Improvements on Tracking and Detecting American Bread Terrorists Term Paper

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Improvements on Tracking and Detecting American-Bred Terrorists

Tracking homegrown terrorists

Although most of the media focus on tracking terrorism tends to centers on threats that come from abroad, it is important to note how many recent, public incidents of terrorists involved Western-educated men. For example, the Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber," was British-educated. "The idea of universities as a breeding ground for terrorism has gained currency, particularly in Great Britain. Such fears were reinforced by a poll taken last year by the Centre for Social Cohesion, which found that 60% of active members of campus Islamic groups believe that killing in the name of religion can be justified" (Lloyd 2010). Homegrown terrorists may actually be less, rather than more easy to spot and monitor than foreign terrorists. Unlike foreign terrorists, the government must observe constitutional protections regarding a citizen's freedom to travel and associate with political groups. And unlike foreign terrorists, homegrown terrorists are fluent in the culture, customs, and language of the United States or Great Britain.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Improvements on Tracking and Detecting American Bread Terrorists Assignment

The White House has "declared a new focus on the threat of homegrown terrorism, warning that several recent incidences of violent extremists in the United States who are committed to fighting here and abroad have underscored the threat to the United States and our interests posed by individuals radicalized at home" (Elliot 2010). Homegrown terrorists are attractive to extremist groups because they can be used as a tool by organized, foreign organizations yet face less scrutiny than visitors or resident aliens. Additionally, as citizens, they are protected by the U.S. Constitution within the framework of the legal system. Of course, the added publicity that can be garnered from the sight of a natural-born or naturalized citizen striking a blow against the United States is also compelling, from the point-of-view of a terrorist. "As the U.S. And other countries put more pressure on terrorists overseas, terror groups are now more actively wooing Americans, who do not face as much scrutiny when they travel…'I think there is a calculated decision being made by some in the al Qaeda leadership to look for people who might have more access' to the U.S., said one [Pakistani] official'" (Americans, 2010, The Daily Times). Yet the U.S. must be careful that it does not engage in discriminatory actions while searching for homegrown terrorists. Policies that are perceived to be racially or otherwise discriminatory are not only illegal: they can further exacerbate the drive for radicalization amongst citizens. "The Department of Homeland Security, through its office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, has looked to increase official engagement with Muslim communities" as well as to 'root out' extremists (Nelson 2010)

One of the most recent, shocking examples of 'homegrown' attacks in the United States occurred in May 2001 when Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen and Connecticut resident tried to detonate a bomb in the middle of Times Square. After traveling to Pakistan in 2009 the Time Square bombing suspect "allegedly" sought training in bomb construction (Elliot 2010). Fortunately, no one was injured in that attack. But the victims of Major Nidal Malik Hasan were not so lucky. Hasan's actions in November 2009 were especially chilling because he was a highly educated Army psychiatrist. Supposedly, Hasan was in contact with the extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen, "inquiring about whether it would be justified for a Muslim to kill soldiers. He [Hasan] also was angered by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" and combined with a personal sense of disaffection and rage, this motivated Hasan to turn against his own soldiers (Elliot 2010). Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people. He turned his own, U.S.-trained military knowledge against American citizens and raising serious questions about the ability to screen for radical 'elements' within the U.S. service. Hasan was born in Virginia, although he was of Palestinian descent. If the U.S. could not ferret out a terrorist within its own midst, how could it do the same across the nation, many asked, in hidden pockets of the country?

Domestic U.S. police departments have been widely criticized for being insufficiently prepared to deal with terrorist threats, even though they are often better-positioned to spot homegrown terrorists than other branches of law enforcement. All branches of the government involved in terrorist vigilance -- the FBI, CIA, Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security -- have also been accused of not being in sufficient contact with one another in intelligence coordination efforts. Homegrown terrorists may fly under the radar because of a lack of communication between the different branches of these intelligence agencies. Often, terrorist "plots start at a very local level, well below where the FBI will be able to find them. If local police departments aren't finding them, then nobody will" (Eddy 2010). Tracking down homegrown terrorists will require joint efforts between all branches of government, given that both nation and international groups and individuals are involved.

At present, the CIA does not monitor Pakistani-Americans overseas unless the FBI has specific information linking them to terrorism although it does monitor Pakistanis who are not American citizens (Americans, 2010, The Daily Times). One of the most effective tools of enforcement in the war against homegrown terrorism has been the use of FBI domestic informants, and the information it has obtained from them. A domestic informant was critical in securing the arrest of seven young men arrested in an alleged plot against the Sears Tower who sought to work with al-Qaida but ended up conspiring with the trained informant (Williams & Popkin 2006).

The ideal homegrown terrorist, from an al-Qaida perspective, is an individual who is disaffected with society and sympathetic to radical Islamic causes, but has no 'track record' of Islamic sympathies, and thus can 'fly under the radar' of FBI or CIA scrutiny. "Al Qaeda is having difficulty growing insurgents in some of the areas where they have safe haven because of the pressure that has been put on them, so they seem to be looking for people who have no previous connections and trying to radicalize them… These citizens, who quietly take on extremist religious beliefs but have no apparent terrorist background or ties, set off no alarms as they cross in and out of the their home country" (Americans, 2010, The Daily Times). While some fit the profile of isolated males with few social ties, others do not.

"Unlike terrorism cases in Europe -- where poverty, geographical segregation, and social marginalization tend to drive radicalization -- the cases in the United States lack simple explanations. For instance, five young men from Northern Virginia, whom Pakistani authorities charged…with plotting attacks in Afghanistan, lived in middle class, well-integrated neighborhoods in the Washington, DC suburbs" (Nelson 2010). Many of the recent aggressors appeared well-integrated into U.S. society, but psychologically there was a disconnection in terms of their value system and the world around them.

At present, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection keeps records on people who travel in and out of the U.S. Officers can pull up information to see whom a known suspect was travelling with on a certain date. But unlike the recently upgraded air security system, which is aimed at terrorists flying on U.S.-bound airlines, the ability to find and track the movements of home-grown extremists is sharply limited by the sheer volume of travelers and the rights of Americans to travel freely" (Americans, 2010, The Daily Times). Tracking homegrown terrorists requires "constantly updated travel records, screening by sharp-eyed border and law enforcement officials, and some intelligence-sharing with foreign governments," including Pakistan (Baldor 2010). But this fragile monitoring system can easily break down. While Customs and Border Protection keeps records on people who travel in and out of the United States and can retrieve information to see who a known suspect was traveling with on a certain date, the suspect must have been flagged in the first place. For example, "Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, had traveled to Pakistan last year and returned to America in February. But officials say there was no information available that would have led authorities to suspect he was involved in terrorist activity" (Baldor 2010).

The one common aspect all of these terrorists share in their background is contact with outside, extremist clerics, often through the use of new technology. This may be the most vital step of instituting a new, effective anti-terror program that focuses on domestic sources of radicalization. "To date, though, the government lacks a comprehensive framework for addressing Internet radicalization. Developing one will be necessary to curb the influence of intermediaries, especially those who use email, chat rooms, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media to attract would-be extremists" (Nelson 2010).

Better coordination between intelligence agencies, improved profiling, and careful monitoring of Internet and real world traffic to radical pockets of the globe are cornerstones of combating radical Islam within the U.S. These tools can be used still preserving the Constitution. And a final source… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Improvements on Tracking and Detecting American Bread Terrorists.  (2010, June 18).  Retrieved September 19, 2020, from

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