Sue Myrick : Today, there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America.
Al Qaida in Gulf region assessed as new top security threat to U.S.
WASHINGTON — Officials said the U.S. intelligence community has determined that Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has emerged as the greatest national security threat.
They said AQAP, which operates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, has replaced the direct threat from Al Qaida leadership along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I actually consider Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula [to be] probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland,” National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter said.A poster of wanted Al Qaida operatives on display in a police station in San’a, Yemen. Adam Reynolds/The Washington Times
In testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee on Feb. 9, Leiter cited repeated AQAP plots to attack U.S. passengers and cargo aircraft over the 14 months. He linked AQAP with the killing of 11 U.S. soldiers by a Muslim officer in 2009.
“They’ve been quite successful at being innovators,” Leiter said.
On Feb. 10, National Intelligence director James Clapper said Al Qaida was not believed to have recruited many Americans. But Clapper, responsible for the intelligence community, said these recruits were more dangerous than other non-Americans because of their access to and understanding of U.S. critical sites.
“We’re especially focused on Al Qaida’s resolve to target Americans for recruitment, and to spawn affiliate groups around the world,” Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee. “We also see disturbing instances of self-radicalization among our own citizens. Last year, the intelligence community helped disrupt plots and provide information that led to the arrest of homegrown violent extremists here in the United States.”
Officials said Al Qaida has increased its threat to the United States to the highest level since the suicide air attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. They said AQAP and other Al Qaida networks were recruiting Americans and other Westerners for mass-casualty suicide operations.
“This shift, as far as I’m concerned, is a game changer that presents a serious challenge to law enforcement and the intelligence community,” House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King said. “The committee cannot ignore the fact that Al Qaida is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror.”
Congress has urged the administration of President Barack Obama to respond to the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community. Leading members have called for a review of the American Muslim community, which the government had long asserted was immune to radicalization.
“We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society,” Rep. Sue Myrick, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a letter to Obama. “There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind. Today, there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident.”