The recording that purports to be from Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahri, is utterly ridiculous. He warns that the United States "will pay dearly" if any detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are harmed.
Does this mean if they aren't harmed, al-Qaida will call off the dogs? Of course not. The warning is meaningless because al-Qaida doesn't need a reason to threaten or kill Americans.
The world's No. 1 terrorist organization exists primarily to kill as many Americans as possible as often as possible. Al-Qaida would fly 100 more passenger planes into 100 more U.S. civilian-filled buildings if they could - and Guantanamo Bay's prisoners would have nothing to do with it.
Al-Zawahri's threat is as empty as a beer keg after a New Year's Eve frat party. Terrorists don't telegraph ahead with warnings or threats; they just strike. Surprise - or shock and awe, if you will - is their stock in trade.
Although what they say about detainees or anything else is plain nonsense, terrorists still pose an extreme danger to United States' peace and security. This is why Attorney General John Ashcroft was all over last Sunday's TV interview shows warning of a "very real potential" for another al-Qaida attack on America, possibly via more suicide hijackings.
Without vouchsafing the tape was recorded by Osama's No. 1 henchman, Ashcroft did say it "signals to us that the war is still under way, that al-Qaida still has the same intentions toward the United States that it did when it unleashed its savage attack" on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ashcroft also said U.S. and allied intelligence have foiled hundreds of terrorist attacks around the globe since 9-11. There's no way of proving when a terrorist attack is stifled, so Ashcroft will have to be accepted at his word.
Even so, the record is clear - since 9-11 there have been no more disastrous attacks on U.S. soil. But terrorists can afford to fail and fail again, hundreds of times if need be, because it only takes one successful mass slaughter to turn everything around.
Let's pray that despite some obvious - and, we hope, temporary - shortcomings in homeland security that the United States can stay vigilant enough to stave off more deadly terrorist attacks.