Updated May 25, 2010Effective intelligence gathering and a lack of sympathy from the Muslim community have helped discouraged jihadist terror attacks in the U.S. since 9-11-01, but a spike in domestic terrorism during 2009 gives us cause to worry and take special care in dealing with "Jihadi Hearts, Jihadi Minds," according to a new report from the RAND Corporation.
The RAND report, Would-Be Warriors, notes that only 2 of 46 reported cases of jihadist terrorism in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001 have resulted in one-or-more deaths. Thirteen victims died in the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, while an attack at an Army recruiting office in Arkansas resulted in one death.
"Jihadi Hearts, Jihadi Minds"
A Troubling Spike in Terrorism
While 46 cases in over eight years may seem a small number, 13 of them took place in 2009. "Last year was troubling because it saw the most incidents of domestic radicalization since 2001," said Would-Be Warriors author Brian Michael Jenkins. "While most of these plots were detected and foiled -- in many cases they were planned by would-be terrorists who were particularly inept -- there certainly will be more domestic terrorist attempts in the future."
"The 46 cases demonstrate earnest intent. The individuals were ready to be terrorists. Their ideological commitment was manifest. Some were naïve, some were adventurers, some were misguided. But many were no doubt sincere in their anger and determination, having made the ideological leap to armed jihad. They came into contact with U.S. authorities when they tried to act on their beliefs. They had, in the words of one prosecutor, 'jihadi hearts and jihadi minds,' and juries convicted them on their intent. -- Brian Michael Jenkins, Would-Be WarriorsJihad and the Internet
Jenkins suggests that the Internet has become a key factor in the recent increase in "homegrown" terrorism. "There has been a dramatic increase in the number of jihadist websites and chat rooms, and particularly the increase in English-language sites," he said. "Without ever leaving the United States -- or even their own homes -- would-be jihadists can readily find resonance and reinforcement of their own complaints, as well as other jihadists who are only too eager to encourage and focus their anger."
Intelligence and Policing
While U.S. efforts and techniques in terrorist intelligence gathering and sharing have been effective, Jenkins suggests that keeping us safe in the future will require a more forward-looking, preventive policing approach - intervention before the attack. "Traditional law enforcement, in which authorities attempt to identify and apprehend a perpetrator after a crime has been committed, is inadequate to deal with terrorists who are determined to cause many deaths and great destruction and who may not care whether they themselves survive," he writes.
American Muslims not Buying Into Jihad
According to Would-Be Warriors, all but two of the U.S.-based perpetrators of the 46 cases of jihadist terrorism have been Muslims or Muslim converts. But that fact alone should not result in mistrust of American Muslims, says Jenkins, who points out that "only a hundred or so" of the 3 million Muslims in the United States support armed jihad. "This suggests an American Muslim population that remains hostile to violent jihadist ideology," he said.
Keeping it That Way
In order to prevent future attacks by homegrown jihadists, U.S. authorities must maintain close and understanding communications with the Muslim community. But, warns Jenkins, heavy-handed tactics that could "easily discredit intelligence operations, provoke public anger and erode the most effective barrier of all to radicalization-the cooperation of the Muslim community," must be avoided.
Indeed, public relations must be treated as a key to any future homeland defense efforts. Exaggerating the terrorist threat and creating unrealistic expectations of a risk-free society - expecting absolute protection - will only inspire would-be jihadists to act, Jenkins warns. "So long as America's psychological vulnerability is on display, jihadists will find inspiration, and more recruitment and terrorism will occur," he said.
31 Foiled Attacks: About Conservative Politics Guide Justin Quinn offers a list of 31 foiled terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between September 11, 2001 and May 21, 2009.