A thesis submitted to Johns Hopkins University in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Global Security Studies, Baltimore, Maryland, May 2017
The lack of mass casualty domestic attacks in the United States, carried out by
foreign fighters, since 9/11 should not be taken for a sign of future invulnerability. Major Islamic terrorist organizations have previously conducted attacks focused on splashy news headlines and high body counts. However, Al-Qaeda‟s original stated goal was to bankrupt the West, not kill everyone in it. Is the United States simply impervious to such an attack aimed at causing extensive financial or economic damage? Or is the United States vulnerable, and ultimately a sitting duck? This paper will argue the latter.
By examining the relationships between Islamic terrorist organizations and drug- trafficking organizations in Central and South America, and investing the use of advanced narco-submarines by the latter, the goal is to explore a viable means for inserting a group of armed, trained men undetected into the United States. Case studies examine the effectiveness of swarm-style terrorist attacks when compared to WMD and lone-wolf terror attacks. Further case studies seek to highlight extensive vulnerabilities within the U.S. energy and economic infrastructure that, if taken offline via terrorist attack, would result in long-lasting and immensely expensive consequences if attacked.