Homegrown terrorists target military bases

Dec 7, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

Newsday -- by Tom Brune

WASHINGTON -- U.S. military bases have become the target of choice for homegrown terrorists since 2009 and account for more than half of the plots since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a report released Wednesday.

That pattern was highlighted by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who convened an unusual joint session of the House and Senate homeland security committees as his fourth hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims.

As with the other sessions, civil libertarians and Democrats criticized King for focusing on one religion -- Islam -- instead of all sources of terror.

Since the 9/11 attacks, at least 33 public cases have prosecuted or investigated homegrown terrorists in the United States who plotted to or have attacked the military, according to the report by the House panel's GOP majority.

Of those, 23 have occurred since mid-2009, King said, calling it "part of the broader surge of homegrown Islamist terrorism."

Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Stockton said the Pentagon is well aware of the trend.

"Let me provide you with the bottom line upfront: The terrorist threat to our military communities is serious and enduring," Stockton said.

The hearing focused on two domestic attacks on the military in 2009: Major Nidal Hasan's shooting spree that killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, and Muslim-convert Carlos Bledsoe's rifle shots at a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting center that wounded one soldier and killed Army Pvt. William Long.

Stockton, who oversees homeland defense, said the Pentagon had responded to those incidents by better sharing information with the FBI, training soldiers and officers to watch for behavioral clues to identify potential violent terrorists, and establishing a system to report concerns.

King and Republicans criticized that response as too "politically correct" because it fails to use the term "violent Islamic extremists" in training and for identifying potential terrorists.

Stockton said focusing on behavior instead of ideology works better for reporting potential terrorists within the military.

In the hearing, Daris Long criticized the White House for failing to treat the shooting of his son in Little Rock as a terrorist attack. The White House did not have an immediate response.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) criticized the session's focus, saying a hearing "that identifies one religion as a likely threat to military is not only inaccurate but unwise."

At least 6,024 self-identified Muslim military members have served overseas since 9/11, the committee report said. At least 14 Muslim service members have been killed in action.