Continuing threat of terrorism won't go away

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's a problem that won't go away.

The latest proof is the arrest of a shuttle bus driver at Denver International Airport who, along with his father and a New York man were allegedly part of a wide al Qaeda bomb plot targeting mass transit systems in the United States.

Authorities allegedly found information on the DIA driver's laptop about how to make explosives, timers and fuses, as well as a small electronic scale and AA batteries.

A dozen or more people, many with ties to Afghanistan and Pakistan, are thought to be involved in the plot.

How many recent local travelers tried to get a glimpse of the arrested driver, wondering if he had given them a lift to their last flight out of Denver?

Those same travelers were probably annoyed by the Transportation Security Administration rules prohibiting liquids of more than three ounces in their carry on luggage, but another recent news story shed light on that rule as well.

Three British terrorists were convicted of conspiring to conceal liquid explosives in bottles of sports drinks to blow up at least seven transatlantic flights from London, murdering more than 1,500 people.

U.S. officials were so worried that one of the terror suspects was on board that a plane was turned back in mid-air two days before the men were arrested in 2006.

Compared to the possibilities, a little inconvenience with water bottles is a small price to pay.

How many of us don't know someone who has served -- even died -- in Iraq or Afghanistan? How many don't have a friend or loved one who has answered the call to serve in a far-off land?

No one.

Sen. Ben Nelson has called for a series of benchmarks in Afghanistan, similar to ones he championed in Iraq, to give citizens and policy makers something on which to judge the success or failure of our eight-year experience in that country.

President Obama is pondering a report from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, which said more troops are needed to keep the mission from turning into a failure. Will enough of us remember any lessons that may have been learned in Vietnam to avoid a similar protracted engagement in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Like Vietnam, where conflict was driven more by nationalism than the communist ideology we feared, the terror threat is driven by factors we may not understand.

The recent focus of public debate has been on health care reform, and with good cause. Few topics have the potential to touch every one of us in a more profound way.

But for the diligence and good luck of law enforcement authorities, a terrorist attack could steal the spotlight at any time.

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