U.S. of­fi­cials watch for cul­ti­va­tion sites of ‘Pepsi ji­had’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Shaun Water­man

U.S. law-en­force­ment and intelligence of­fi­cials say they are tak­ing steps to mon­i­tor and com­bat the spread of Is­lamist ex­trem­ism and sup­port for a vi­o­lent holy war against the West among a “Pepsi ji­had” gen­er­a­tion of young Mus­lims in the United States.

At a hear­ing two weeks ago, of­fi­cials from the CIA, FBI and De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity told law­mak­ers that the United States had less of a prob­lem with “home­grown” Is­lamist ter­ror­ists than Europe did be­cause of its his­tory as a na­tion of im­mi­grants.

“I think the Amer­i­can his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence [. . . ] with bring­ing in var­i­ous groups and giv­ing them, frankly, more op­por­tu­nity than they might have en­joyed else­where has helped us im­mea­sur­ably in this re­gard,” CIA Di­rec­tor Michael V. Hay­den told the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Intelligence.

De­spite that, Phillip Mudd from the FBI’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Branch said, the ide­ol­ogy of ex­trem­ist Is­lam — and its at­ten­dant sup­port for vi­o­lence against the West in gen­eral and the United States in par­tic­u­lar — was spread­ing in the United States.

“The com­mon­al­ity we have [with Europe] is peo­ple who are us­ing the In­ter­net or talk­ing among friends who are part of what I would char­ac­ter­ize as a Pepsi ji­had. [. . . ] It’s be­come pop­u­lar among youth, and we have this phe­nom­e­non in the United States.”

Char­lie Allen, the head of intelligence for the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, said the de­part­ment re­or­ga­nized its intelligence an­a­lysts late last year and “cre­ated a branch fo­cused ex­clu­sively on rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the home­land [that] is study­ing the dy­nam­ics of in­di­vid­ual and or­ga­ni­za­tional rad­i­cal­iza­tion.”

He said the United States did not have “the alien­ation and the de facto seg­re­ga­tion that we see in some places in Europe,” but that none­the­less there were “pock­ets of ex­trem­ism” in the coun­try.

He said the branch would cre­ate state-by-state and re­gional as­sess­ments this year “of the means and mech­a­nism through which rad­i­cal­iza­tion man­i­fests through­out the United States.”

He added that an­other fac­tor present in many of the suc­cess­ful “home­grown” Is­lamist at­tacks in Europe — the Madrid and Lon­don tran­sit bomb­ings be­ing the clas­sic ex­am­ples — was a leader di­rect­ing would-be ter­ror­ists to train­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“Fre­quently, we see a charis­matic leader [. . . ] who se­lects peo­ple for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion, per­haps over­seas, par­tic­u­larly into South Asia.”

The ques­tion of the role played by al Qaeda’s cen­tral com­mand in Pak­istan in pro­vid­ing sup­port and di­rec­tion for so-called “home­grown” plots in Europe has vexed an­a­lysts since the Madrid rail bomb­ings in March 2004.

“While the in­ci­dents might be home­grown and the re­cruit­ment base, if you will, can of­ten be sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants who have a Mus­lim back­ground, we’ve al­ways found some kind of link­age back to” al Qaeda’s lead­er­ship, said Di­rec­tor of Na­tional Intelligence John D. Ne­gro­ponte.

Mr. Allen noted that the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment had a unit ded­i­cated to de­mo­graphic anal­y­sis of im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in the United States, which might, wit­tingly or not, har­bor net­works of crim­i­nals or hu­man smug­glers that ter­ror­ists could ex­ploit.

The unit will fuse intelligence and law-en­force­ment re­port­ing to “as­sess pat­terns in which mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties — and likely as­so­ci­ated ex­trem­ists — may or could travel to and es­tab­lish them­selves within the home­land.” The unit aims to “pro­vide strate­gic warn­ing of mass mi­gra­tion to the United States and likely ex­ploita­tion by il­licit ac­tors.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Mus­lim-Amer­i­can Idol? An im­age taken from a video broad­cast on Al-Jazeera television on Jan. 23 shows top al Qaeda of­fi­cial Ay­man al-Zawahiri speak­ing in an on­line video mes­sage. Al Qaeda’s sec­ond-in-com­mand de­fi­antly mocked Pres­i­dent Bush’s plan to send ex­tra troops to Iraq, say­ing he should send his en­tire army to be an­ni­hi­lated.

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