By Phil Stewart
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States faces a growing threat from home-grown insurgents and an "Americanization" of al-Qaeda leadership, the former heads of the 9/11 Commission reported Friday.
Former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean (R) and former congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) presented the 43-page study by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center. They described the document as a wake-up call about the radicalization of Muslims in the United States and the changing strategy of al-Qaeda and its allies.
"The threat that the U.S. is facing is different than it was nine years ago," the report states. "The U.S. is arguably now little different from Europe in terms of having a domestic terrorist problem involving immigrant and indigenous Muslims as well as converts to Islam."
It says al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen had minimally established an "embryonic" recruitment infrastructure in the United States.
It pointed to convictions last year of at least 43 American citizens or residents aligned with militant ideology, and high-profile cases of recruits who went abroad for training.
"In the past year alone the United States has seen affluent suburban Americans and the progeny of hard-working immigrants gravitate to terrorism," the report says. "There seems no longer any clear profile of a terrorist."
And Americans were also increasingly forming part of the leadership of al-Qaeda and its allies, it added.
"There is little precedent for the high-level operational roles that Americans are currently playing in al-Qaeda and affiliated groups," the report says.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people, the report says the intelligence community had wrongly believed that al-Qaeda was intent on "matching or besting the loss of life and destruction" it had caused.
It is now clear that militants see operational value in conducting more frequent and less sophisticated attacks, which are harder to detect and require less high level coordination.
"American officials and the wider public should realize that, by the law of averages, al-Qaeda or an affiliate will succeed in getting some kind of attack through in the next years," says the report.
"The best response [to an attack] would be to demonstrate that we as a society are resilient and are not being intimidated by such actions," it continues.