Why has al-Qa'eda not repeated the attacks it staged in New York and Washington six years ago to the day? Because it can't.
That is the only partly reassuring consensus of some of the experts who tried hardest to warn Washington about the danger posed by al-Qa'eda and militant Islam prior to its devastating strikes on September 11. Richard Clarke, the anti-terrorism adviser to two American presidents, Michael Sheehan, New York's former deputy police commissioner who headed the State Department's anti-terrorism effort, and others who sensed the danger long before it became obvious, assert that offensive and defensive measures taken since that terrible day have not only severely degraded al-Qa'eda's ability to stage another terrorism "spectacular", but have made American cities and targets less vulnerable.
Thanks to such steps, "we are safer than we were on September 11, 2001," John Scott Redd, a retired vice-admiral who now leads the intelligence community's National Counter-terrorism Centre, told anxious legislators on Capitol Hill yesterday. "But we are not safe," he added. "Nor are we likely to be for a generation or more."
Complacency would indeed be dangerous. There will be no "mission accomplished" banners in this war - a campaign unlikely to end in my lifetime. American intelligence and counter-terrorism officials can only do their jobs, buy time, and hope that the wave of militancy that has engulfed so many Islamic communities ebbs.
Osama bin Laden marked the September 11 anniversary not by conducting another devastating strike but by releasing a videotape, his first in three years. His continued freedom is a triumph of sorts. It also shows how challenging a task defeating such an enemy has become.
A recent National Intelligence Estimate warned Americans that al-Qa'eda remains the single greatest terrorist threat to the US. Other assessments share its gloomy findings that the number of jihadis is increasing.
Yet America and its Western allies can also claim impressive successes - notable exceptions being the train attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London's Tube and bus attacks in 2005. Several plots have been disrupted here in America and in Europe. In New York, the police department deserves credit for aggressive policing that has thwarted at least seven attacks.
New York has assigned nearly 1,000 officers to counter-terrorism, 205 of whom analyse worldwide threats, provide training for all members of the force and police officers in neighbouring cities who request it, and develop plans for protecting key sites in and near the city. New York is in the process of erecting a "ring of steel" - cameras, random screenings, and sensors to help protect the 1.5-square mile financial district and its $1 trillion daily financial transactions. The city is also installing cameras in its subway and transit system. But at the heart of its policing is its surveillance effort.
The most recent plots here in New York and in Europe - among them the arrest of six men in May for plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the failed effort to blow up jet-fuel supply tanks at John F Kennedy Airport in New York - show that the threat is morphing.
Whereas police in New York once worried mainly about militants sent to America from the training camps of Bosnia and Afghanistan, they are now focused more on indigenous, radicalised Muslims, living and working in America, many of whom show few signs of their violent intent.
The increased surveillance adopted by the NYPD also raises civil liberties concerns that Americans are only now beginning to debate. Resistance to it is likely to grow stronger as the memory of September 11 recedes and the commemorations grow smaller.
Patience may yet work to al-Qa'eda's advantage.
Original Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3642611/Why-New-York-hasnt-been-attacked-again.html