The Latest - Homegrown Terrorism

Homegrown Terrorism Latest Articles

9th February 2012 – Scripps Howard News Service

If You See Something, Shut Up

Clifford D. May

M. Zudi Jasser is a physician, a U.S. Navy veteran, an American patriot and a Muslim who does not hold with those who preach that Islam commands its followers to take part in a war against unbelievers. more...

5th February 2012 – New York Daily News

Kelly a ‘Ray-cist’? What a Smear

James Woolsey

Recently, interest groups such as the Council of American Islamic Relations have demanded that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly resign and that an outside inspector general be appointed over the NYPD. more...

10th October 2011 – The Weekly Standard

Awlaki’s Law

Thomas Joscelyn

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released a martyrdom statement for Anwar al Awlaki, the al Qaeda cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last month. more...

30th September 2011 – The Weekly Standard

Awlaki’s Death a Delayed Counterterrorism Success

Thomas Joscelyn

Anwar al Awlaki has reportedly been killed in an airstrike in Yemen, bringing an end to the life of one of al Qaeda’s most effective recruiters. Awlaki had an especially strong appeal in the West, where an unknown (but surely significant) number of recruits joined al Qaeda’s jihad after viewing his sermons in English. more...

30th September 2011 – The Atlantic

What Will Anwar al-Awlaki’s Death Really Mean for al-Qaeda?

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

The apparent death of Anwar al-Awlaki -- a U.S. citizen hiding in Yemen, where he had worked with the local al-Qaeda branch -- comes amid a rash of bad news for al-Qaeda and its affiliates. more...

30th September 2011 – The Long War Journal

Yemen Claims AQAP Cleric Anwar al Awlaki ‘Killed’ in Airstrike

Bill Roggio

Yemen's Defense Ministry claimed its forces killed Anwar al Awlaki, the American cleric who serves as an operational commander for al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. Samir Khan, another American who runs Inspire magazine, is also said to have been killed. more...

24th July 2011 – The Weekly Standard Blog

A ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist?

Thomas Joscelyn

American counterterrorism officials have long worried about the possibility of a “lone wolf” jihadist committing a terrorist attack. Such individuals, inspired by ideology alone, can come out of nowhere. more...

22nd July 2011 – The Long War Journal

Norwegian Police Dismiss Jihadist Role in Oslo Attacks

Thomas Joscelyn, Bill Roggio

Norwegian authorities have reportedly arrested a 32-year-old man named Anders Behring Breivik in connection with Friday's terrorist attack. While his precise motives remain unclear, the police have reportedly dismissed any ties to jihadism. more...

30th June 2011 – Scripps Howard News Service


Clifford D. May

“All warfare is based upon deception,” instructed Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military strategist of the 6th Century B.C. But when it comes to the Global Jihad of the 21st Century, the extent to which we in the West insist upon deceiving ourselves would shock even Sunny. Five brief examples follow. more...

16th June 2011 – Scripps Howard News Service

American Muslims Are Victims

Clifford D. May

Muslims living in America face bias, discrimination and persecution. That is the mainstream media’s story and they’re sticking to it – despite the fact that there is no evidence to back it up. You might call it a faith-based narrative. more...

16th June 2011 – National Review Online

Cast a Wider Net

Peter King, the New York Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, has been a good friend to those of us who work to protect American national security. more...

18th May 2011 – Scripps Howard News Service

Guns Don’t Kill People

Clifford D. May

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But homicidal tendencies are not evenly distributed throughout the general population. Criminals, crazies and terrorists pose a heightened threat. That’s why even those of us who strongly support the Second Amendment also support federal laws prohibiting the most dangerous among us from purchasing or possessing firearms and explosives. more...

14th March 2011 – Pajamas Media

What if They Are Already Here?

Michael Ledeen

A very long time ago — back in the last century, when I worked for men like Alexander Haig and Ronald Reagan — the United States government knew of at least three terrorist sleeper cells on our soil. The most famous of these was in St. Louis, Missouri, where Zeit Isa, a member of the Abu Nidal organization — one of the most lethal of that time — was quietly running a convenience store. He was a Palestinian who had gone to Puerto Rico and married a local woman (even though he already had a wife in the old country). They produced two girls, and one night the older one came home late and her father stabbed her to death as her mother held her down. The FBI got the whole thing on audio tape. more...

1st March 2011 – Weekly Standard

Anwar Al Awlaki’s Direct Connection to Terror

Thomas Joscelyn

In August 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the U.S. government on behalf of al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The two organizations questioned the government’s right to put Awlaki on a “kill list” and argued that the “government’s refusal to disclose the standard by which it determines to target U.S. citizens for death independently violates the Constitution.” The complaint continued: more...

7th February 2011 – The Weekly Standard

Dissecting Radical Islam

Reuel Marc Gerecht

It’s easy to understand the trepidation that some Muslim Americans express about the upcoming House hearings on Islamic radicalism in the United States. Such hearings are often theater, where legislators and their staff orchestrate tendentious inquiries into the gravest issues. And there are spiteful voices, predominately on the right, whose exegesis of Islamic history is neither profound nor comparative, who would be eager to damn Islam on Capitol Hill. more...

22nd December 2010 – Fox News

The Dangerous Myth of ‘Homegrown’ Terrorists

Michael Ledeen

If U.S. officials and the media can be believed, America faces an epidemic of “homegrown” terrorism. Yet from U.S. Army shooter Nidal Hasan to would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad to so-called Christmas tree bomber Mohamed Mohamud, all of these mass murderers or potential mass murderers believed they were working on behalf of a foreign organization. more...

26th November 2010 – National Post

The Shooting of Luqman Abdullah

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

In late October, a shootout at a warehouse in Dearborn, Michigan, claimed the life of Luqman Abdullah -- the imam of Detroit's Masjid al-Haqq and a representative of a movement... more...

5th November 2010 – The Washington Times

The Ashburn Jihadist Signals A Greater Danger

The FBI’s arrest of Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., for allegedly assisting al Qaeda in planning multiple bombings around the nation’s capital paints a sobering picture of the threat we still face from jihadists. more...

24th September 2010 – The Long War Journal

US Official Explains National Counterterrorism Center’s View of The Enemy

Thomas Joscelyn

In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee yesterday, Michael Leiter provided an overview of how his National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) sees the terrorist threat. Leiter highlighted three types of threats: al Qaeda in northern Pakistan, al Qaeda affiliates around the world, and "homegrown" extremists who are inspired by al Qaeda's "narrative" but do not necessarily receive guidance or assistance from senior al Qaeda leaders.

Leiter said the "range" of terrorist plots over the past year "suggests the threat against the West has become more complex and underscores the challenges of identifying and countering a more diverse array of Homeland plotting."

Al Qaeda central

Leiter claimed that al Qaeda in Pakistan is "weaker today than at any time since the late 2001 onset of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan." Still, al Qaeda "remains intent" on "attacking the West and continues to prize attacks against the US Homeland and our European allies above all else."

Al Qaeda launched a plot against the New York City subways last year. In Europe, there have been five "disrupted plots during the past four years," Leiter told Senators in his written testimony. These include "a plan to attack airliners transiting between the UK and US, a credible plot in Germany, disrupted cells in the UK and Norway, and the disrupted plot to attack a newspaper in Denmark."

Leiter also cited al Qaeda's "propaganda efforts" as a substantial threat since "they are intended to inspire additional attacks by motivating sympathizers worldwide to undertake efforts similar to Nidal Hassan's attack on Fort Hood last fall."

Al Qaeda's affiliates

Leiter cited al Qaeda's "personnel losses" as one reason the core of al Qaeda has been weakened in recent years. Indeed, al Qaeda has lost key leaders due to America's ongoing drone attacks in northern Pakistan. However, Leiter's testimony also indicates why al Qaeda has been able to remain a serious threat despite these losses.

If al Qaeda is defined as only Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and their immediate followers in northern Pakistan, then the threat they pose would still be worrisome but not nearly a global menace.

Unfortunately, al Qaeda's power reaches beyond this narrow band of individuals. Leiter's testimony confirms, once again, that al Qaeda is the tip of the jihadist spear - the vanguard of a global jihadist movement that shares a common ideology, goals and resources.


Inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda's senior leadership forged close relations with the heads of various jihadist organizations, thereby providing al Qaeda with strategic depth. For example, Leiter cited the disrupted plot against a newspaper in Denmark as a success against al Qaeda, which is undoubtedly true.

But Leiter noted that the plot was organized by Mohammed Ilyas Kashmiri, a commander in Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI). HUJI was originally forged by jihadists committed to fighting the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan. They received support from the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, as did most if not all Pakistan-based jihadist organizations. In the 1990s, HUJI expanded its sphere of activity to India and Bangladesh, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden.

Today, senior HUJI leaders such as Kashmiri actually work with and for bin Laden's al Qaeda in the global jihadist struggle against America and her allies in Central and South Asia and beyond. In fact, Kasmiri is now a senior al Qaeda commander responsible for external operations - that is, operations against the West.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the disrupted plot against airliners traveling from the UK to the US in 2006, which was also cited by Leiter. Al Qaeda intended to destroy multiple airliners using liquid explosives assembled on board the planes once they were airborne. The plot was modeled after a plan named "Bojinka," which was conceived by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his nephew Ramzi Yousef in the mid-1990s.

The plan was revived by al Qaeda after KSM's arrest in 2003. The point man for the operation was Rashid Rauf, a senior member of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM). JEM was originally formed with assistance from the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment in the 1990s to fight Indian forces inside Kashmir. Like HUJI, JEM leaders serve al Qaeda's global jihad. Thus, Rauf became one of the key figures in al Qaeda's external operations wing.

The dossiers of terrorists like Rauf and Kashmiri illustrate that the lines between al Qaeda and other, like-minded jihadist organizations are increasingly blurry.

Leiter cited other relationships in this vein. He called the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP), which was responsible for the failed Times Square plot in May, al Qaeda's "closest ally." Leiter added, "TTP leaders maintain close ties to senior [al Qaeda] leaders, providing critical support to [al Qaeda] in the FATA and sharing some of the same global violent extremist goals."

Counterterrorism authorities are "looking closely" at the TTP, as well as the Haqqani network, "for any indicators of attack planning in the West," Leiter said. Like the TTP, the Haqqani network has "close ties" to al Qaeda.

Leiter noted that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), another creation of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in the 1990s, "poses a threat to a range of interests in South Asia." Moreover, LeT's "involvement in attacks in Afghanistan against US and Coalition forces and provision of support to the Taliban and [al Qaeda] extremists there pose a threat to US and Coalition interests."

Leiter said that while the LeT has not launched an attack against the West, it "could pose a direct threat to the Homeland and Europe, especially should they collude with [al Qaeda] operatives."

Yemen, Somalia, North and West Africa, and Iraq

Outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Leiter cited four areas where al Qaeda's affiliates are a particular concern.

Leiter described Yemen as a "key battleground and potential regional base of operations from which [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP] can plan attacks, train recruits, and facilitate the movement of operatives." As evidence of the threat posed by AQAP, Leiter cited an assassination attempt on a Saudi Prince last August, as well as Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab's attempted attack on Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.

Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki "played a significant role in" Abdulmutallab's plotting, Leiter says. According to published reports, Abdulmutallab met with the al Qaeda cleric in Yemen months prior to boarding a Detroit-bound airliner.

Some commentators have tried to distance al Shabaab in Somalia from al Qaeda. But Leiter said that East Africa "remains a key locale for al Qaeda associates." In addition, some al Shabaab "leaders share [al Qaeda's] ideology and publicly have praised Usama bin Ladin and requested further guidance from the group, although Somali nationalist themes are also prevalent in their public statements."

Leiter also noted that al Shabaab "leaders have cooperated closely with a limited number of East Africa-based [al Qaeda] operatives and the Somalia-based training program established by al Shabaab and now deceased [al Qaeda] operative Saleh Nabhan, continues to attract hundreds of violent extremists from across the globe, to include dozens of recruits from the United States."

"The potential for Somali trainees to return to the United States or elsewhere in the West to launch attacks remains a significant concern," Leiter explained in his written testimony.

In North and West Africa, al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a "persistent threat to US and other Western interests." The "primary" threat, Leiter reported, comes from AQIM "conducting kidnap for ransom operations and small-arms attacks, though the group's execution in July of a French hostage and first suicide bombing attack in Niger earlier this year punctuate AQIM's lethality and attack range."

Finally, counterterrorism operations have "continued to pressure" al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and "hinder its external ambitions." But it remains a "key" al Qaeda affiliate, Leiter reported. "While AQI's leaders continue to publicly threaten to attack the West, to include the Homeland, their ability to do so has been diminished, although not eliminated."

Homegrown Sunni extremism

Homegrown Sunni extremist activity has spiked, according to Leiter, with "plots disrupted in New York, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Texas, and Illinois during the past year." Although these plots were "unrelated operationally," they are "indicative of a collective subculture and a common cause that rallies independent individuals to violence."

A crucially important part of Leiter's testimony is his public identification of a "US-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence." This narrative, according to Leiter, is "a blend of [al Qaeda] inspiration, perceived victimization, and glorification of past homegrown plotting."

In his new autobiography, A Journey: My Political Life, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair discusses this "narrative" at length and points out that it is not only a problem in the West, but also throughout the Middle East. Blair writes:

Here is where the root of the problem lies. The extremists are small in number, but their narrative - which sees Islam as the victim of a scornful West externally, and an insufficiently religious leadership internally - has a far bigger hold. ...

It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.

Leiter explained that the NCTC is coordinating a number of initiatives within the US government to counter this narrative. For example, the NCTC "helps coordinate the Federal Government's engagement with Somali American communities" in order to counter radicalization. It is not clear, however, if the NCTC has a comprehensive plan in place to counter the narrative, as Blair argues is necessary.

Leiter cited two specific terrorist attacks in 2009 as examples of the threat posed by homegrown extremism: Major Nidal Malik Hassan's shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas and Carlos Leon Bledsoe's attack on an US military recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Leiter said these attacks "serve as stark examples of lone actors inspired by the global violent extremist movement who attacked without oversight or guidance from overseas-based [al Qaeda] elements."

Leiter's description does not match the facts of Hassan's and Bledsoe's attacks. Maj. Hassan contacted Anwar al Awlaki repeatedly by email to ask about the permissibility of certain acts (e.g. turning against the American Army) under Sharia law. Awlaki gave his blessing to Hassan. Awlaki would later claim in a propaganda video that he was proud to call Hassan one of his "students." This certainly amounts to guidance.

In a letter to the judge in his case, Bledsoe (who changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad) admitted he was guilty of the "Jihadi attack." It is at least possible that Bledsoe did receive some "guidance" from overseas actors as he admittedly studied jihad in Yemen, and claimed that he was a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It is not clear how much of Bledsoe's letter is true, as opposed to bluster. But it is at least plausible that he did consort with al Qaeda or other jihadist organizations in Yemen.

"Homegrown" extremism is undoubtedly a serious security threat. However, it is often poorly defined.


12th July 2010 – inFocus Quarterly

The Homegrown Terror Threat

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

Homegrown terrorism has been much discussed on cable news channels and the op-ed pages of major newspapers in recent months. The attention is unsurprising. After all, 2009 saw more homegrown terrorist activity in the U.S. than any other year since the 9/11 attacks, and the phenomenon continues to threaten the country in the new year. more...


2nd April 2012 - 4:30 AM

Jonathan Kay Joins Debate on 9/11 Theories

9/11 False Flags, and Black Ops:  An Evening of Debate

International Spy Museum 

Washington, DC

21st March 2012 - 10:30 PM

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross Participates in the 7th Annual Homeland Security Law Institute

Homegrown Threats and Radicalization

American Bar Association, Washington, DC