Awkward timing: After Paris, academics call terror threat overblown

When it comes to terrorism, sometimes "the best counter-terrorism measure is not to overreact." The warning came from political scientist John Mueller at a presentation in Washington, D.C., Monday, a few days after Paris was roiled by terror attacks.

Mueller called many real and would-be American domestic terrorists bozos and likened them to the Three Stooges. He said that the post-9/11 crop was "not a very impressive list of diabolical cleverness" whose damage, even if they were not preempted by the FBI, was likely to be "on an extremely small scale."

For instance, the cops who happened on an explosive device in a car in New York's Times Square in 2010 thought it was really "a caricature of a bomb" initially. Perhaps a toy or a particularly ill-thought performance art piece.

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Mueller also took shots at more effective terrorists, saying 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed really didn't understand that al Qaeda wouldn't be able to do more airline hijackings after the 9/11 plot had given the whole world a heads-up. Of Trade Center bomber and self-proclaimed "mastermind" Ramzi Yousef's jailtime conversion to Christianity, Mueller joked, "He may become more humble."

"Chasing Ghosts" is the title of Mueller's latest book, along with Australian political scientist Mark Stewart, who also spoke at the Cato Institute Monday.

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