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Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Threat of home grown terrorism growing in US'

WASHINGTON: A top intelligence official has said the threat of home grown terrorism is growing in the United States and the phenomenon needs to be understood to effectively tackle it.

Charles Allen, the Chief Intelligence Officer with the Department of Homeland security, told a Congressional panel on Tuesday that, "We are increasingly facing the threat of homegrown terrorists. The US-UK aviation plot, occurring a year after the subway attacks in the United Kingdom, was a wake-up call to the British in terms of the breadth and depth of Islamic radicalization there".

The agencies involved in tracking down terrorism are yet to come up with precise answers on why it is that America has yet to come up with a national assessment of the problem, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was told.

Allen said the authorities have been going about with care and caution in pursuing the issue of homegrown radicalism and terrorism so that the general sensitivities of the Muslim Americans are not offended.

"We believe the radicalisation threat we face in the homeland is different from that currently confronted in Western Europe, but we remain concerned that radicalization will eventually spawn operational attacks in the homeland if we do not gain deeper insights into the phenomenon and actively work to deter it."

"To date, extremist individuals in the US have proven to be involved primarily in aspirational plotting, hatched largely by isolated actors who lack the will or the capability to carry out large-scale attacks."

"In contrast, plots involving homegrown extremists in the UK and Western Europe have been linked to Al-Qaida and other terrorist networks. We have yet to find such deep linkages in the United States, but we remain vigilant and we recognize we're not immune to the threat" Allen said.

"To address Islamic radicalization, my office is taking a geographic and collaborative approach to assessing radicalization in the homeland. Working with our state and local partners, we initially have focused on assessing radicalization in California and in the New York City metropolitan area, to include New Jersey. We're now focusing on the Midwest, the national capital region, and Texas" Allen remarked in response to a query.

"We will conduct additional regional or state assessments. And our goal is to build a baseline that addresses the how and the why of radicalization at the local level. Again with our state and local partners, we will use this baseline to develop a national assessment of radicalization" he added.

In a different context, Allen maintained that the Internet is indeed a major "driver" for self-radicalisation even as officials have said that relevant authorities in the administration are keeping a very close watch on those potential radical elements that might enter the country including Imams on the religious "R" Visas.

During the course of the hearing the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who testified was asked how authorities differentiate between terrorism motivated by radicalised Islam versus other types of extremist ideologies.
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