: “If there is a major attack on this country it will bear the fingerprints of al-Qaeda.”
If anything, this amplifies the importance of the Afghanistan/Pakistan problem for the new president. It's going to be time for someone to go in there and clear out the infrastructure that al-Qaeda has built up again thanks to our own sensitivities about Pakistani sovereignty and the Pakistan government's inability or outright refusal to do it themselves.
Somewhere, a clock is ticking. And chances are, we either won't know if such an attack has been thwarted or when such an attack might be attempted. Let's hope its the former and let's also hope that Obama chooses advisors who take the War on Terror as seriously as al-Qaeda.