Americans need to get ‘perspective’ on terrorism, says expert on counter-terror

A US security official said yesterday the country was capable of withstanding another terrorist attack and bouncing back, saying Americans needed to put extremist threats in “perspective”.

Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, said despite recent successes there was no guarantee that intelligence and law enforcement agencies could prevent every attempt by extremists to attack the United States.

“We’re not going to have a perfect batting average and it’s important that Americans understand that,” Leiter told a conference on intelligence reform.

“It’s important that we approach this with national resilience that in fact shows that this country is not going to be defeated by” extremists, Leiter said.

“We do have to put the threat in perspective,” he said.

His comments came amid heightened US and Western alerts over potential terror attacks against European cities, and after a wave of arrests by France’s anti-terrorism squad.

Leiter said security agencies faced the threat of “low-probability,” large-scale attacks involving possible weapons of mass destruction as well as “high probability”, smaller-scale attacks such as the shooting rampage at Fort Hood last year that left 13 dead.

But terrorist attacks should not be viewed as “cutting into the fabric of our society,” he said.

President Barack Obama made similar remarks in a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, saying the country could handle a potential attack.

“We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever… we absorbed it and we are stronger.”

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