"Terror experts: X happening is bad. X not happening is worse." What's right?

I first started thinking about this when I read (on blogs only right now; I can try to pull them if you like) that some experts think that the lack of terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11 is a really bad sign, because this large gap of time means that they’re gearing up for something huge.

You can see my confusion. If there are terrorist attacks in the U.S., that’s obviously bad. But somehow, if they DON’T happen, it’s worse.

The same with this CNN story. While I don’t KNOW that they’d say that an increase in “chatter” (God, I’m starting to hate that word) is bad, I definitely think they would. But less of it? Even worse! (Though this makes slightly more sense, since this may mean that they’ve switched over to communications channels we haven’t tapped into yet - but this story seems to imply that the reduction itself is an indicator of something happening.)

So what exactly am I supposed to think? It simply can’t be, in my mind, that ALL options lead to the conclusion that More Terror Is On The Way <tm>. Is it just a matter of personal interpretation, or is there something I can actually hang my hat on?

As somebody posted just yesterday (I think), AQ generally goes for the ‘big attacks with space in between’ thing.

It’s not worse, it’s a sign that they’re probably planning something. Which shouldn’t surprise anybody.

That’s what they’re getting at. If past patterns hold, a drop off in chatter (yes, very annoying term) is what happens as an attack approaches.

So, an increase in chatter is bad and a decrease in chatter is bad. Then what’s the “proper” level?

The technical term for this is “pulling a statement out of your ass”. We have no way of knowing why the gap has been this long, and therefore we can’t draw conclusions about it without further information. Maybe the gap has been really long because they’ve been planning a whopper of an attack. On the other hand, maybe the gap has been long because we keep capturing/killing critical people and setting them back. Or maybe it’s long because we’ve cut enough of their funding that they can’t finance a large attack. Or maybe Osama’s goitre is acting up and they’re waiting for it to settle down.

Trying to assess our overall safety by whether there is the ‘right amount’ of chatter is foolish. First, you can bet that a lot of the chatter is disinformation. The levels probably go up and down randomly so that we can’t get information from the level alone. At least, if if were Osama that’s what I’d be doing, and he’s got some smart people around him.

For all we know, al-Qaida has made a strategic shift and decided that their best chance of hurting the United States is to force them out of Iraq, and they’ve diverted all of their assets to that cause. There sure are a lot of foreign fighters streaming into that country, along with weapons.

The bottom line is, we don’t know. Or if some spooks know, they aren’t tell us.

Here is something much worse and my 9-11 nightmare that thankfully didn’t occur.

Every month a major car bomb goes off somewhere randomly in the US taking out a lot of people. Same in Europe. It would be relatively easy and does not require suicide bombers. Look at Spain. A single person or small group in the US with a funded ATM card could probably set off a powerful car bomb built from anonymous materials and grab headlines for a long time. This has not happened.

The anthrax scare. More of that to shut down the US postal system. Think what would happen if mail can’t be delivered?

I think it’s a complete crock. The Al Queda suicide brigade was a one trick pony or they would have struck again in the US.

It doesn’t help when we keep outing the spooks. First Valerie Plame (working on WMD) and now this guy, working with al-Qaida. Sheesh!

Bin Laden is on record as promising that his next attack will be bigger than 9/11. He has always done or tried to do everything he has promised.

It’s also important to note that Al Qaeda has not been inactive but actually has been very active in the past three years and also has been very successful. It was able to affect the outcome of an election in Europe through the use of terror, which resulted in one of America’s allies pulling out of Iraq. It staged a bombing of a nightclub in Bali that targeted another US ally, Australia. It has plugged in to home grown insurgencies here in Iraq and seems to be networking them into a larger movement.

AQ’s strategy seems to be to give US allies enough of a taste of terror to keep the US isolated (or at least, keep support tepid at best). At the same time, it is supporting several Islamist insurgencies throughout Asia and the Middle East.

AQ’s goals have always been 1) end US support of Israel; 2) get the US out of the Middle East; 3) foster insurgencies against corrupt US supported governments in the Western world and 4) establish an Islamist theocracy in the Middle East.

Right now it seems they are focusing most of their efforts on ensuring that Iraq becomes a failed state, so that they can step in and restore order along lines to their liking. Part of this effort will be to raise the price of the US remaining in Iraq and I think they will attempt to raise that cost in a very spectacular way, but on their schedule, not ours.