One thing many Americans are going to be watching in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden is al Qaeda’s inevitable attempt at retaliation. Documents dumped by WikiLeaks indicate that self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told interrogators at Guantanamo Bay that al Qaeda would unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on Europe if al Qaeda’s top dog was captured or killed. Hamas is expressing “strong condemnation” at the killing of the “holy warrior,” and our Critical Threats analyst Reza Jan notes that “in the short term, any number of militant Islamist groups may attempt to carry out terrorist attacks to avenge the death of their spiritual leader.”
Of note, however, is that the color-coded terror alert system implemented after 9/11 had its last gasp last week, replaced Thursday by the National Terrorism Advisory System. So in the coming days when we might expect some sectors to go from yellow to orange, the new system will only issue a warning if there is an “imminent” threat or an “elevated” threat. The NTAS page, not particularly noticeable on the Homeland Security website, says there are no current alerts.
As NPR noted, “it’s not yet clear whether the simplified version can do any better job of keeping the public safe and informed.” No statements today yet from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
UPDATE: The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for retaliatory violence. There are still no Homeland Security terror alerts.
Napolitano also issued the following statement:
“We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but the Department of Homeland Security does not intend to issue an NTAS alert at this time. I have been clear since announcing NTAS in January that we will only issue alerts when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public. However, our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.”