Al-Qaida's mode of operations has changed. Now that the terrorist network finds it increasingly difficult to operate in Iraq, al-Qaida is establishing cells in other countries. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, addressing the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, said al-Qaida remains the "pre-eminent threat against the United States."

The Pakistani tribal areas provide al-Qaida a safe haven to train for attacks in the United States, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa. This means the United States must bolster its support of the legitimate government of Pakistan and redouble its efforts to share intelligence with other nations also at risk of terrorist attack. This also portends an ongoing need to secure the homeland and improve domestic information-sharing to head off attacks and improve readiness in the event an attack occurs.

Not only is al-Qaida changing venues, it is becoming increasingly barbaric. Forensic evidence from a recent suicide bombing in Baghdad suggests two mentally handicapped women were used by al-Qaida as unwitting suicide bombers.

It also appears that the Sunni insurgent group is training boys as young as 10 to kidnap and kill, according to videotapes recovered during a U.S. military raid in December. Abu Anwar al-Obaidi, an al-Qaida member in Garma interviewed by a Washington Post correspondent, said the terrorist organization might also place bombs on animals and send them to checkpoints. "The American forces will find it impossible to find a solution for this. They will be forced to kill kids, animals, which will bring shame on the American forces," he said.

Yet, few Americans are intently focused on the war. The nation is preoccupied with the sputtering national economy, high motor fuel prices and the mortgage crisis. Few people want to dwell on the memories of Sept. 11, 2001.

America's homeland security efforts in the wake of 9/11 make it less likely that al-Qaida could pull off a large-scale attack in the United States. But it is not an impossibility. Nor does the terrorist organization need to take down a skyscraper to display the depths of its depravity as demonstrated by recent events.

As such, Americans must take a renewed interest in homeland security in the context of the presidential election. The nation's continued prosperity literally depends upon it.