Home-based terrorists are currently inside the United States and are looking to strike targets here and abroad, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a speech last night.
“Home-based terrorism is here. And like violent extremism abroad, it is now part of the threat picture that we must confront,” Napolitano told the America-Israel Friendship League in New York City, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press release.
Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post called Napolitano's statements last night her "bluntest assessments yet of terror threats within the country" a night after President Obama announced he will send an additional 30,000 U.S. service members to Afghanistan to fight Taliban militants and al Qaeda terrorists in an effort to stabilize the war-torn country.
According to Hsu, Napolitano listed two recent cases to support her statement that jihadist radicalization has gained traction inside the United States.
Napolitano cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, a Denver airport shuttle driver arrested in September after allegedly training with al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
Zazi allegedly tested homemade bombs, styled after those used in the 2004 Madrid transit bombings, before driving cross-country to New York from Denver. He faces charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.
Separately, U.S. prosecutors in October accused David C. Headley, a Chicago businessman, of conspiring with members of Lashkar-i-Taiba, an extremist Islamic group in Pakistan allied with al-Qaeda, to plot attacks in Denmark and India.
It's a thesis also put forward recently by terrorism expert Peter Bergen, a fellow at The New America Foundation, after the alleged shooting rampage of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 12 soldiers and one civilian. Surveying the many foiled terrorism plots over the past few years, Bergen concludes:
The constellation of terrorism cases that surfaced during the second Bush term and during Obama's first year in office suggests that a small minority of American Muslims are not immune to the al Qaeda ideological virus. And quite a number of those terrorism cases were more operational than aspirational, unlike many of the domestic terror cases that had preceded them after 9/11. The jihadists in these cases were not just talking about violent acts to a government informant but had actually traveled to an al Qaeda training camp; fought in an overseas jihad; purchased guns or explosives; cased targets; and, in a couple of the cases, actually killed Americans.
According to the DHS press release, Napolitano also spoke about DHS' commitment to sharing information with its federal, state, local, and tribal partners through fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces.
The secretary's speech last night was the second in two days that explored the threat of domestic terrorism. Two days ago, Napolitano outlined the threat of terrorists using improvised explosive devices on U.S. soil at Interagency Council for Applied Homeland Security Technology's Counter-IED Symposium.
♦ Photo of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano by The Department of Homeland Security/WikiMediaCommons