A year ago, Barack Obama arrived at the Inaugural podium before a throng of supporters on the National Mall, aware that intelligence agencies feared that Somali terrorists were about to stage an attack to disrupt the ceremony. The tip later proved to be a false lead, but Obama's words that day set much of the tone for the year to come. "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," he said. There was little daylight to be found between Obama's position and the aggressive stance of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The year that followed was marked by a number of successes, and two major failures, in protecting the homeland. Prosecutors say they arrested several homegrown terrorist threats, including Najibullah Zazi, David Headley and five men from the Washington, D.C., suburbs who allegedly traveled to Pakistan to train for jihad. But on Christmas Day, a Nigerian man who had been flagged by intelligence officials was able to board a plane to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. That event came almost two months after Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who had corresponded with Yemeni radicals, killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas.
Obama reacted strongly to both failures, demanding accountability and changes to procedures and focus, but did not fire any deputies. Conservatives, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, continue to criticize the President as soft on the terrorism fight. But if anything, Obama gained credibility in this area as the year progressed.