If a major homegrown terrorist attack happens on U.S. soil in the coming years, 2009 will be looked at as the year when the warning signs were missed. According to the Rand Corporation, the U.S. has experienced 30 homegrown terrorism plots since 9/11. One-third of these occurred in 2009; a frightening spike that warrants more attention than it is currently being given by public officials.
The Obama Administration began its term by refusing to include terms like “radical Islam” as part of its lexicon. The Global War on Terrorism was alternatively called an “overseas contingency operation” or “a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm.”
The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, described terrorism as a “man-caused disaster. When asked about not even mentioning the word “terrorism” in her first address to Congress, she said, “That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear towards a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”
The homegrown terrorist activity this year has startled the Obama Administration, which now is forced to privately conclude that the radicalization of American-Muslims is increasing.
In today’s 30-second news culture, shocking incidents such as these quickly fade away as the topic of coverage as other news develops. A summary of some of the biggest incidents this year is needed for the American people to understand how much activity took place:
* In May, authorities broke up a plot by four prison converts to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and fire Stinger missiles at aircraft flying around the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York.
* On June 1, a Muslim convert shot up a military recruiting center in Arkansas, killing one soldier and wounding another. The attacker, Abdulhakim Muhammad, was previously jailed in Yemen for traveling on a fraudulent Somali passport. Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.org reported that a “well-placed source” informed him that he had gone to Yemen to try to study under a radical cleric named Yahya Hajoori.
* In July, seven Muslims were arrested in North Carolina for training with high-powered weapons in preparation to join a jihad overseas. The leader of the group, Daniel Patrick Boyd, had previously trained in guerilla camps in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and enlisted his two sons in his plans.
* In September, FBI and local law enforcement raided two apartments owned by Afghans in New York after the occupants were visited by Najibullah Zazi, a suspected terrorist who had traveled to an Al-Qaeda training camp last year. Nine backpacks and cell phones were confiscated, and Zazi was found to have purchased chemicals similar to those used in the 2005 London subway bombings, causing concern that the suspects were planning an attack styled after that operation.
* Also in September, FBI sting operations led to the arrest of two desiring to carry out acts of terror. A Jordanian named Michael Finton, an admirer of the “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, was arrested for planning to set off car bombs outside of a courthouse in Illinois and a skyscraper in Texas. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested in Texas after trying to detonate a decoy car bomb underneath an office tower.
* In October, the FBI tried to arrest a radical imam in Detroit connected to a range of criminal activity. When they arrived at a warehouse to get Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, he responded with gunfire, killing one of the FBI’s dogs before he was shot and killed. Six of his associates were arrested. In the same month, Tarek Mehanna was arrested in Boston for planning to attack a shopping mall and assassinate two public officials.
* The next month, Nidal Malik Hassan carried out the horrific shooting at Fort Hood, killing 13 people. He is now known to have previously expressed his support for suicide bombers and to have communicated with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical imam in Yemen who has acted as a recruiter for Al-Qaeda and praised Hassan’s shooting. To this day, President Obama and senior officials have not publicly described the incident as terrorism.
* Most recently, five Americans were arrested in Pakistan on their way to link up with the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. They were arrested at the home of a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group, who is the uncle to one of the suspects.
These are only some of the major incidents related to radical Islamic activity in the U.S. that occurred this year. A total of 14 Somali-Americans from Minnesota have been indicted for helping to recruit fellow members of their community to join the Al-Shabaab terrorist group fighting for control of Somalia. The case of Rifqa Bary received considerable attention, as did the honor killing in Arizona of a daughter by her father for being “too Westernized.”
The Christian Action Network, where I serve as a national security researcher, released the “Homegrown Jihad” documentary in February about the isolated communities in the U.S. run by a radical Islamic group used as paramilitary training and recruitment centers. A new tape provided to me as part of CAN’s investigation into the group called “Muslims of the Americas” shows female recruits of the organization receiving such training at their headquarters in New York called “Islamberg.”
The media is failing to compile all these events and see the frightening increase that the Obama Administration is now admitting exists. When the problem is mentioned, the ideological component is not discussed or is misunderstood. On December 12, Kimberly Dozier reported on the Obama Administration’s realization regarding the problem on CBS Evening News, but attributed the rise in homegrown terrorism to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying they were “portrayed by the militants as America’s war on Islam.”
Dozier also said that “Muslim community leaders here say young people are also being driven to extremes by post-9/11 anti-Muslim propaganda” and cited the Council on American-Islamic Relations as saying that civil rights complaints by Muslims have increased by ten percent in 2009, attempting to draw a connection between bigotry against Muslims and homegrown terrorism. If Dozier had done her research on her source, she would have found that the view of the War on Terror as a war on Islam that she says is causing the increase in homegrown terrorism is actually promoted by CAIR.
2009 should put to rest the idea that any homegrown terrorist plot is an isolated incident. The participants in these plots might not be operationally connected, but a political-religious ideology binds them together. The fight for the home front continues into 2010.