July 19th, 2013
01:09 PM ET

Is terrorism still a threat to American families?

By Dan Merica, Elise Labott and Shirley Henry

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, a majority of Americans were worried about terrorism directly impacting their lives, according to a number of polls.

More than a decade later, is that still the case?

That was the primary question John Ashcroft, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, and Phillip Mudd, a former senior official at the CIA and FBI, debated at a Friday panel at the Aspen Security Forum.

“I think we are still at war,” Ashcroft said bluntly. “I don’t know if I will be able to be sure to say when we will be able to say we are not at war. But as long as they are continuing to hit us and allege that they are at war, I think we can.”

In response, Mudd directly challenged Ashcroft.

“I don't agree, by the way, that we are at war,” the author said.

Instead, Mudd argued, that we have a dynamic and ever-changing face of terrorism that may prove to be difficult to squash completely.

But because of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said the threat of terrorism is not nearly what it used to be.

“In 2001, we would have said terrorism is a potential threat to American families,” Mudd said. “And I would say today, that is not true."

Mudd added that he believed it was a false distinction.

“I have 10 nieces and nephews, I don't think I have ever talked to them about terrorism. … The gang problems in the city that I live in, Memphis, Tennessee, are outrageous. People in this country, partly because there is a racial divide in this country, don’t care. But four people die in an attack and this is a national disaster, I don’t get it,” he said.

Ashcroft, turning to Mudd, pushed back.

"I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is to say that it (terrorism) is not a threat,” Ashcroft said. “There were some families in Boston that found it a threat."

According to Gallup polling, the focus on terrorism among American families has changed over the past 12 years.

After the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, nearly six-in-10 people said they were very or somewhat worried that someone in their family would be a victim of terrorism.

Since then, that sentiment has eased. In 2004, the number of those very or somewhat concerned fell to 28% and mainly has hovered around the 40% percent range since.

In May, President Barack Obama recast the U.S. fight against terrorism as no longer a "boundless global war" but a targeted effort to dismantle specific extremist networks.

He said America was at a "crossroads" and should no longer see it as a "self-defeating" perpetual fight, but one that must at some point end, "like all wars."

(Merica reported from Washington, Henry and Labott from the Aspen Security Forum)

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Wayne Montgomery

    TERRIORISM WILL ALWAYS BE A THREAT TO AMERICA UNTIL AMERICA STAYS OUT OF OTHER COUNTRIES AFFAIRS!

    July 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  2. Skorpio

    Is ISLAM still a threat to American families? YES, Yes, Yes. Islam is the root of the problem all over the world not just America. Islam absurd theology, violence, discrimination, irrationality, distorted ethical values and immorality is causing conflicts worldwide. Islam is the ONLY COMMON FACTOR among terrorist attacks in the US, Iraq, Spain, Germany, India, Mali, Niger, Turkey, France, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, England, Somalia, Lebanon, Argentina, Bangladesh, Israel, The Netherlands, Yemen, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Sweden, Afghanistan, Russia, Chad, Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Sudan, etc. etc.
    Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) modern Turkey founder killed thousands of Islamic clerics (imams, muftis, sheiks, etc) in order to pacify and transform Turkey into a stable and secular nation. He once quoted “Islam, this absurd theology of an immoral Bedouin, is a rotting corpse which poisons our lives.”

    July 21, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  3. Skorpio

    Is ISLAM still a threat to American families? YES, Yes, Yes. Islam is the root of the problem all over the world not just America. Islam absurd theology, violence, discrimination, irrationality, distorted ethical values and immorality is causing conflicts worldwide. Islam is the ONLY COMMON FACTOR among terrorist attacks in the US, Iraq, Spain, Germany, India, Mali, Niger, Turkey, France, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, England, Somalia, Lebanon, Argentina, Bangladesh, Israel, The Netherlands, Yemen, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Sweden, Afghanistan, Russia, Chad, Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Sudan, etc. etc.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:55 am | Reply
  4. Portland tony

    We are ripe for an attack by bad guys or "do-good(er)s" on our infrastructure and electrical power grid etc by cyberterrorist, After all, we've done it to other countries like Iran and possibly others including China. It's just a matter of time before someone or some nation launches an attack to shut down power plants, banking systems.....the stock market, military facilities maybe even the entire Internet. Few lives may be lost, but the cost to recover will be in the billions of dollars. And how do you retaliate? Attack Iraq again?

    July 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  5. k_Daraa

    I disagree with Pete's "...terrorism will calm down because they'll find there's nothing from America to aggravate them." The primary adversary threatening American interests world-wide in the past years is radical takfiri sunnis. Human rights...the right to life, liberty, the right not to be enslaved, the intrinsic value of each individual, world peace and co-existence with others with differing beliefs and societal norms...these values are anathema to takfiris. They believe the aforementioned values are asserted by western culture on the world community, and the takfiris exist only to establish a world caliphate through force, including forced conversion.

    July 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      @k Daraa,again I will reinterate in saying in just as in UNs in N Korea and giving him the cold shoulder and guess what has America really heard anything from the oriental pip squeek,nada,zilch ,nothing of any importance...And if we didn't meddle in every ones business with intervensions,armed conflicts ,wars ee wouldn't have these terrorists going after us would we..Like I've said all along we as America with the likes of the warmongering Bushs and republicans siding with the MIC on everything are our own worse enemies and if you think different then you're delushional as well ..You didn't hear anything from Vietnam till Bushs terms did you in terrorists activities against us with the exception for Reagans barricks attacks,embassies being bombed,he's another republican warmonger as well till Bushs debacles and you wonder why don't yah!

      July 21, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  6. Pete

    If we as I stated before acting more diplomaticly with nations,terrorists holding out an olive branch and if we stay out of other countrys affairs period.Quit meddling and quit being the worlds bully and terrorism will calm down because they'll find there's nothing from America to aggravate them and most times its our interference that creates the problems that blow up in our faces later isn't it!!!Let these foriegn countrys fight their own battles and it'll show just how adult ,responsible we really are just being on the sidelines like I said before and save our money for better things for us at home in helping our people in America where our tax money works best!!

    July 20, 2013 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • George patton

      Well said, Pete. Thank you.

      July 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Reply
    • M5

      Very well said Pete!

      July 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  7. DAVID

    So long as Islam exists in America there will be the threat of terrorism.

    The desire to murder non-muslims hasn't subsided, but the intelligence services have improved since 9/11.

    July 20, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
  8. George Patton

    yes, the threat is real unless we ban pressure cookers.

    July 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      Good trolling, Phunnie boy. You know better than that.

      July 20, 2013 at 8:19 am | Reply
    • David

      they wont ban pressure cookers because We use them for cooking and canning foods

      July 22, 2013 at 9:53 am | Reply
  9. terr

    could it be more fear mongering..rediculous

    July 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  10. John McKane

    The answer to that question is definitely No! In fact, without any outside help, Al Qaeda most probably could never have pulled off 9/11 in the first place! It's only the same right-wing politicians trying to scare the public again! This is starting to get old!

    July 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  11. press inside

    Reblogged this on News-Press.

    July 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply

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