Al Qaeda: No Longer a “Direct” Threat


Is al Qaeda no longer a profound threat to the United States?

In testimony to a House homeland security subcommittee on Thursday, Peter Bergen, a terrorism analyst, al Qaeda expert, New America Foundation fellow, and Mother Jones contributor, said: 

Al Qaeda today no longer poses a direct national security threat to the United States itself, but rather poses a second-order threat in which the worst case scenario would be an al Qaeda-trained or -inspired terrorist managing to pull off an attack on the scale of something in between the 1993 Trade Center attack, which killed six, and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, which killed 168.

Bergen added:

[A] key reason the United States escaped a serious terrorist attack has little to do with either the Bush or Obama administrations. In sharp contrast to Muslim populations in European countries like Britain — where al Qaeda has found recruits for multiple serious terrorist plots — the American Muslim community has largely rejected the ideological virus of militant Islam. The ‘American Dream’ has generally worked well for Muslims in the United States, who are both better-educated and wealthier than the average American. More than a third of Muslim Americans have a graduate degree or better, compared to less than 10% of the population as a whole.

Bergen is no naive optimist, ready to declare victory in the never-ending war on terrorism. But imagine if his measured view of the al Qaeda threat were to be fully incorporated into political discourse and government deliberations. Meanwhile, I wonder if the neocons and other hawks will come after him for daring to suggest that the al Qaeda danger be regarded realistically.

You can read his full testimony here.

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.