The al-Qaida of today is not the same as the al-Qaida of the September 11th attacks. The organization is more decentralized, split into smaller factions in different regions.
University of Houston Assistant Professor Ryan Kennedy, an expert on terrorist regimes, says the death of bin Laden isn't so much an operational victory as it is a symbolic one.
"This is a big deal. The inability to get Osama bin Laden, the inability of the United States to actually kill or capture him was always a big part of al-Qaida propaganda and al-Qaida recruiting."
Kennedy says al-Qaida has sustained a double blow between the death of bin Laden and the pro-democracy movement sweeping the Middle East. Which could indicate the organization is quickly losing power. But he says they still pose a threat to U.S. safety.
"Certainly the chatter on the internet, all the things that the security agencies have been monitoring have suggested that there is a desire for retribution. And that's something that the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, all of these organizations — the State Department — all of them are going to be on high alert right now, as well they should be."
Kennedy says the threat of retaliation will be high for several weeks if not months.
And Joan Neuhaus Schaan, who is the fellow for Homeland Security and Terrorism at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, says the terror threat is always present.
"It's not a matter of whether we are avoiding attack, because we are being plotted against around the world on a daily basis. So it's really — whether this were to occur or if it were to not occur, it doesn't make a difference. We would still be the target of violence."
Concerns over retribution have prompted the U.S. government to issue a global travel warning for Americans traveling abroad.