Note the formulation of this statement:
Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, said on Sunday that there was so far no evidence of a wider terrorist plot in what federal authorities said was an attempt by a 23-year-old Nigerian man to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day."
Napolitano told CNN: "Well, right now, we have no indication that it's part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues."
This is another example of 2002 thinking. No, there may not be evidence of a bureaucratically-wider plot -- a cell operating at the behest of a controller operating at the behest of Waziristan HQ -- but there is, in fact, a wider plot, a much wider plot, a plot to franchise the ideas of al-Qaeda throughout the world, a plot that obviates the need for a terrorist bureaucracy, because it gives young Muslim men the tools for self-radicalization. Even if al-Qaeda is destroyed -- and it seems as if it is three-quarters destroyed already -- its ideas have permeated the umma, the worldwide community of Muslim believers. It is true that al Qaeda and its ideas are more unpopular than ever among Muslims; it is also true that there are almost a billion and a half Muslims in the world, and it doesn't take more than a few to bring down a plane. I would like to hear the U.S. government talk more about self-radicalization. But I understand why it can't -- because it's a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies are best at grappling with other bureaucracies.