AL-QAEDA….The Riyadh bombings are a disturbing reminder that al-Qaeda is still all too active, but at the same time I have to say that this incident is an example of both bad news and good.

The bad news is pretty obvious: 34 people are dead, seven of them Americans, and the attacks were highly coordinated. Al-Qaeda is back.

But there’s good news too: this is not 9/11. Rather, it’s a conventional terrorist attack, and we have lots of experience dealing with this kind of thing. We can’t stop it overnight, but as long as it doesn’t escalate into nuclear or bio attacks, we can stop it eventually, as we’ve done with other terrorist organizations over the past 50 years.

Unfortunately, “as long as it doesn’t escalate” brings us back to bad news: as the LA Times headline says this morning, “Strikes in Saudi Arabia underscore how little is now known about the group and its members.”

Current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials, Saudi authorities and outside experts said a second consensus was also emerging. The bombings ? and the lack of information about the extent of the plot ? underscore how difficult it is to determine who now makes up Al Qaeda, they said.

The story goes on to say that we know very little about al-Qaeda, its members, its organization, or what it’s doing. The odds that they can get their hands on nuclear or serious biological is still slim, but it’s real, and it’s disturbing that we don’t really have any idea just how real it might be. I sure hope all that missing Iraqi nuclear material hasn’t found its way into hands even more dangerous than Saddam Hussein’s.

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