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Al Qaeda Threat Still a 'Big Deal'

7:59 AM, Aug 6, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Bret Stephens writes in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal:

In May, Barack Obama told an audience at the National Defense University that the core of al Qaeda was "on the path to defeat." The "future of terrorism," Mr. Obama predicted, would involve "more localized threats," on the order of "the types of attacks we faced before 9/11," such as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing or the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut. "Dealt with smartly and proportionately," he added, "these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11." He ended by calling for repeal of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force—Congress's declaration of war on al Qaeda.

On Monday, the front page of The Wall Street Journal ran with this headline: "Regrouped al Qaeda Poses Global Threat." The second shortest distance in Washington now runs between an Obama speech and its empirical disproof.

The news, of course, is that 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in Africa and the Middle East will be shuttered until Saturday. This is on account of electronic intercepts of terrorist communications, collected by Edward Snowden's former employers at the National Security Agency and described by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.) as "very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11." Vice President Joe Biden has delivered closed-door briefings to Congress; Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) has warned the attacks could come in Europe, the U.S., or as "a series of combined attacks"; Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) calls the threat "a big deal."

After 11 years of taking our shoes off at airports, seven years of being forced to throw away tubes of toothpaste and cans of hair spray, five years of assuming the surrender position at the X-ray machine, three years of don't-touch-my-junk anthems, eight seasons of TV's "24" and two seasons of "Homeland," it takes a lot to get Americans worked up about a speculative terrorist threat. If Mr. Durbin says the threat is a big deal, it is.

Read the whole thing here.

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