First, a report from the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions examining successes and failures in detecting U.S. terrorist plots, 1999 - 2009. Its key findings include the following:
More than 80% of foiled terrorist plots were discovered via observations from law enforcement or the general public
Less than half of all U.S. terror plots had links to Al Qaeda or allied movements; plots by single actors reached execution twice as often as plots by groups
Almost one in five plots were foiled 'accidentally' during the course of investigations into seemingly unrelated crimes
Approximately 40% of plots were foiled via tips from the public or informants
Breakdowns in communications across official agencies led to lost opportunities to thwart the worst plots, including 9/11
Judging by the affidavit filed in his case, Mr. Farooque Ahmed, the foiled jihadi of the moment, appears to check three or maybe four of those five boxes.
Second up, we have a study from the Homeland Security Analysis Institute about radicalized residents of Western nations who seek terrorist training and/or travel to jihad conflict zones, and the bridge figures who motive them and legitimize their actions.
Again, Ahmed followed a well-established pattern of radicalization and attempts - feckless ones, in his case - to connect with Al Qaeda. The guy was so eager to please his purported AQ handlers that he trotted all over the Washington Metro transit system to gather targeting information for a would-be bomb attack on commuters (information that pales in comparison to the professional Metrorail station access and capacity studies that Metro makes available to the public on its own website, but that's another matter). Ahmed seems to have been a regular stereotype of the late-blooming radicalized Muslim immigrant.
Well, he'll likely have a good long stretch of prison time to reflect on the errors of his ways.