None of this, of course, was enough to prevent 9/11. But none of it seems to be happening now. White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted that "There continues to be no credible, specific intelligence to suggest that there is an imminent threat to the homeland." Still, the Bush administration could do worse than, say, increasing security at nuclear and chemical sites, expanding (legal) surveillance of suspected jihadist assets -- you can do this all under FISA, remember -- and bringing law enforcement closer into the intelligence loop, for starters.
The strategic problem is Pakistan, where intelligence over the past year has indicated that the old al-Qaeda leadership is reconstituting a measure of centralized authority, taking money and recruits from franchisees and affiliates and using them in tribal areas where Gen. Pervez Musharraf fears to tread. Nearly six years after 9/11, and the U.S. again faces a situation where the danger from al-Qaeda is clear but invading its territory is politically difficult, if not impossible. Musharraf has a temporary boost in his political fortunes after crushing the jihadist rebels at the Red Mosque this week. Perhaps the best short-term option the administration has is to get Musharraf -- probably with the support of U.S. intelligence and Special Forces -- to break a truce he signed in 2006 with tribal leaders in lawless Waziristan Province, so his forces can go after the increasingly powerful al-Qaeda remnant finding refuge there. If that safe haven remains, the summer of 2001 is going to recur again and again -- until another 9/11 finally follows it.
Today, Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Patty Murray, Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin wrote to Bush to ask for clarification in light of the new intelligence assessments about al-Qaeda:
We ask that you immediately inform Congress through the appropriate channels of (1) the near-term steps your Administration has taken or plans to take to address Secretary Chertoffâs heightened concerns about the terrorist threat, and (2) the strategy to reverse the alarming growth of Al Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups.