Terror Experts Warn of Post Bin Laden Attacks

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WASHINGTON -- Although the death of Osama bin Laden delivered a crushing blow to his network of terror, experts say his goal to strike the American heartland is alive and well with al Qaeda and its affiliates.

"These people will find a way to attack us. I have very little doubt that we will be attacked again in the future," said Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The warning was uttered during a U.S. House hearing analyzing the threat to the homeland in the wake of bin Laden's assassination by U.S. Navy SEALs on May 1.

The consensus was that America is safer with bin Laden out of the picture.

"Let's not look a gift horse in the face. This was a very big deal - bin Laden's death," said Peter Bergen, a counter-terrorism expert at the New American Foundation.
    
But there were also concerns that Americans will grow complacent.

"Too many people think that with bin laden dead, somehow the war against terrorism is over - or the terrorist war against us is over," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.

King and others say al Qaeda remains obsessed with attacking America's infrastructure -- like railways, subways, passenger ferries, and roads and bridges.

They also point to terrorist network's expanding use of the Internet to enlist homegrown terrorists, specifically referencing the Pakistan Taliban.

"They are recruiting people right now - Americans - using YouTube. They have not done this once. They have done this multiple times. They are recruiting people using Facebook," MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said.
    
Experts believe there's a crucial window of opportunity right now with al Qaeda looking to resolve who will be its next leader.

"They are in disarray. They will have to have discussions, meetings, in order to resolve the chaos," said Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security advisor under the Bush administration.

"There's a succession dispute playing out right now within al Qaeda," Bergen said. "It makes us safer.  Jihadist terrorism isn't going away."

Meanwhile, lawmakers are debating extending certain provisions of the anti-terrorism law known as the Patriot Act.  They're due to expire at midnight Thursday unless Congress acts.

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