Saturday, August 18, 2007
NYPD Warns Of Homegrown Terror Threat.
(CBS/AP) Average citizens who quietly band together and adopt radical ways pose a mounting threat to American security that could exceed that of established terrorist groups like al Qaeda, a new police analysis has concluded.
The New York Police Department report released Wednesday describes a process in which young men — often legal immigrants from the Middle East who are frustrated with their lives in their adopted country — adopt a philosophy that puts them on a path to violence.
The report was intended to explain how people become radicalized rather than to lay out specific strategies for thwarting terror plots. It calls for more intelligence gathering and argues that local law enforcement agencies are in the best position to monitor potential terrorists.
The study reveals that it takes years — sometimes a decade — for individual radicals to grow into a full-blown terror cell, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr. But it is during this time that the groups must be identified, since past incidents clearly prove that once homegrown cells mature, attacks quickly follow.
"Hopefully, the better we're informed about this process, the more likely we'll be to detect and disrupt it," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a briefing with private security executives at police headquarters.
The study is based on an analysis of a series of domestic plots thwarted since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including those in Lackawanna, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; and Virginia. It was prepared by senior analysts with the NYPD Intelligence Division who traveled to Hamburg, German, Madrid, Spain, and other overseas spots to confer with authorities about similar cases.
The report found homegrown terrorists often were indoctrinated in local "radicalization incubators" that are "rife with extremist rhetoric."
Instead of mosques, those places were more likely to be "cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah bars, butcher shops and bookstores," the report says.
The Internet also provides "the wandering mind of the conflicted young Muslim or potential convert with direct access to unfiltered radical and extremist ideology."
The threat posed by homegrown extremists — from "eco-terrorist" groups to neo-Nazis — has long been a top concern for federal counter-terror officials.
Recently, authorities have taken a closer look at radicalization happening in U.S. prisons, where a study last year by George Washington University and the University of Virginia found that Islamic extremists were turning jail cells into terrorist breeding grounds by preaching violent interpretations of the Quran to their fellow inmates.
Additionally, the Justice Department last year indicted 28-year-old Adam Gadahn, who was raised on a farm in southern California, with treason and supporting terrorism for serving as an al Qaeda propagandist. Gadahn is believed to have tried to recruit supporters through videos and messages posted on the Internet.
The NYPD report warns that more intelligence gathering is needed since most potential homegrown terrorists "have never been arrested or involved in any kind of legal trouble," the study says.
They "look, act, talk and walk like everyone around them," the study adds. "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 mind-set, intention and commitment to conduct jihad."
Kareem Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the findings faulty and potentially inflammatory.
Police "paint such a broad brush," Shora said. "It plays right into the extremists' plans because it's going to end up angering the community."
A recently released National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Osama bin Laden's network had regrouped and remains the most serious threat to the United States.
Kelly insisted the NYPD report made no effort to provide a "cookie-cutter" profile for terrorists. He also argued that the NYPD report "doesn't contradict the National Intelligence Estimate — it augments it."