Former NYC Antiterrorism Big: Look for Al Qaeda Retaliation ‘in the Next Three to Six Months’

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One-half of the World Trade Center Memorial. Photo: Courtesy of the Port Authority

A former NYPD commander on antiterrorism initiatives worries that Al Qaeda will attempt to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death. "The timing of a potential attack has been moved up," says John Cutter, a deputy chief who oversaw counterterrorism measures in the NYPD’s Criminal Intelligence Division. "Basically, what we’ve done is taken away the image they are most proud of, the face of the franchise so to speak, and now they have to regroup to keep their image alive."

Cutter goes further than even Ray Kelly, the NYPD commissioner who said today, "Our assumption is that bin Laden’s disciples would like nothing better than to avenge his death by another attack in New York. That is our operating premise." Reprisals, in fact, are feared around the world. But New York provides a very symbolic target. "Everybody should be more alert now because in the next couple of weeks, there's going to be some real risks," former mayor Rudy Giuliani warned today.

"Basically, we’ve stunned a good fighter and forced him into a position where he has to counterpunch," Cutter continued. Before he retired from the department in 2004, Cutter investigated terrorism cases and worked alongside detectives and federal agents in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Cutter now runs Bo Dietl’s private investigations firm.

He compares bin Laden to "our Uncle Sam on the recruitment poster. If [Ayman] al Zawahiri doesn’t avenge his death soon, you’re going to have people in Al Qaeda starting to roll their eyes and wonder, 'What is going on here?'"

Typically, Al Qaeda likes to take time to plot terrorist acts, Cutter says, but now “they may have to take some shortcuts. I would look for a concentrated effort in the next three to six months so they can show, 'We’ve not been crippled by this.'”