OSAC released the following report on 6 September 2012:
Terrorism and Important Dates
OSAC currently has no credible information to suggest that al-Qa’ida or any other terrorist group is plotting any kind of attack overseas to coincide with the upcoming anniversary of September 11. However, constituents often have concerns around important dates, holidays, and major events, Often times, these concerns are the result of increased media attention to the issue, rather than credible evidence of a terrorist plot.
While it is true that In the aftermath of the May 2, 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan, several media sources reported on various documents recovered during the raid that suggested al-Qa’ida was seeking to conduct significant attacks on major holidays and anniversaries, there are no indications that any of these plans were ever operational. OSAC constituents should review their local emergency action plans and security protocols ahead of major U.S. holidays and anniversary dates.
Terrorism and Holidays/Anniversary Dates
Historically, al-Qa’ida and other transnational terrorist groups have not conducted successful attacks on major U.S. holidays and anniversary dates. One possible explanation for this lack of activity is due to the increase in security on major dates because of a perceived vulnerability. A terrorist group that has spent a significant amount of time monitoring a potential target, training operatives, and acquiring the weapons necessary for a major attack would be less likely to attack when security is at a heightened level.
Terrorist groups are predisposed to conduct the attack first and justify the reasoning subsequently. One recent example of this predisposition was the June 28. 2011 attack on the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul. The attackers primary motivation was to kill as many Westerners and Afghan officials as possible; however, after media reports began erroneously claiming that an important Transition Conference was going to take place at the hotel the next day, the terrorists responsible for the attack claimed that they were in fact targeting that conference. Although specific dates may be important symbolically to terrorist groups, a near-term successful attack will likely be painted as both revenge for the death of bin Laden and a blow against the United States.
An international terrorist attack around a major international date or holiday would likely fall into one of the three following scenarios.
1) Attacks abroad on significant U.S. holidays, such as July 4 – while U.S. Missions abroad have likely increased their security profile during major U.S. government holidays, host nation security forces are unlikely to elevate their security levels.
2) Attacks following a drawdown of security after a major date – foreign countries will often increase their security posture during a major event such as the Olympics or World Cup, effectively deterring major attacks during the event. However, following the conclusion of the event, security is often reduced. Terrorist groups may wait for security levels to decrease before launching an attack.
3) Lone wolf attacks by independently radicalized individuals on significant dates – while terrorists operating as part of an established cell or network may prefer to bide their time and wait for an opportune moment to strike, individual sympathizers with no formal training or connection to a terrorist group could be inspired to conduct an attack on a significant date despite heightened levels of security. Lone wolves are less likely to attract the attention of host nation counter-terrorism officials.
At this time, OSAC is aware of no specific or credible threats against the U.S. private sector on September 11. As highlighted throughout the report, al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups are unlikely to conduct large-scale attacks on significant dates or holidays due to the heightened security levels. However, U.S. private sector organizations operating abroad in countries that have not raised their overall security levels may want to consider their vigilance and guard against complacency. OSAC continues to monitor trends and emerging issues that may have a significant security impact on U.S. private sector operations overseas.