Stealth makes home­grown ter­ror­ists big­gest threat, re­port says

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

Home­grown ter­ror­ists with clean records can op­er­ate un­der the radar of law en­force­ment and pose a more sig­nif­i­cant threat to home­land se­cu­rity than al Qaeda, says a re­port is­sued Aug. 15 by the New York City Po­lice De­part­ment.

The re­port lists “in­cu­ba­tors” such as mosques that be­come meet­ing places for home­grown ter­ror­ists, but says more likely places in­clude cafes, cab­stands, flop­houses, pris­ons, stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tions, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, hookah (wa­ter pipe) bars, butcher shops and book­stores.

“The In­ter­net, with its thou­sands of ex­trem­ist web­sites and chat-rooms, is a vir­tual in­cu­ba­tor of its own. In fact, many of the ex­trem­ists be­gan their rad­i­cal con­ver­sion while re­search­ing or just surf­ing in the cy­ber world,” the re­port said.

“Rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the West: The Home­grown Threat” was writ­ten for the de­part­ment by sev­eral se­cu­rity an­a­lysts and is based on an anal­y­sis of plots un­cov­ered in Lack­awanna, N.Y., Port­land, Ore., Vir­ginia, Madrid, Toronto, and Ham­burg, Ger­many.

“Other than some com­mon­al­i­ties in age and re­li­gion, in­di­vid­u­als un­der­go­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion ap­pear as ‘or­di­nary’ cit­i­zens, who look, act, talk, and walk like ev­ery­one around them,” the re­port said.

“In the United King­dom, it is pre­cisely those ‘or­di­nary’ mid­dle class univer­sity stu­dents who are sought af­ter by lo­cal ex­trem­ists be­cause they are ‘clean skins,’ ” the re­port said.

“The in­di­vid­u­als are not on the law en­force­ment radar. Most have never been ar­rested or in­volved in any kind of le­gal trou­ble,” the re­port said.

Al­though al Qaeda in­spires “home­grown rad­i­cal­iza­tion and ter­ror­ism,” the con­trol or com­mand of a ter­ror­ist at­tack by al Qaeda “has been the ex­cep­tion, rather than the rule,” among a dozen op­er­a­tions stud­ied for the re­port, it says.

“In the early stages of their rad­i­cal­iza­tion, th­ese in­di­vid­u­als rarely travel, are not par­tic­i­pat­ing in any kind of mil­i­tant ac­tiv­ity, yet they are slowly build­ing the mind­set, in­ten­tion, and com­mit­ment to con- duct ji­had,” the re­port said.

Ter­ror­ist plot­ters act au­tonomously and rad­i­cal­ize quickly, and the cells are made up of peo­ple who ap­pear to be well-in­te­grated into so­ci­ety.

The chal­lenge for law en­force­ment is how to iden­tify and pre­empt re­cruit­ment and the process of rad­i­cal­iza­tion, said the re­port, which is meant to guide the intelligence com­mu­nity as well.

Be­fore the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks, ter­ror­ists or­ga­nized be­yond the na­tion’s borders, but U.S. at­tacks on train­ing camps in Afghanistan dis­rupted and “sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ished” those threats.

As al Qaeda’s cen­tral core of lead­ers, op­er­a­tives and foot sol­diers shrank, “its phi­los­o­phy of global ji­had spread world­wide at an ex­po­nen­tial rate via rad­i­cal In­ter­net web­sites and chat rooms, ex­trem­ist video­tapes and lit­er­a­ture, rad­i­cal speeches by ex­trem­ist imams — of­ten cre­at­ing a rad­i­cal sub­cul­ture within the more vul­ner­a­ble Mus­lim di­as­pora com­mu­ni­ties,” the re­port said.

“This post-Septem­ber 11 wave of mil­i­tant ide­o­log­i­cal in­flu­ences un­der­pins rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the West and is what we de­fine as the home­grown threat,” the re­port said.

Ka­reem Shora, le­gal ad­viser for the Amer­i­can-Arab Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mit­tee, told ABC News that the re­port is faulty and po­ten­tially in­flam­ma­tory. “It plays right into the ex­trem­ists’ plans be­cause it’s go­ing to end up an­ger­ing the com­mu­nity,” he said.

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