Sort of the ultimate good news/bad news story, eh?

Tell us about the threat that emerged earlier this year.

We’ve got this intelligence threat; we’re pretty certain we know what’s going on. We don’t have all the tactical details about it, [but] in some ways it’s not unlike the U.K. aviation threat last year. So we know there is a threat out there. The question is, what do we do about it? And the response was, we stood up an interagency task force under NCTC leadership. So you have all the players you would expect: FBI, CIA, DHS, DIA, DoD, the operators—the military side comes into that—participating in an integrated plan, but integrated in a much more granular and tactical way than we’ve ever done before. This is my 40th year in government service, 36 in uniform and almost four as a civilian. This is revolutionary stuff, and it is affecting the way we do business…

What we don’t know is…if it’s going to be [John Doe], and he’s coming in on Flight 727 out of Karachi, he’s stopping in Frankfurt, and he’s coming on through with his European Union passport, and he’s coming into New York, and he’s going to do something. I mean, we don’t have that kind of tactical detail. What we do have, though, is a couple of threads that indicate, you know, some very tactical stuff, and that’s what—you know, that’s what you’re seeing bits and pieces of, and I really can’t go much more into it.

It sounds like he thinks they want to hit America but will settle for Europe if they have to rather than wait. I don’t know what to make of his comparison to the UK airline plot “in some ways,” though. It could mean this is an airline plot too, it could mean it’s a large cell of 20 or so people, or it could mean that some of the members are converts to Islam recruited because they’re less easy to racially profile than Arabs. The fact that he’s talking about people “coming in” suggests at least that it’s not homegrown.

Would they really try another airline plot after 9/11? Just to show that we’re still touchable there despite all the new security, yeah, probably.