Five years of evidence suggests that the terrorist threat within the U.S. is much more modest than was feared after 9/11, when it seemed quite possible that there were terrorist sleeper cells in American cities, armed with weapons of mass destruction and awaiting orders to attack, says the New York Times. U.S. Muslims have turned out to be a loyal group whose affluence and diversity offer infertile ground for plotting. “The idea that we are surrounded by terrorists who could strike anywhere, anytime, is a complete misconception,” said Karen Greenberg of the Center on Law and Security at New York University.
That misconception is fueled partly by the Justice Department's much-publicized pursuit of “terrorism-related” cases. A study of all such prosecutions since 9/11 found that of 417 people charged in the cases – including some involving anti-abortion violence and other crimes unrelated to Al Qaeda – the overwhelming majority faced immigration or other lesser charges. Just 39 have been convicted so far on terrorism-related charges, and only three of actual terrorism. As time has passed without a new attack, some skeptics are saying that 9/11 was more a fluke than a harbinger. “A perfectly plausible explanation is that there are no terrorists here,” said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University who advances the case in an article in Foreign Affairs. “I don't say there's no threat, but the threat has been massively exaggerated.”