WASHINGTON — Ever since Al Qaeda attacked the United States in 2001, U.S. authorities have worked to detect and prevent the next big terrorist strike.
But officials and counterterrorism experts say the Christmas Day airliner plot and last November’s shooting at a military base in Texas may have shown Al Qaeda that smaller-scale attacks can prove just as unsettling as complex and riskier ones.
Now it appears that the group, which has prided itself on its ideological purism, seems to be eyeing a more pragmatic and perhaps more dangerous shift in tactics. The emerging message appears to be that big successes are great, but sometimes simply trying can be just as good.
It is not clear what Osama bin Laden and his senior leaders are thinking and plotting. But U.S.-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn made a public pitch for such smaller, single acts of jihad in a recent internet posting.