chapter  12
Perception and power in counterterrorism: Assessing the American response to Al Qaeda before September 11
ByBENJAMIN H. FRIEDMAN
Pages 20

This chapter explains the United States reaction to the Al Qaeda threat from the beginning of the Clinton administration until the September 11 attacks. It argues that Americans, especially the intelligence community and top officials in the Clinton administration, perceived the threat accurately – or even overestimated it. While the policies employed to combat Al Qaeda before September 11 appear lacking in hindsight, the failure cannot be attributed to misperception. This conclusion flies in the face of much political rhetoric and, more importantly for our purposes, much political science, which sees perception of danger as the chief cause of government responses to it.