Threat of homegrown terrorists real and growing

Mar 11, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

By Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
The Hill
03/11/11

Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” While the media seems to have a strong opinion on this subject, I applaud Chairman King for holding this hearing.
 
I have known Peter King since my very first day in Congress.  He is a passionate defender of life and liberty. He is frank, candid and asks the tough questions to help keep our nation safe.
 
Serving on the Homeland Security Committee since 2005, one of the questions I am constantly asked back in East Alabama is “where the next terrorist attack will be?” I have to respond to my constituents with the hard truth that it’s not a matter of if the attack will occur, but when it will happen.

The Department of Homeland Security was created following the cowardly 9/11 terrorist attacks. The House Committee on Homeland Security was created thereafter to provide strong oversight of the Department, its activities and the threats facing our nation. The United States has been vigilant in keeping our homeland safe since 9/11, but over the past several years, we’ve seen a new type of terrorist threat emerge, one that comes from within, which in my opinion is a grave threat to our homeland security.
 
Just like in one’s family, you know the people, their strengths and weaknesses and their routines. So, having someone from within our own country, our large and diverse family, plot an attack on our family makes the possibilities so much more harmful.
 
We’ve seen the attempted terrorist attacks like the New York Times Square bombing attempt. Threats like this underscore the growing seriousness of the home grown terrorist threat.
 
We also saw the tragedy unfold with Nidal Hasan, the U.S. born Army officer who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. Hasan’s move toward radicalization and violence was facilitated by e-mail communications with the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
 
Even back in my home state of Alabama, Omar Hammami, an American citizen who grew up in Daphne, Alabama, just outside Mobile, went from a regular middle class kid to a leader in al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliate in Somalia. In May 2010, Hammami was seen on videotapes promoting the terrorist organization.  In August, he was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  There are unconfirmed reports that he was recently killed fighting for al-Shabaab in Somalia. His father, a Syrian-born Muslim working for Alabama’s Department of Transportation, was quoted in the Press – Register as saying his son had "gone against everything I taught him" by devoting himself to radical Islam.
 
If a kid from small town Alabama can transform into a violent al-Qaeda jihadist fighting with terrorists in Somalia, then imagine what’s possible if after radicalization one decides to stay here in the U.S. to conduct an attack.
 
This Congress began with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifying that our country’s threat level is the most “heightened state” since the 9/11 attack. Al Qaeda has become increasingly decentralized and widespread.
 
More and more, we are seeing the radicalization of young Muslims in the United States. Since many of our policies have made it more difficult for terrorists to get into our nation to do us harm, the more they are trying to recruit and radicalize Americans. This challenge is but one threat, but it is one that must be examined.
 
Let me be clear, homegrown terrorists are a threat to all peaceful, law abiding Americans. The threat is real and growing. Any and all terrorist threats to Americans must be defeated using all means available.
 
I commend Chairman King on holding these hearings, and I hope Congress will continue to have these serious conversations on how to keep our homeland safe from terrorist attacks.

Rep. Mike Rogers serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security.