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The Threat of Homegrown Terrorism

Curtis PittmanGovernment 490Dr. RizovaOctober 31, 2014

Abstract:A growing problem within the United States of America is homegrown terrorism. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 there has been an increase of extreme, violent jihadists that are being established on American soil.The Congressional Research Service (CRS)estimatesthat therehave been 63 homegrown violentjihadist plots or attacks in the United States since that tragic time in American history. Theapparentincrease in homegrown terroristactivity seems to suggest thattheattitudes and ideologies supporting a violent jihad continue toinfluence some Americans. Although it may seem as if this is an insignificant amount of American extremists, it only takes one homegrown terrorist to sow destruction on the homeland and potentially victimize innocent American citizens. The answer to the question of whether homegrown terrorism is a severe threat to the United States will be answered by looking at failed, foiled, and successful post September 11, 2001 attacks, by understanding the factors and forces that cause domestic extremism, and by understanding law enforcement and intelligence efforts that combat and counter homegrown terrorism.This analysis will look to understand the significance that homegrown terrorism plays on the United States of America as well as determine whether or not these acts of terror can be deemed as a serious threat. The research will focus only on post 9/11 violent Jihadist terrorists within the American borders and not on various other forms of domestic terrorism. There are many forms of domestic terrorism that have occurred throughout the history of the United States, but the use of homegrown terrorists by jihadist organizations seems to be on the rise. Since the attacks of 9/11, there has been an increased threat of jihadist based terror groups that have been plotting and attacking the American Homeland. Along with looking at the post 9/11 attacks, there will be research conducted that looks into the reasoning and forces that cause this domestic extremism. Is there a trend of likely extremist candidates? If so, what causes their radical thoughts and actions? After the preliminary research is conducted, there will be more research done on the already implemented efforts to combat and prevent domestic terrorism. This analysis will specifically look into the local law enforcement and intelligence agencies to better understand what has to be done to deter this violence and how we can better the already implemented efforts. This research also discusses tactics that could be used to combat the threat of homegrown terrorism. Statistical references will be gathered from resources such as the World Wide Threat Assessment, various militaristic and law enforcement reports, scholarly reports, as well as books about Islamic extremists in the West. Another outlet for understanding the ideologies of homegrown jihadist extremists will come from the United Kingdoms take on homegrown terrorism, which will offer references, comparisons, and support for the research.

The Threat of Homegrown TerrorismHow serious of a problem is homegrown terrorism in the United States?Throughout the past several centuries, the United States has been a repeated target for terrorists and their organizations. Terrorism against the United States ranges from organizations such as the KKK, to anti-government extremists, to the more recent Islamic extremists. Being a world power and having a stronghold on the majority of the world, the U.S. will always be targeted by violent groups that wish to overthrow and overpower the country. A threat that seems to be on the rise in the United States is that of homegrown terrorism, specifically that associated with violent jihadists. This trend is viewed by some as a high risk threat that needs to be resolved while others do not see a threat at all. The answer to the question of whether homegrown terrorism is a severe threat to the United States will be answered by looking at failed, foiled, and successful post September 11, 2001 attacks, by understanding the factors and forces that cause domestic extremism, and by understanding law enforcement and intelligence efforts that combat and counter homegrown terrorism.Over the past twenty years, the United States has seen a great deal of terrorist organizations publicly declare war and proclaim their hatred on the country. There are three specific groups that tend to stand above the others when dealing with how threatening they are and the potential for harvesting homegrown terrorists, or foreign fighters, within the borders of America. The three groups that are more well-known and threatening to the United States are the most experienced Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and the more recent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Al Qaeda has been a threat to the United States for many years and continues to be a significant danger to the security of the country. This group is a militant Islamist based organization that is prevalent worldwide and operates out of the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda was started by the infamous Osama bin Laden and was responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. As far as homegrown terrorism associated with Al Qaeda, there is a new approach that this organization is taking. Because the security of the United States has drastically risen since 9/11, plotting another large attack is almost out of the question for terrorists because it will get shut down before it is carried out. The success rate of big attacks is minimal, so Al Qaeda has recently publicly announced that they are adopting the strategy of conducting smaller attacks at a more recurrent rate (Dershowitz, 2014). With this idea at the core of their scheme, homegrown terror will play a pivotal role in the success of their attacks. These homegrown terrorists obviously have some advantages that will propel attacks and heighten their rate of accomplishment. These terrorists can disguise themselves and freely enter the country without being stopped or questioned, especially if they have a clean record, which cannot be randomly checked without probable cause. Once they enter the country, they will blend into society and obtain residency, ultimately becoming a United States citizen. After this takes place, they can freely enter and leave the country and connect with terror organizations to exchange information, seek support, and devise plans of attack (Dershowitz, 2014). The use of homegrown terrorism looks to be a big player in Al Qaedas plan to destroy not only America, but all Western nations. The second terror organization that poses a threat to the United States is Al Shabaab. This organization is also a militant jihadist group and is based primarily out of Somalia. This group became a risk to the United States in 2008 and has since been increasing its prominence not only against the U.S. but against all Western nations as well. Although this is an Islamist group stationed primarily in Africa, this organization draws a significant amount of Western supporters. In 2011, Al Shabaab deployed a strategy to recruit foreign fighters from Muslim communities within the United States (Kron, 2011). By infiltrating the U.S., Al Shabaab will attempt to gather fellow believers of the Muslim faith and convert them to their radical ideologies, thus obtaining homegrown fighters for their organization. Since 2007, according to the United States House Committee on Homeland Security, Al Shabaab has successfully enlisted more than forty Muslim Americans into its organization as foreign fighters (Pelofsky, 2011). With the gaining of these American extremists, Al Shabaab has increased not only their army, but also their intelligence. The third organization that is a high threat to the United States homeland is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. This terror organization is also a militant jihadist based group that prevails in the Middle East and operates out of Iraq as well as Syria. Just as the previously mentioned groups, ISIS also attracts foreign fighters from Western civilizations. An article published in the New York Times in the fall of 2014 cited that over 2,000 European citizens and over 100 American citizens were amongst the foreign fighters within the ISIS army (Schmidt, 2014). Again, this is a red flag when dealing with homegrown terrorism. If American citizens are willing to leave their homeland to join radical groups such as these three mentioned above, they will certainly be willing to obtain and distribute any vital information that they can retrieve, thus causing problems with American counterterrorism efforts. Since the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001, there has been an effort by the United States to further protect and safeguard the homeland. While there are many implemented strategies that combat the threat of foreign terrorist acts, there must also be some form of defense against that of domestic terrorism. Jerome P. Bjelopera, a specialist in organized crime and terrorism, states in his work entitled American Jihadist Terrorism: Combatting a Complex Threat, that homegrown terrorism is a term that not only describes terrorist acts committed within the borders of the United States but can also be described as American citizens who commit terror acts outside the boundaries of the country (Bjelopera, pg. 1). The term jihadist refers to radical persons who use Islam as a religiously based justification for their belief in establishing a worldwide caliphate (Bjelopera, pg. 1). The caliphate that these jihadists seek can be understood as being a dominion which is religiously and authoritatively ruled by a Muslim, known as a caliph (Bjelopera, 2013). For the purposes of this research, only attacks o