U.S. rad­i­cals chang­ing nation’s ter­ror­ism threat

Los Angeles Times - - The Nation - Ken Di­la­nian re­port­ing from washington ken.di­la­nian@latimes.com

The ris­ing threat from home­grown rad­i­cals makes ter­ror­ist plots against the U.S. harder to de­tect and more likely to suc­ceed, top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are sched­uled to tell Congress on Wed­nes­day.

In writ­ten tes­ti­mony to be de­liv­ered be­fore the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, FBI Di­rec­tor Robert S. Mueller III, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano and Michael E. Leiter, chief of the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, each say ter­ror­ist threats have be­come more com­plex, with a greater ar­ray of plot­ters in­spired by Al Qaeda with­out nec­es­sar­ily be­ing di­rectly linked to the ter­ror­ist net­work.

“Home­grown ter­ror­ists rep­re­sent a new and chang­ing facet of the ter­ror­ist threat,” Napoli­tano said in the tes­ti­mony, ob­tained in ad­vance by the Los An­ge­les Times. “The threat is evolv­ing in sev­eral ways that make it more dif­fi­cult for law en­force­ment or the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity to de­tect and dis­rupt plots.”

Cit­ing the Novem­ber shoot­ings at Ft. Hood in Texas, which left 13 dead, and the at­tempted Times Square bomb­ing in May, among oth­ers, Leiter said there were more home­grown attacks or at­tempts in the last year than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001, when hi­jack­ers crashed air­lin­ers into the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­tagon.

“Home­grown ex­trem­ists are in­creas­ingly more savvy, harder to de­tect, and able to con­nect with other ex­trem­ists over­seas,” Mueller said. “The In­ter­net has ex­panded as a plat­form for spread­ing ex­trem­ist pro­pa­ganda, a tool for on­line re­cruit­ing, and a medium for so­cial net­work­ing with like-minded vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists, all of which may be con­tribut­ing to the pro­nounced state of rad­i­cal­iza­tion in­side the United States.”

The state­ments were less clear on how the govern­ment in­tends to counter the do­mes­tic threat.

Are­cent re­port by the Bi­par­ti­san Pol­icy Cen­ter, the suc­ces­sor to the Sept. 11 com­mis­sion, called it “fun­da­men­tally trou­bling … that there re­mains no fed­eral govern­ment agency or depart­ment specif­i­cally charged with iden­ti­fy­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion and in­ter­dict­ing the re­cruit­ment of U.S. cit­i­zens or res­i­dents for ter­ror­ism.”

That is a ma­jor prob­lem, said Sen. Joe Lieber­man, the Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent who chairs the com­mit­tee, and Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine, the rank­ing Repub­li­can.

“We need to fo­cus more deeply on the role of the In­ter­net in vi­o­lent Is­lamist ex­trem­ism and re­assess the ad­e­quacy of the tools and le­gal au­thor­i­ties we have to de­tect on­line plot­ting and rad­i­cal­iza­tion,” Lieber­man said.

The hur­dles are both bureau­cratic and le­gal. The govern­ment’s counter-ter­ror­ism ap­pa­ra­tus con­sists mainly of law en­force­ment agen­cies that see their mis­sion as in­ves­ti­gat­ing threats, crimes and con­spir­a­cies — not expressed rad­i­cal ideas that amount to pro­tected free speech.

Napoli­tano’s tes­ti­mony de­scribed new ini­tia­tives to en­cour­age tips from the pub­lic, in­clud­ing an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign with the slo­gan, “See some­thing, say some­thing.” Mueller touted the FBI’s out­reach to Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.

Napoli­tano noted that the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is work­ing with an ar­ray of 72 state and re­gional “fu­sion cen­ters,” where state and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials with topse­cret clear­ance have ac­cess to high-level in­tel­li­gence and an­a­lyze re­ports of sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity gen­er­ated by cops on the beat.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has thus far re­sisted any na­tional pro­gram to com­bat rad­i­cal­iza­tion sim­i­lar to one un­der­taken in Bri­tain, which is spend­ing $200 mil­lion a year to “chal­lenge the ide­ol­ogy be­hind vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and sup­port main­stream voices.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has been crit­i­cized be­cause it has avoided terms such as “Is­lamists” or “ji­hadists” to de­scribe Al Qaeda and re­lated ter­ror­ist groups.

“It risks re­in­forc­ing the idea that the United States is some­how at war with Is­lam it­self,” Obama’s counter-ter­ror­ism ad­vi­sor, John Bren­nan, said in an Au­gust speech.

Lieber­man strongly dis­puted that ar­gu­ment, say­ing Mus­lims un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween their faith and “the ter­ror­ist po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy that has ex­ploited it.”

The of­fi­cials said the good news is that in­tel­li­gence re­ports show that Al Qaeda is weak­ened, pum­meled by airstrikes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.