The weekend car-bomb attempt in New York City’s Times Square is the latest in a series of plots against U.S. targets that experts say may indicate a shift to small-scale strikes that are harder to head off, reports the Wall Street Journal. Over the past year, at least eight times, people linked to radical Islamic thought attempted or carried out attacks on targets in the U.S. The list includes the failed Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound airliner, the shooting rampage at Ft. Hood in Texas, three bomb plots foiled by the FBI last September, and earlier plots broken up last spring and summer.
The biggest challenge for law-enforcement is that small groups or lone operators may have few formal connections with al Qaeda or other large terrorist organizations, Islamic or otherwise; they simply sympathize with such groups’ larger aims. That makes it harder to spot plots through intercepted communications or other methods in early stages. “The more people are out there trying, the greater the chances one of them will get through,” said Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security now heading the Washington, D.C.-based security firm Chertoff Group. It is unclear whether the Times Square plot had links to Islamic or domestic extremism.