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