Eight men are on trial in London, accused of plotting to bomb seven trans-Atlantic passenger planes, attacks that would have killed thousands. Prosecutors say that the plan was inspired by al-Qaida, the terrorist network responsible for the September 11th, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington. Speaking in London, FBI director Robert Mueller said that al-Qaida continues to adapt and survive:
"In the wake of the September 11th attacks, our path was clear. We knew our enemies were al-Qaida terrorists and together we went after them, from their training camps to their funding, to their leadership, and working together, we diminished their sanctuary in Afghanistan, froze millions of dollars in financing, and captured or killed many of al Qaida's top leaders, but al Qaida will not go quietly into the night. It is resilient, its network is now diffuse and it continues to adjust its strategies and tactics."
FBI Director Mueller says that al Qaida is now a three-tier organization:
"The top tier is core al Qaida, the core al Qaida organization, which has established new sanctuaries in the ungoverned spaces, the tribal areas and the frontier provinces of Pakistan, and new sanctuaries mean that al Qaida can reconstitute its leadership, re-group new operatives and regenerate its capability to attack.”
The bottom tier is made up of “homegrown extremists” who “are self-radicalizing, self-financing and self-executing." But Mr. Mueller says it is the middle tier of al-Qaida that is “the most complex” and potentially most dangerous:
“We are finding small groups who have some ties to an established terrorist organization, but are largely self-directed. Think of them as al Qaida franchises, hybrids of homegrown radicals and more sophisticated operatives.”
It was one such group that was responsible for the July 7th, 2005 bombings of the transit system in London. Last September, al-Qaida affiliated terrorist cells in Denmark and Germany were arrested. For all the threat posed by al-Qaida, Mr. Mueller says that with a sustained international effort, the terrorist group can and will be defeated. “I don’t think it will be millennia or generations,” he says. “I think we will see victory on my watch.”