According to the NCTC director, other potential terrorist threats facing the U.S. include Somalia’s al Shabaab, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and various South Asian groups, including Lashkar-e Tayyiba and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for May 2010’s failed Times Square bombing attempt.
Olson testified that core al Qaeda has been degraded and is currently at its weakest point in a decade. Consisting of a short bench, core al Qaeda has pivoted from advocating spectacular attacks like 9-11 to calling for lone wolf attacks like Fort Hood.
Both Napolitano and Olson reminded lawmakers that the suicide bombing in Bulgaria and the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, last week demonstrate that incidents of mass violence require continued vigilance and preparation. (Olson noted that the suspected shooter in the Aurora theater shooting, James Holmes, has no known connections to international terrorism. Other experts believe it’s too early to tell whether Holmes qualifies as a domestic terrorist.)
The threat of lone wolves like Holmes and Hasan continues to vex homeland security and intelligence officials. Because lone wolves lash out violently without support from terrorist organizations, Olson said, they generally do not leave suspicious travel or communication patterns that blip on the intelligence community’s radar, although Napolitano noted they could set off tripwires when making suspicious firearms or explosive materials purchases.
In an effort combat lone wolf or homegrown terrorism, the DHS is currently developing and testing a CVE curriculum that will train local, state, and federal law enforcement officers to identify the behaviors reasonably associated with terrorist activity.
In her prepared remarks submitted for the record, Napolitano wrote that the training distinguishes “between those behaviors that are potentially related to crime and those that are constitutionally protected or part of a religious or cultural practice.”
According to Napolitano, well-trained officers using community policing models are the best way to detect violent lone wolf and homegrown extremist plots.
♦ Photo by U.S. Army/Flickr