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Pay attention to terror threats

By Thomas V. Fuentes, CNN Contributor
updated 10:49 AM EDT, Mon September 12, 2011
A canine unit police officer inspects cars Friday outside Grand Central Station in New York.
A canine unit police officer inspects cars Friday outside Grand Central Station in New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thomas Fuentes: Lesson of 9/11 is to pay attention to threats
  • He says there were numerous warnings of al Qaeda's danger
  • Fuentes says likelihood of large-scale attacks like 9/11 are slim
  • He says smaller attacks could continue for decades

Editor's note: Thomas V. Fuentes is former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(CNN) -- There are many lessons to be learned from our experiences before and after 9/11. One lesson is that when you get a wake-up call...Wake Up! We received many wake-up calls from Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

February 1993: The first World Trade Center attack by Ramzi Yousef, Omar Abdul Rahman (the blind Sheikh) and its financier, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

June 1993: Rahman and others were charged in a plot to bomb New York landmarks including the Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge and the FBI's New York office.

October 1993: Al Qaeda-trained followers kill 18 and wound 73 U.S. military officers in Mogadishu, Somalia, now known as "Black Hawk Down."

Thomas Fuentes
Thomas Fuentes

August 1998: The bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania leave 12 Americans and hundreds of others dead. The FBI places bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted list.

9/11 anniversary terror threat

October 2000: The bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen kills 17 sailors.

September 11, 2001: The coordinated attack included four hijacked planes, two of which were flown into each World Trade Center tower and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field when passengers heroically stormed the cockpit.

In the summer of 2001, the declared priorities of the Department of Justice were guns and gangs. An FBI request for hundreds of additional agents, analysts and linguists for its counterterrorism program was rejected and returned on September 10.

Since 9/11, we have spent trillions of dollars fighting two wars and reorganizing the federal law enforcement and intelligence community. Significant enhancements were made to existing agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, including the TSA, was created.

Are we safer today? I agree with experts who believe that a large sophisticated and coordinated attack such as 9/11 is extremely unlikely. The decimation of al Qaeda, the killing of bin Laden, the monitoring of the global financial network and international communications among terrorists, greater international sharing of information and public awareness make it nearly impossible to duplicate the scale and scope of the 9/11 plan.

The United States has now received "specific, credible but unconfirmed" information that one or more vehicles containing explosives may be used for an attack in New York and/or Washington this weekend. This reporting makes no mention of a large scale attack using aircraft. It is considered credible because accurate information has been previously obtained from this source. However, it is unconfirmed because the terrorists have not been identified and the actual attack plan has not been verified.

I offer a lesson from history to support my belief that smaller attacks will continue for decades.

Although Hitler died in his Berlin bunker in April 1945, "Hitlerism" lives on:

In 1977, the National Socialist Party of America, a neo-Nazi group, held demonstrations in the Chicago area. "The Turner Diaries" by William Pierce was first published in 1978 and is considered the inspiration for the creation of numerous groups and the commission of many crimes. These include the 1984 murder of Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg and the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

This year, on January 19, a bomb was placed on the Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. A man with past ties to a neo-Nazi group, the National Alliance, has pleaded guilty.

If these events still occur 66 years after Hitler's death, what can we expect during the next 66 years following bin Laden's death?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Thomas V. Fuentes.

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