The New York Police Department's Intelligence Division has released a report on the homegrown terrorism threat facing the city and the United States.
The report says that while the threat from al Qaeda's core still persists, a new threat has emerged from radicalized local residents or citizens or both.
While the threat from overseas remains, many of the terrorist attacks or thwarted plots against cities in Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States have been conceptualized and planned by local residents/citizens who sought to attack their country of residence. The majority of these individuals began as “unremarkable” - they had “unremarkable” jobs, had lived “unremarkable” lives and had little, if any criminal history. The recently thwarted plot by homegrown jihadists, in May 2007, against Fort Dix in New Jersey, only underscores the seriousness of this emerging threat.
This realization, according to the report, has signaled a change in the NYPD's counterterrorism strategy toward understanding the radicalization process, whereby an individual or group of individuals becomes further and further absorbed into the Salafi-jihadi ideology and can be led to commit terrorist attacks. The report identifies four stages of radicalization, ending in jihadization. The report describes jihadization as:
...the phase in which members of the cluster accept their individual duty to participate in jihad and self-designate themselves as holy warriors or mujahedeen. Ultimately, the group will begin operational planning for the jihad or a terrorist attack. These “acts in furtherance” will include planning, preparation and execution.
What frightens the report's authors is that unlike the prior three stages in the radicalization process, jihadization occurs rapidly, taking a few months, if not a few weeks.
Because once the stage of jihadization has been reached, it may be too late to stop jihadists from carrying out terrorist atrocities, the police have redefined the initial indicator of what constitutes a threat. The report's executive summary said that the NYPD used to consider a threat when a terrorist or terrorists have begun actively planning an attack, but have now "shifted our focus to a much earlier point -- a point where we believe the potential terrorist or group of terrorists begin and progress through a process of radicalization."
According to ABC News' The Blotter, the report is considered by those familiar with it to fill a large gap in July 17's National Intelligence Estimate, where homegrown radicalization and jihadism were given short thrift.