August 15, 2007

ABC: 'Clusters' Of Homegrown Terrorists Greatest Threat

ABC News reports that the greatest terrorist threat to the American homeland does not come from the Middle East, but from the Northeast. The report by the New York Police Department's Intelligence Bureau appears to conflict with an FBI analysis that considered the home-grown threat minimal, but provides the names of the mosques and prisons where the risk is greatest:

U.S. law enforcement officials say they have identified more than two dozen "clusters" of young Muslim men in the northeast United States who are on a path that could lead to homegrown terror, ABC News has learned.

"Any one of those clusters may be capable of carrying out a terrorist action that will result in fatalities," Rand Corporation terrorism expert Brian Jenkins tells ABC News.

In a report to be made public today, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly concludes the 9/ll attacks were an "anomaly" and the most serious terror threat to the country comes from clusters of "unremarkable" individuals who are on a path that could lead to homegrown terror.

The report by the NYPD intelligence division, "Radicalization in the West and the Homegrown Threat," plots "the trajectory of radicalization" and tracks the path of a non-radicalized individual to an individual with the willingness to commit an act of terror, multiple sources say.

As seen with other home-grown terrorists, al-Qaeda acts more as an inspiration than as a command-and-control chain. The mosques, cafes, bookstores, and prisons serve as incubators for radicalism. They take young men already disaffected from mainstream society and cultivate their anger. The report gives a detailed description of this trajectory that transforms a non-violent man into a jihadist ready to die for the cause.

Law enforcement sources in several jurisdictions appear to support the case made by the NYPD-IB, ABC News insists. All acknowledge the importance of tracking connections to al-Qaeda, but they say it is more important at this point to understand the metamorphosis of the terrorist himself. If the cycle can be better understood, the chances for intervention increase.

And the report says they have plenty of opportunities for intervention. The NYPD-IB has been scouring Internet web sites and found specific clusters to support their argument. "Numerous pockets" of radicalized youth are in New Jersey, recalling the Fort Dix Six, and several on New Jersey college campuses. Prisons also get emphasized as sources for conversions to jihad.

While this doesn't come as a surprise, the conclusions of the IB are somewhat startling. New Jersey appears to be the center of the home-grown jihadist movement, but is that because of the proximity to the NYPD's Intelligence Bureau? Could the homegrown jihadis also be forming in California, Washington, and Michigan?

Prison conversion to radical Islam has gone on for decades in this country. Malcolm X is probably the greatest example, although he got killed for attempting to break out of that mold. Perhaps the time has come for us to consider steps to reduce the number of people we send into that particular incubator by rethinking crime and sentencing policy for violations that involve no violence and free choice, such as a good portion of our drug laws.


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Comments (25)

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | August 15, 2007 7:10 AM

But is it real or is it police administrators trolling for money? It's a good bet that if Congress created a billion-dollar budget to counter Bulgarian Tea Liberationists, BTL 'pockets' would suddenly be found everywhere.

Posted by Bennett | August 15, 2007 7:20 AM

The article included the following:

"High-ranking local and regional law enforcement in several North American jurisdictions tell ABC News that while it is important to acknowledge the links to al Qaeda -- whether inspirational, through the Internet or through travel -- it is far more important, from a law enforcement perspective, to try to identify at what points an individual might be ready to embrace violence."

Doesn't this sound an awful lot like thought policing? If they're talking about looking for signs of activity, buying bomb-making equipment, scouting locations, etc., then that makes sense to me. But it sounds more like they think there's some way to get into the head of the wanna be terrorist at some key point in his thought process even before he actually starts planning something.

But what does that really do for law enforcement? You can't arrest someone for his thoughts. You can't arrest him for what books he reads or Internet sites he visits or mosques he chooses to visit. I don't see the point of this.

Posted by johner | August 15, 2007 7:37 AM

Drugs and alcohol have done a lot of damage to society and just throwing up our collective hands may not be the best optioin. As for non violent drug crime tell that to the drive by victims here in the rust belt.

Posted by Brett | August 15, 2007 7:52 AM

End the prohibition, johner, and you end most of the violence.

The first prohibition (1919-1933) didn't teach of a damn thing. Can't put the parasite Untouchables out of a job, can we?

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 15, 2007 7:52 AM

If we're to believe a South Carlina inmate, Mike Vick is one of these homegrown terrorists...,2933,293268,00.html

He certainly seems like a credible source.

Posted by William | August 15, 2007 7:56 AM

IANAL but under the charge of Conspiracy you can be arrested for your thoughts. As it was explained to me last time I sat on a jury panel, all you have to do is agree to commit a crime, actual commission of the crime, and your rational for agreeing (such as to get out of a dangerous situation and then leave) is unnecessary to be guilty. Additionally you can be criminally charged for your thoughts under the Hate Crimes laws. Now, I don't advocate waiting for bad guys to blow up a building or such, but we should at least wait until they are actively undertaking their bad guy effort vice simply talking about it. If we set any other standard, we are simply asking for a greater police state.


Posted by TomB | August 15, 2007 8:04 AM

Sooner or later we will have to deal with the hatful Islam, freedom of speech and religion, or not. No country can have an open, or semi-open hate centers, engaging in ideological indoctrination and paramilitary training. Monitoring contacts with AQ is important, since they can provide training in explosives and urban warfare tactics, cutting years from the learning curve.
My question here is: Where are all the hate fighting laws? So far we use them solely to deport some old, miserable folks, usually under a lame pretext of “Lying on the immigration application” 50 years earlier, while overlooking real hate festering in the Mosques, and Muslim communities?

Posted by Bennett | August 15, 2007 8:08 AM

My days of studying Crim Law are well behind me but in the case of conspiracy you are not arrested for your thoughts, you are arrested for your agreement (and in many cases) requiring at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

As to the hate crimes legislation, I believe there has to be some underlying predicate crime.

But this is not my specialty so I'm sure there's an ADA or PD who reads here and they can correct me.

Posted by Waldo | August 15, 2007 8:13 AM

This post is interesting because it reminded me of one by Roger Simon on Monday arguing that gay marriage supports the War on Terror. However, I reached the opposite conclusion. If you look at the War on Terror as a global Islamist insurgency, part of the solution is re-integrating potential terrorists into society. Decoupling marriage from children and fatherhood does the opposite. Since the "standard" for loving relationships seems to be higher than the "standard" for reproduction, the end result is a pool of young men alienated from society and open to radicalization. While reducing the number of non-violent prisoners will certainly help the problem of radicalization in prisons, it won't solve the problem of dysfunction . Only reconnecting marriage and fatherhood will do that.

Posted by rbj | August 15, 2007 8:19 AM

I don't see anywhere in the report that people are being arrested merely for their thoughts. What the NYPD-IB is doing is investigating areas where there is a lot of talk of support for this jihad that has already attacked and killed Americans. It does seem prudent to at least look at those websites/mosques/whatever else that support the enemy.

The AP story & Obama's comments on the item just below basically come down to saying how bad the US is. No wonder that a disaffected youth would be drawn to the other side when there are those who are ostensibly on our side are bad mouthing the US.

Posted by John | August 15, 2007 8:41 AM

NYPD has been pretty good about targeting the most worrisome mosques in the city, as was detailed in last year's trial of a man charged with attempting to set off a bomb in the subway in 2004 one block from the RNC convention at Madison Square Garden.

Law enforcement knows about locations like this; it's just a matter of getting support, or at least non-interference from the top, to spot and stop any plots before they're carried out. The problem with the Democrats this year is you really don't know which ones are simply mouthing platitudes against U.S. action overseas or profiling Muslims in this country in an effort to get donations and votes, and which ones actually believe the stuff they're saying (I think Hillary falls into the former category, but the problem there is if she was elected president, a whole lot of Jamie Gorelicks who fall into the latter category would end up in key positions of power in 2009).

Posted by davejoch | August 15, 2007 9:06 AM

Interesting fact on the "hate" religion, since Malcom X was brought up in Ed's post.

Malcom began the process of conversion to Islam in prison because his brother told him that if he didn't eat pork and stopped smoking, then he could get released sooner.

Then, he came to understand not Islam, but The Nation of Islam. Do you know what he believed? He believed that Whites were a genetic engineering project designed to create devils on earth. The Nation also taught that an American named Elijah Muhammad was a messenger from Allah. Do you know what the most fundamental belief in Islam is? There is only one god, Allah, and the Prophet Muhammad was his last messenger. Except Islam's Muhammad is from the seventh century. The Nation of Islam, which is commonly the starting point of prison conversion, was/is heretical to Islam.

And, finally, when Malcom went on a pilgrimage to Mecca & Medina, he came back and RADICALLY altered his views. Suddenly, he was willing to accept Whites. Suddenly, he was willing to work with Whites. Suddenly, he was converted away from a scary, separatist, violent cult by orthodox Islam.

Islam is certainly appealing to oppressed groups, like American Blacks in the 60s and prison inmates today. It's also appealing to other groups in America that feel trampled over.

Why? I don't know, but I guess because it is so poorly understood that it is susceptible to manipulation.

But wouldn't you agree that these oppressed groups (or those who feel that they are oppressed) are more susceptible to being radicals? You're not going to find many middle-income Muslims supporting radical Islam.

TomB, maybe you're confusing cause and correlation.

Posted by TomB | August 15, 2007 9:20 AM

Your info on Malcolm X is fascinating.
I am not sure I understand your comment, but I what I meant was, that we should try to avoid evolving in the UK direction, where an estimated 15% of the Muslim population would passively support terrorists, rather than the state (meaning giving shelter, food, transportation and not asking too many questions and not talking even if they know...).

Posted by davejoch | August 15, 2007 9:29 AM

Everybody agrees with you, but of course we all disagree on method. I think that we've come, in America, to agree that it's not being Black that makes you more likely to go to jail, but being poor and living around other poor people with little other opportunity.

The mainstream Muslim population in America is much more integrated and less impoverished than in Britain. There's no reason to ostracize a group that's becoming an important and positive part of our society.

"Hateful" interpretations of Islam exist; but it's not "hateful Islam."

Posted by davejoch | August 15, 2007 9:31 AM

Also, the Malcom info was because I really believe that most Muslims do not support insanity (i.e., blowing yourself up and killing civilians... I equate that insanity with the insane beliefs of the pre-Mecca Malcom)

Posted by TomB | August 15, 2007 9:54 AM

I meant "with hateful interpreters of Islam", it was jut a shortcut. But we also shouldn't forget that Islam is now, where Christians were in thirteenth - sixteenth century, with all our religious wars, Inquisition, burning the heretics, but also the Renaissance and so on.

Posted by ChemBilly | August 15, 2007 1:08 PM

This is an interesting, thoughtful post, and useful follow-up in the comments (the Malcolm X history is especially to the point these days). Connecting the dots to the "war on drugs" makes sense to me. Thanks.

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 15, 2007 1:59 PM

I equate that insanity with the insane beliefs of the pre-Mecca Malcom

I wouldn't equate pre-Mecca Malcom X to radical islamists willing to kill civilians to further their cause. Even when he was buying into Mohammad's teachings, he still displayed a certain sense of rationality. And while he proposed his "by any means necessary" morality in freeing blacks from an oppressive white society, he never really advocated violence. This quote, i believe, best sums up his view on the matter while with Nation of Islam:

"It doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.

The Autobiography of Malcom X should be required reading for every high school student in this country.

Posted by Sharpshooter | August 15, 2007 3:29 PM

Think of the heat the militia types in Montana and Idaho received for far less extreme comments.

It all depends on who you are. A couple generations ago, minorities couldn't get away with jacks&*#; now they are untouchable.

Posted by davejoch | August 15, 2007 3:50 PM

Tom Shipley, you're right. Even the Nation wasn't advocating the kind of extremism we see today.

The execution-style killings in Jersey recently were startling, but one of the guys was on bail after being charged with rape. So, I think it might be a case of specific evil rather than general. Of course, parts of Jersey, NY and LA are, as pointed out in the post, hotbeds that could explode. We just hear about the ones closest to the NYPD, because the NYPD is the most apt domestic police force dealing with these issues.

Posted by davejoch | August 15, 2007 5:09 PM

*Malcom = Malcolm in all instances.

Posted by VB | August 15, 2007 8:41 PM

This story fits perfectly with the program on PBS last night about radical mosques being funded by Saudi Arabia and built in the U.S. This threat is an absolute possibilty from what I saw.

Posted by jaeger51 | August 15, 2007 8:57 PM

According to Michael Savage, there are quite a few semi secret camps in remote rural areas in the Northeast and South that are apparently run by radical Muslims, many of whom are blacks who were recruited in the prison system. Supposedly they have bunkers and rifle ranges. Savage has had a person on his show who says he has brought this to the attention of law enforcement and been basically ignored. Haven't seen anything about this elsewhere, but there it is....I can see the media not covering it, can't you?

Posted by tommo | August 16, 2007 9:52 AM

Decriminalizing pot. Finally, a right-winger talking some sense.

Give me liberty, dammit. Land of the free? Ha!

Posted by Pat | August 17, 2007 3:25 PM

For all of its blustering ignorance of human nature the NYPD report "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat" contained an inadvertent and dangerous truth buried deep down inside of it.

Prison is "A Radicalizing Cauldron".

"Prisons can play a critical role in both triggering and reinforcing the radicalization process. The prison’s isolated environment, ability to create a “captive audience” atmosphere, its absence of day-to-day distractions, and its large population of disaffected young men, makes it an excellent breeding ground for radicalization."

So I have to ask, what does this mean for America with its ever growing world record prison population? An ever growing population that the New York Times characterized just last January as breeding a permanent "felon caste" in America.

"Worse still, the country has created a growing felon caste, now more than 16 million strong, of felons and ex-felons, who are often driven back to prison by policies that make it impossible for them to find jobs, housing or education." NYT

So one wonders why America pursues a drug war policy that gives our nation this world record prison population.

SEE: U.S. drug war prisons: "A Radicalizing Cauldron"

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