Another “homegrown” terrorist cell with ties to terrorists living abroad.5:10 PM, Aug 27, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The news out of Canada is that authorities have broken up a terrorist cell that had more than 50 electronic circuit boards that could be used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The details of the plot are still a bit cloudy, but Canadian authorities were quick to point out that the plotters had ties to other actors in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Dubai. One of the cell members taken into custody had reportedly received terrorist training in Afghanistan/Pakistan. And this raises a basic point.
The Canadian plotters are being referred to as a “homegrown” cell, which is true from a certain point of view. They all lived in the West, and it is likely that some if not all of them were radicalized while living in Canada. But when analysts and commentators say “homegrown” they often act as if this is something new – as if we now have to worry about terrorists being indoctrinated in the West, whereas previously we did not. In that sense, the terminology is misleading.
Al Qaeda operatives and like-minded terrorists have long been recruiting in the West. The suicide hijack pilots for the September 11 operation were indoctrinated in Hamburg, Germany. Other al Qaeda terrorists were recruited in the U.S. long before the 9/11 attacks. So, “homegrown” terrorism isn’t new.
The scope of the “homegrown” threat has certainly increased since 9/11. In that sense, the phrasing is helpful. The ability of al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki and other top jihadists to indoctrinate susceptible new recruits via the Internet is just one prominent example of how the homegrown threat has evolved and grown.
There is another aspect to the “homegrown” moniker that is misleading. At least one of the alleged terrorists arrested in Canada traveled to Afghanistan/Pakistan for training. Much of the time this is the case: Even terrorists who are indoctrinated in the West end up traveling abroad to receive training.
This underscores the importance of physical safe havens.
Consider some of the terrorist attacks/plots since January 2009. Najibullah Zazi’s plot against New York City commuter trains was broken up in 2009, but only after Zazi was trained by al Qaeda in northern Pakistan. The would-be Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, was first indoctrinated in the UK but traveled to Yemen for training before trying to blow up Flight 253. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to detonate a car bomb in the middle of Times Square, lived in the U.S. for years and was first radicalized here, but he traveled to northern Pakistan to receive training from the Pakistani Taliban.
On the other side of the ledger, the Fort Hood Shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was radicalized here in the U.S. but never traveled abroad for training as far as we know. Then again, Hasan didn’t need training for the type of operation he pulled off. It is easy to pick up a gun and start shooting. It is much more difficult to blow up trains (Zazi), construct an underwear bomb (Abdulmutallab), or detonate a car bomb (Shahzad). It is so difficult that even after receiving training two of these terrorists failed to achieve their mission despite being able to deploy their weapons of mass terror.
In this admittedly limited sample then, three of four “homegrown” terrorists who have targeted the U.S. since January 2009 all traveled abroad to one of the jihadists’ safe havens for training. The Canadian cell is no different. The cell received at least some training abroad.
The bottom line is that “homegrown” terrorism does not mean that the terrorists themselves are unconnected to the global jihadist threat. Quite often they seek out and receive assistance from professional terrorists living in jihadist hotspots abroad. Terrorist safe havens are still an important part of the threat we face.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
It is no wonder the Obama administration sent a “warning” to Pakistan’s leaders.11:30 AM, May 24, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Writing at the Daily Beast a few days ago, Philip Shenon (formerly an investigative reporter at the New York Times) had a scoop that deserves wider attention. According to Shenon, a “senior federal law enforcement official” told him that the Obama administration has sent a “clear, if carefully worded warning” to Pakistani leaders.
8:30 PM, May 17, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Quoting the Koran in a 2006 email, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad wrote that "those who believe" should "fight in the Cause of Allah." Shahzad expressed anger over the cartoon drawings of Mohammed, conflicts that pitted Muslims against non-Muslims, and democracy.
America remains the main target, not the aggressor, in the conflict with radical Islam.1:40 PM, May 17, 2010 • By IRFAN AL-ALAWI and STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
In the aftermath of the failed Times Square bombing, the world appears--not for the first time--to be catching on about Pakistan. That country’s reality is simple: Radical Islamist movements have a choke-hold over the military and intelligence services, and blackmail Islamabad into subsidizing jihadist activities across South Asia, from Afghanistan to Burma, the latter with a small Muslim community. In addition, the large Pakistani diaspora, mainly in the UK and U.S., shelters numerous active agents of and contributors to terrorist efforts.
The secretary of state takes notice of a dangerous link. 12:33 PM, May 11, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
On 60 Minutes Sunday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made what CBS News rightly called a “remarkable” allegation. Secretary Clinton was first asked if the would-be Times Square bomber had ties to terrorists operating out of Pakistan. “There are connections,” Clinton responded before expressing some ambiguity as to the precise nature of those connections. (Other senior Obama administration, including Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan clarified those connections earlier in the day.)
Clinton was asked what message she would deliver to the Pakistanis in the wake of the Times Square attack. She answered:
Eight hours after the failed bombing, an email arrived claiming ‘responsibility of recent Attack on Times Square Newyork USA.’May 17, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 33 • By BILL ROGGIO
Early Sunday morning, May 2, I awoke and followed my usual routine: Grabbed a cup of coffee, logged onto my computer, scanned the news for major developments in the war, and checked my email. It was no ordinary morning, though, as the evening before someone had attempted to set off a car bomb in Times Square in New York City.
The absurd battle to use terror to further the anti-Second Amendment agenda. 1:49 PM, May 7, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Mayor Mike is coming for your guns, but not even this administration -- and this Congress -- is naive enough to play along. Bloomberg appealed to Congress this week to address what is oddly being called the "terror gap," but which supporters of Second Amendment rights better describe as "secret government lists." The question is this: Should U.S. citizens on terror watch lists be allowed to purchase firearms? The answer from Congress is yes (though the Huffington Post and the New York Times would have you believe it's just Republicans obstructing Bloomberg's "common sense" proposal).
11:00 AM, May 5, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Byron York notices an alarming paragraph deep inside a New York Times profile of Faisal Shahzad:
George LaMonica, a 35-year-old computer consultant, said he bought his two-bedroom condominium in Norwalk, Conn., from Mr. Shahzad for $261,000 in May 2004. A few weeks after he moved in, Mr. LaMonica said, investigators from the national Joint Terrorism Task Force interviewed him, asking for details of the transaction and for information about Mr. Shahzad. It struck Mr. LaMonica as unusual, but he said detectives told him they were simply “checking everything out.
We were lucky Shahzad’s bomb fizzled. Next time we might not be as lucky.5:50 PM, May 4, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
On Sunday morning, Janet Napolitano twice suggested that the attempted attack in Times Square was a "one-off" event during an interview with ABC News. ABC's Jake Tapper had asked Napolitano directly about the possibility of international involvement, given the similarities (superficial, at least) between the crude bomb discovered in the Nissan Pathfinder in New York City and those used in attempted bombings in London and Glasgow in 2007. "Well, right now, we have no evidence that it is anything other than a one-off, but we are alerting state, local officials around the country, letting them know what is going on."
Calling the attempted attack a "one-off" wasn't directly responsive to Tapper's question. But it's clear that Napolitano, who also described the bomb as "amateurish," wanted to downplay the seriousness of the attack.
3:59 PM, May 4, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
While in Washington, D.C. today for fundraising events, Marco Rubio was asked whether Faisal Shahzad, a the alleged Times Square bomber, should be Mirandized.
His initial response was ambivalent. "It all depends on how they're going to try him. And that's an important question that we're facing," Rubio said. "That's one of the great challenges of the war on terror."
2:14 PM, May 4, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
An FBI official says Faisal Shahzad was put on a no-fly list hours before his arrest, but he was apprehended on a flight he booked on the way to the airport and which he paid for in cash.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while refusing to criticize agencies, said the suspect was "clearly on the plane and shouldn't have been." An FBI official said Shahzad was placed on No Fly list hours before his arrest.
We can’t keep relying on Lady Luck.12:48 PM, May 4, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Faisal Shahzad, a 30 year-old naturalized American citizen from Pakistan, has been arrested as the chief suspect behind the failed car bomb attack on Times Square this past Saturday. The good news is, of course, that the bomb was fairly unsophisticated (showing a low-level of expertise), it failed to detonate (sparing the lives of New Yorkers and tourists), and the man believed to be responsible for assembling and deploying the car bomb was apprehended in short order. Authorities were able to pinpoint the would-be terrorist in impressively little time.
It is not all good news, however. Law enforcement and intelligence officials failed to stop the perpetrator from placing his bomb in the first place. We were simply lucky that onlookers weren’t killed. If this was truly the work of a rogue individual, a “one-off” event as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested on Sunday, then that failure would be somewhat understandable. As law enforcement and intelligence professionals have repeatedly lamented, it is exceedingly difficult to stop a “lone wolf” terrorist.