Despite David Axelrod's implication that the President thought anti-tax zealots might be the terrorists who blew up innocent victims at the Boston marathon, CNN is reporting that the second edition of an Al Qaeda magazine offering terrorist tips actually included instructions for making the type of bomb detonated yesterday (the same type of item also appeared in its first edition).
Obviously, America has always confronted the possibility of lone terrorists -- as, for example, in the failed Times Square car bombing that occurred in 2010. For a long time, however, many have been comforted by the idea that Al Qaeda prefers "spectacular" attacks like those perpetrated on 9/11. The question is whether that approach is changing. According to a CNN security blog post in February 2013, a trial in the UK revealed a new strategy toward attacking the West:
The new strategy involves a teacher-training approach in which a select few Western operatives are taught bombmaking and other aspects of terrorist tradecraft in the tribal areas of Pakistan and are then instructed to return back to the West to "spread the knowledge" to a larger body of Islamist extremists keen on launching attacks.
The new approach is a response to the growing toll of drone strikes which have made travel to the tribal areas increasingly perilous for Western recruits and significantly diminished al Qaeda's ability to orchestrate terrorist plots from the region.
That - coupled with the emphasis on individual acts of terorrism referenced in the Al Qaeda magazine -- could mean that we're in a new era of terrorism, more like the one everyone feared in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. If that indeed turns out to be the case, we will have to rely enormously on the vigilance of regular Americans, and confront the possibiliy of having an even greater camera presence in major citiies.
Given the kind of havoc the "beltway snipers" were able to elicit, it always seemed strange to me that the terrorists didn't go for more random acts in public places, although I was grateful for it. Let's hope that hasn't changed.