London Terror Plot Foiled: Lessons for Congress
authorities arrested or are seeking almost two dozen suspected
terrorists in conjunction with a plot to bomb simultaneously
multiple transatlantic flights to U.S. cities. There are lessons to
be learned from thwarting these attacks. There is little in what we
know so far to argue for doing anything other than sticking to the
strategy we have for fighting and winning the long war. There are,
however, congressional initiatives that can make the American way
of fighting the war on terror better.
Here is what we
- This was a
serious terror-ring-professional, well-organized, and determined,
intent on reaping disaster on the scale of 9/11.
- The good guys
were not caught unaware. U.S. and British agencies had been
investigating this plot for months. The White House knew of the
plan. U.S., British, and other foreign agencies shared information
and connected the dots.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had prepared for and
understood the intended means of attack-using explosives smuggled
on board disguised as harmless liquids. It had contingency measures
in place and rapidly adopted security procedures to deter future
- At this point,
the likelihood of a terrorist attack is pretty low. The terrorists
know that they have been exposed.
What Congress Can
responsible measures Congress can take right now. They include:
- Resist the
temptation to throw money at the problem. After every major
terrorist incident, there are voices in Congress that want to go on
a spending binge, regardless of whether more spending will actually
make us safer. Some have already called for speeding up the effort
for 100 percent inspection of cargo on commercial aircraft. That
proposal makes no sense. Stuffing bombs in the cargo bay is an
unlikely scenario, and the means available to detect such devices
are not very effective. Security solutions that overly focus on
screening all cargo make for a losing strategy.
- Give the
administration the tools it needs to fight terror. The
investigation and arrests demonstrated that the U.S. needs tools
like the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency's intercept
programs and that these measures can be applied without undermining
civil liberties. Providing additional authorities, such as those
proposed in the Terrorism Surveillance Act of 2006, is a good way
to strengthen the tools we already have.
TSA. While TSA responded well to this incident, it is still
saddled with unrealistic congressional mandates and chronic funding
problems. Revising the agency's mission and turning over airport
screening to the private sector would allow TSA to focus more on
its real task of keeping bad people and bad things off
A Good Day in the
There is only good
news in the way the U.S. government responded to this threat. The
response demonstrated that America and its allies take the threat
of transnational terrorism seriously and have developed the means
to combat effectively those intent on slaughtering the innocent.
Congress can now step in and help make good weapons in the war on
James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., is the Senior Research Fellow for Defense and
Homeland Security in the Sarah and Douglas Allison Center for
Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.