Mark Caserta: Is Boston bombing a prelude to future attacks?
Could there be terrorist sleeper cells in the United States patiently waiting for opportunities to attack innocent Americans?
Recent events are reinvigorating the discussion.
In July 2007, Adm. Michael McConnell, then director of national intelligence, expressed his concern that we may indeed be facing more attacks on American soil by "embedded" terrorists quietly planning their aggression.
"Their attempt is to cause mass casualties," McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Second (priority) is political and possibly economic disruption."
McConnell added that we already know al Qaeda is busy strengthening its ability to attack the United States. While he included chemical, biological and nuclear attacks as possibilities, he warned the threat of explosives is the most difficult to detect and therefore the most likely.
"What we see currently is primarily a focus on explosives -- explosives that can generate a large explosion, but they're put together with commercially available material," he said. While he had no direct knowledge of terrorist cells prepared to attack, he believed there were small numbers of operatives in the U.S. with this common goal.
In 2011, Dave Gaubatz, contributing editor to Family Security Matters (FSM), added his informed perspective to the possibility of sleeper cells operating in the U.S.
Gaubatz, a counterterrorism, counterintelligence officer, was the first civilian federal agent deployed to Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and has personally trained over 4,000 U.S. law enforcement officers in basic investigative Arabic and counter-terrorism.
Gaubatz understands the terrorist mindset and believes there is every reason to suspect we will endure suicide missions by Islamist sleeper cells.
His experience leads him to believe these cells are already in place and prepared to conduct terrorist attacks within the U.S. "Prepared," in this instance, means they have the resources to carry out their attacks and are "prepared to die."
During an assignment at Kirtland Air Force Base, Gaubatz worked with some of the brightest scientists in the world on U.S. government projects.
"I had been working closely with these scientists who specialized in nuclear energy ... bio-weapons and more." Gaubatz said. "I fully understand the impact if suicide bombers begin progressing from conventional explosives to unconventional methods."
Just last week, reports began emerging that the FBI is now hunting a 12-strong terrorist sleeper cell linked to the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Police now believe the brothers were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack that left three dead and 178 injured.
A source close to the investigation said: "We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated ... Someone gave the brothers the skills..."
Our enemies have come to realize the United States is too powerful to destroy from the outside, that we must be attacked from within.
Is the Boston bombing a prelude to future terrorist attacks on U.S. soft targets?
Unfortunately, I believe it is. I pray for the accuracy and diligence of our nation's intelligence agencies.
A kid with a backpack is a tough enemy to identify.
Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.
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