Is July 4 Safe This Year? Terrorism Threats On Holiday Weekends Are Common, But There Are Indications That This May Be More Serious

The big Independence Day holiday is nearly upon us, and it looks like it'll be a typical day of revelry — whether you're grilling, chilling, or thrilling (always remember to thrill in moderation), you can bet on this upcoming 4th of July being a festive occasion. But sadly, the real world is always able to intrude, even on celebratory occasions — will July 4 be safe this year?

First things first, it's worth keeping some perspective on things, lest this devolve into scaremongering rather than reasonable, measured concern. It's worth remembering that terrorist incidents on American soil — at least of the sort of Islamist-backed ones that U.S. agencies are clearly talking about, centering around Independence Day celebrations and some of those Islam-needling "Draw Mohammed" events — are rare, in relative terms. And, even were something to happen, it's statistically very unlikely it would imperil you, or any individual American, for that matter.

However, it's also true that some U.S. agencies are raising alarm over potential terrorist incidents this Independence Day holiday. According to CNN, three government agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center — have issued warnings that the threat of a terrorist incident is heightened. They have not, however, divulged any information on specific plots or threats.

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On Monday, former acting CIA director Michael Morell made the situation sound dire indeed, as detailed by CBS News:

I wouldn't be surprised if we're sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That's how serious this is.

The fears have been fueled by the recent arrest of a man in New Jersey, suspected to have been involved in an ISIS-related plot to detonate a pressure cooker bomb in New York, as CBS News detailed Tuesday. While it might not sound so major, given that it relies on a somewhat common household implement, pressure cooker bombs can have devastating effects — the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was carried out using just that sort of device.

And, of course, there's also a harrowing state of affairs occurring for black parishioners in the American South. In June, a racist gunman killed nine black churchgoers at a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, and since then several black churches have been burnt. While investigations are still ongoing (authorities have tabbed two of them as likely arson cases, according to Vox), the state of affairs for black churchgoers right now could very easily be described as "terrorized."

In short, while it's hugely important to keep a level-headed attitude about things, it's a rather harrowing time, whether you're concerned about the specter of international terrorism or domestic terrorism alike — although the emphasis this weekend by U.S. law enforcement is clearly on the former.

There are also fair reasons to be skeptical about all this, however. Namely, the fact that this story has become a sort of annual occurrence. Since it makes such a natural sort of sense that a would-be terrorist would want to strike America on its Independence Day, we tend to hear these early-summer warnings over and over again. That doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't a reason for concern — obviously, counterterrorism is opaque enough that there's no way to know if plots are being foiled, or simply never materialized. But it's certainly worth bearing in mind.

The FBI is reportedly setting up command centers around the U.S. to try to prevent any such incidents — 56 in all, according to the Daily Mail. So, while it may be too drastic and premature to be worrying about things, it is clear that the risks are being taken seriously by law enforcement.

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