A recent surge in ‘homegrown’ Islamic jihadist-inspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents “suggests that at least some Americans – even if a tiny minority – continue to be susceptible to ideologies supporting a violent form of jihad,” according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) entitled American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat.
A second report, Assessing The Terrorist Threat by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group (NSPG) similarly observes that “[a] key shift in the past couple of years is the increasingly prominent role in planning and operations that U.S. citizens and residents have played in the leadership of al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the higher numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups.”
One recent development the NSPG report highlights is “the increasing diversification of the types of U.S.-based jihadist militants, and the groups with which those militants have affiliated. Indeed, these jihadists do not fit any particular ethnic, economic, educational, or social profile.” Case in point: Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad (pictured below, with his American wife, Huma Mian)
The CRS authors examine a total of 40 homegrown terrorist plots for which arrests were made since 9/11 – 21 plots in the seven-plus years between 9/11 and May 2009 and 19 more in the 16 months between May 2009 and August 2010. In each time period, two of the plots resulted in attacks. The report starts by examining jihadist radicalization and violent extremism, with sections devoted to topics like “Forces and Factors in the Forging of Terrorists” such as social networks, the Internet and “Jailhouse Jihadism.”
After an analysis of the post-9/11 plots and attacks, CRS then devotes two sections to “Combating Homegrown Terrorism” from intelligence and law enforcement perspectives and from the perspective of “Building Trust and Partnership” in order to secure cooperation and assistance from the American Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities. It quotes one specialist as observing: “Embedded within these communities are the linguistic skills, information, and cultural insights necessary to assist law enforcement in its efforts to identify suspicious behavior.”
The NSPG report also notes that the current level of threat from the likes of al-Qaeda and its affiliates “is likely to persist for years to come; however, al-Qaeda is believed to lack the capability to launch a mass-casualty attack sufficiently deadly in scope to completely reorient American foreign policy, as the 9/11 attacks did. And it is worth recalling that only 14 Americans have been killed in jihadist terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11, something that was hardly predictable in the immediate wake of the attacks on Washington and New York.”
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