Durham, N.C. - Today's thwarted bomb plot in London reflects strong international cooperation against terrorism, but security gaps still exist that can be exploited by terrorists, says a Duke University homeland security expert.
"Our system for gathering intelligence and our homeland security measures are more robust and better coordinated than they were before 9/11,"said David H. Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "but the terrorists will continue to adapt to the security we put in place.
"Al-Qaeda has had a continuing fascination with aviation, and that is the sector we have invested in the most to make it more secure. But as the dramatic changes that have taken place at the airport today demonstrate, even our heightened post-9/11 security measures probably wouldn't have detected the materials the terrorists were planning to bring onto the airplanes.
"Security at other potential targets -- ports, chemical plants, office buildings, railways and buses -- is far behind the airports, so there are many gaps that could be exploited."
Schanzer, the former Democratic staff director of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, is teaching a course this fall called "9/11 and its Aftermath" which, among other things, examines radical Islamic terrorism in the 21st century.
He said that with the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, "we are reminded that our conflict with Islamic extremists represents a long-term global challenge.
"Many had begun to assume that al-Qaeda had been so damaged by our military and law enforcement operations over the past five years that it might not be capable of planning and executing a catastrophic attack like the one that has been disrupted in London. If al-Qaeda was indeed behind this plot, those assumptions are incorrect, and it demonstrates that this organization continues to be adaptable, robust and dangerous."