Last week left us with more than enough object lessons about what is important when it comes to good counterterrorism.
Getting Anwar al-Awlaki was important. Thanks to Catherine Herridge’s ground-breaking investigative reporting in “The Next Wave,” we know that al-Awlaki launched his career as a hate-monger and accessory to murder long before the September 11 attacks. After he fled to Yemen, al-Awlaki declared open war on the United States. He served as part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s “Foreign Operations Unit” responsible for organizing attacks against American targets. At least three attacks on the United States can be linked to their activities. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan colluded with Anwar al-Awlaki. The Christmas underwear bomber and the “ink cartridge bomb plot” also have links to Yemen.
Degrading transnational terrorist networks should always list as job number one. As a recent briefing at the National Institute Justice makes clear, attacks associated with organized networks result in higher deaths per attack. They are more dangerous than “lone-wolfs” and “self-radicalized” violent extremists.
Washington, of course, must continue to keep an eye out for schemes like the recently foiled 41st plot to kill Americans. Also last week, Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested on three charges, including attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. This arrest also illustrated the right approach to going after domestic plots—effective intelligence and investigations.