Tony Blankley

While public attention was diverted by whether or not Florida pastor Terry Jones and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf had reached a compromise, a report critical to our national security went virtually unnoticed.

Jones, under some pressure from most of the civilized world, offered to withdraw his threat to immolate a stack of Qurans, in exchange, he said, for Rauf's relocation of Park51, the planned mosque complex he proposes to tower over the World Trade Center site. Understandably, the press preferred to cover the spectacle between Jones and Rauf, especially as it played out on live television like a bizarre parody of "Let's Make a Deal."

Culture wars, after all, make more scintillating copy than the earnest prose of yet another advisory report. But were it not for the distraction caused by the Jones-Rauf media circus, we might instead have focused our attention on "Assessing the Terrorist Threat," a timely evaluation conducted for the ninth anniversary of 9/11. This sobering report, issued under the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center by former 9/11 Commission leaders Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, has enormous implications for America's counterterrorist policies.

First, the Good News: They report that the War on Terrorism has degraded al-Qaida's capabilities to such an extent that the authors -- whose assessment derives in part from close contact with U.S. intelligence officials -- think another 9/11 spectacular terrorist attack in the U.S. is unlikely. Even more unlikely, they believe, is a mass casualty attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

If the authors are right, you can toss out any gas masks and duct tape in your home emergency survival kit. I personally believe they are too confident that the danger from mass attack is passing. A small band of well-prepared terrorists can unleash unspeakable killing forces. Every day, such resources become more available around the world. I still believe mass disaster is more likely than not in the coming decade.

But there is also new Bad News: What the media calls "home-grown terrorism" (more to follow about precisely where this terrorism is incubated later, but a hint for now is that it isn't the U.S.) is the "new normal" for terrorism attacks. In the past year, al-Qaida-affiliated groups have tried to blow up a U.S. airliner, replicate the London and Madrid commuter bombings in the New York subway system, detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square and carry out numerous other attacks inside our borders.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

©Creators Syndicate