Homegrown terrorists—American men and women who have either left the country to join terrorist organizations, or joined others within U.S. borders—have become a growing threat over the past several years.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan who was charged with killing 14 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009 was just one of many. In December five American Muslims were arrested in Sarghoda, Pakistan, for allegedly trying to connect with militants. Just this month, American al-Qaeda suspect Sharif Mobley was arrested in Yemen’s capital of Sana'a along with 11 other al-Qaeda suspects. The recent arrest of the self-proclaimed “Jihad Jane” adds to the list.
Changing TacticsThe workings of al-Qaeda have changed significantly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. What was once a hierarchical organization with a large budget has turned into an ideological movement, according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).Al-Qaeda was once supported by Afghanistan’s Taliban government with both funds and a safe location to operate. According to the CFR, “As Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College, explains, ‘Al-Qaeda central no longer exists.’ He says al-Qaeda's senior leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al- Zawahiri ‘are more preachers of global jihad than field lieutenants who give direct orders.’There are misconceptions on how al-Qaeda operates, according to Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of American Islamic Forum for Democracy.“You could have just three or four people that could be driving a lot of this globally by simply putting these ideas to play on different Web sites,” said Jasser. “They'll hop from one Web site to the other, but they’ll be completely disconnected as far as any direct communication.”The other method al-Qaeda uses is finding Islamic groups that hold “concepts of victimization, concepts of Muslims being persecuted by the non-Muslim West, imperialists, colonialists,” said Jasser Al-Qaeda then “piggy backs” on the propaganda to recruit from these groups that “travel with similar ideologies and yet may be nonviolent,” he said.Terrorist recruitment videos, often released online, have been tailored to appeal to various audiences. A propaganda video, which can still be watched on YouTube of captured U.S. soldier, Bowe R. Bergdahl, compares what seems to be his good treatment under al-Qaeda, to those of U.S.-run prisoner of war camps.
Al-Qaeda spokesmen such as Adam Yahiye Gadahn take a more direct approach, lacing requests to kill Westerners with religious words thrown in here and there. Others have taken to methods tailored more toward modern youth. Recruitment videos from “The American” Abu Mansur al-Amriki, for example, feature a hip-hop soundtrack calling for fighters to join al Shabaab, a terrorist group in Somalia with connections to al-Qaeda.The messages are often mixed. The recent “Osama to Obama” video, allegedly from Osama bin Laden, claims attacks will continue against the United States as long as the country supports Israel. Videos from Adam Yahiye Gadahn call for violence against “places of decadence” and “atheism.” Others, such as those from Abu Mansur al-Amriki call for fighters in jihad.Many of these videos can easily be found on YouTube or other video sharing Web sites