Friday, May 09, 2008

Senate Report on Homegrown Terrorism

I don't really have much to say about the new Senate report on homegrown terrorism and Internet recruiting, because it covers ground that I've covered before.

But after 10 pages - more than half the report - describing al Qaeda's sophisticated media, communications and marketing campaigns, this stuck out like a sore thumb:

[T]he U.S. government has not developed nor implemented a coordinated outreach and communications strategy to address the homegrown terrorist threat, especially as that threat is amplified by the use of the Internet. According to testimony received by the Committee, no federal agency has been tasked with developing or implementing a domestic communications strategy. While there are a series of outreach efforts being pursued by federal agencies, those efforts are limited, isolated, and not part of a strategic, government-wide policy to significantly minimize the influence of violent Islamist ideology in the United States. ...

And finally, the efforts by DHS' Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the FBI’s Community Relations Unit are not tied into programs administered by local police departments, some of which are quite comprehensive.
Lesson to local law enforcement and homeland security professionals: If it is to be, it is up to you. (Be countersubversive.)

It's worth remembering that, while someone can be radicalized via the Internet, two things remain true:

1. Radicalization involves a separation from society, so if recruits can be pulled back into the real world of family and society, the process can be reversed.

2. Before recruits can become a legitimate threat, they need tactical skills. To some extent these are available via the Internet (e.g., bomb recipes). But for larger, high-yield attacks, they need to coordinate with others, raise money, and perhaps acquire specialized training. Making these connections and participating in this type of training can be a significant vulnerability for them, as it requires them to leave the relative safety of the virtual world.

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