TrendDHS, FBI worried about home-grown terrorists

Published 2 October 2009

The risk of al-Qaeda has not disappeared, but in a testimony on the Hill, Napolitano and Mueller say that the United States is facing an increased risk from home-grown terrorists and radicalized immigrants

Homeland security and law enforcement officials worried about the threat of homegrown terrorists and radicalized immigrants at a Senate hearing on homeland security yesterday, after federal authorities recently broke up three different alleged bombing conspiracies.

Last week, Najibullah Zazi, a legal U.S. resident from Afghanistan, was charged with plotting a terrorist bombing. Two more men, a Jordanian illegal alien and a radicalized American prison convert to Islam, were accused of planning two separate terrorist bombings in Houston and Springfield, Illinois, as well last week.

Matthew Harwood reports that while al Qaeda’s ability to attack the United States still worries homeland security and federal law enforcement officials, the specter of homegrown terrorism has risen, according to FBI Director Robert Mueller before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Mueller said that while al Qaeda is still determined to attack the United States and the FBI is still carefully monitoring that threat, it is devoting increased attention to the specter of “homegrown” terrorism perpetrated by American natives or legal permanent residents.

Several FBI terrorism subjects with no known connections to overseas groups have taken steps to move from violent rhetoric to action,” Mueller said.

He said these “lone wolves” are more difficult to detect than terrorist groups because they operate quietly and independently. Often they get their inspiration and training online, rather than in person. But should they decide to travel to Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia for further training, their status as U.S. citizens or legal residents makes it easier for them to travel in and out of the country.

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that the recent string of terrorism cases shows that terrorist threats can come from any region in the country and from people with very different backgrounds. “Combating terrorist threats within the United States poses a challenge in part because the threat is so diffuse,” she testified. “Terrorists inspired by international terrorist organizations can come from any age group, ethnicity, area, religious background, or claimed ideological affiliation.”

Napolitano was careful to stress that no religious belief is a security threat and reiterated that DHS does not police beliefs.