September 11th - What's Next?

  • Published
  • By Mr James Pettus
  • 301FW Antiterrorism Officer
   Once again we look back at the unprecedented event that occurred nine years ago on September 11, 2001. A comment was recently made to me regarding how people have forgotten the emotions most Americans felt that day. September 11 was a tragic, eye-opening event that unwillingly propelled the world into a different spectrum of violence.
   According to an article written by Michael Haltman, Homeland Security Examiner, there have been at least thirty thwarted domestic terrorism attacks since 9/11. Several attacks have been stopped by old fashion intelligence work, some by luck and some by the incompetence of the terrorist. The bottom line is the 9/11 attacks placed security into another mindset, of playing "what's next". What types of targets are at risk? Targets such as value added targets, key links to transportation, infrastructure and mass causality may be next. Let's look at past domestic incidents since 9/11 and how they were prevented.
   Transportation - December 2001, the notorious shoe bomber Richard Reid attempted to light his explosive laden shoe on an aircraft en-route to Miami. On another occasion in August 2006, a liquid explosives plot to blow up 10 U.S.-bound aircraft was stopped by British law enforcement. In the aftermath, the Brits brought twenty-four suspects to justice. And as recently as December 2009, "the underwear bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian engineering student tried to explode a U.S.-bound aircraft in explosives-laden underwear. Investigators found the explosive was constructed by Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) which had similarities to Richard Reid's bomb. As fortune had it, the device failed. These acts brought us modifications in the testing for explosives and the drastic upgrades to airport screening devises.
   Infrastructure - In May 2002, Jose Padilla, an American citizen born in Brooklyn, planned to manufacture a bomb that was laced with radioactive material. He was arrested prior to carrying out the deed and later convicted of conspiring against the U.S. The Fort Dix Six in 2007 trained to attack U.S. soldiers. This plot was foiled after an employee reported suspicious behavior on a tape and immediately alerted law enforcement.
   Mass gathering areas - November 2003, Nuradin M. Abdi, a Somali citizen from Columbus, Ohio, plotted to bomb a local shopping mall, which was prevented by law enforcement. In August 2004, Dhiren Barot, with seven other terrorist members were arrested for plotting to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and other financial sites located in New York, Washington and Newark.
   Locally, in September 2009, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a Jordanian living in the Dallas area, attempted to detonate a vehicle bomb under the Fountain Place high-rise Dallas office building, which was stopped through intensive investigative work by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
   So what's next? The threat still exists. We should stay vigilant every minute of the day; you never know what may be important. During briefings, I usually ask a question, "How many Cops do I have in the audience?" The reply always comes from a few beret-wearing Airmen rising their hands proudly. The correct answer is everyone is a cop. We should never be complacent, always remain vigilant, and ask, "What's next?" Never forget September 11, 2001. And always be vigilant to protect our country and our freedom!
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