How Safe is America from a Terrorist Attack?

A bipartisan survey of national security experts says U.S. is less safe now than after 9/11 due to failed Bush administration policies.

The Bush administration this month is putting an enormous effort into persuading Americans that the threat of international terrorism is as grave today as it was five years ago. The vast majority of Americans need no persuading on that score. What we all want to know is whether our country is safer today from a terrorist attack than it was on September 11, 2001.

Ask this question of national security experts from across the political spectrum and the answer is a definitive “No.” The July/August edition of Foreign Policy magazine published “The Terrorism Index,” a survey conducted jointly by the magazine and the Center for American Progress of over 100 top national security experts, including former cabinet secretaries, senior military officials and members of the intelligence community, and distinguished academics and journalists. The results were weighted to ensure balance between self-identified conservatives and liberals.

Their conclusion? The executive summary of the survey and full list of experts is available at the Center’s website for The Terrorism Index. But here are some of the highlights:

  • 84 percent of the experts say we are losing the War on Terror
  • 86 percent say that the world is becoming more dangerous for the U.S. and the American people
  • 57 percent consider an attack on the scale of the London bombings in July 2005 against the U.S. to be likely or certain by the end of this year
  • 79 percent consider an attack on the scale of 9/11 to be likely or certain within five years
  • 93 percent say the war in Afghanistan had a positive impact on the War on Terror
  • But: 87 percent say the war in Iraq had a negative impact on the War on Terror
  • Only 1 of 8 executive national security agencies received an average or better rating when the experts rated them on a 0 to 10 scale (NSA received a 5.2).
  • 82 percent indicated that a higher priority needs to be placed on reducing our demand for foreign oil as an action to help in the war on terror.
  • 87 percent say that the State Department should receive more funding to help in the War on Terror and 65 percent say we need to improve the Department of Homeland Security

And what do the experts say about these survey results? Here are just two responses:

“Foreign-policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration’s performance abroad. The reason is that it’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force.”
– Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations

“We borrow a billion dollars every day to import oil, an increasing share of it from the Middle East. For example, in Saudi Arabia, billion are transferred to the Wahhabis and like-minded groups who then indoctrinate young people to hate Shiites, Sufis, Jews, Christians, and democracy, and to oppress women horribly.”
– James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency

For more details on the survey and an event hosted by the Center this past summer to discuss the results of the survey, please go to the following links:

To view video and materials from the event, see:

For more information on the survey, please see the following links:

Also read Bob Herbert’s June 29, 2006 Op-Ed on the subject, “The Wreckage in the China Shop,” in the New York Times.

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