New report warns of homegrown terror threat

Liz Goodwin

A new report says Americans face greater danger from U.S. citizens and residents recruited into terror than from weakened al-Qaida jihadists abroad.

The Bipartisan Policy Center's report (PDF) says that al-Qaida is unable to pull off another large-scale attack like the group did on 9/11, but that leaders of the global terrorist network could recruit Americans to carry out smaller attacks.

"The U.S. is arguably now little different from Europe in terms of having a domestic terrorist problem involving immigrant and indigenous Muslims as well as converts to Islam," the report said, while emphasizing that the threat remains small.

Even with this shift, the report points out, only 14 Americans have died in terrorist attacks since 9/11. Thirteen of those fatalities occurred in the Ft. Hood shooting perpetrated by American citizen Maj. Nidal Hasan.

Catching homegrown terrorists can be tough because they don't match any one profile. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square, had an MBA. Colleen LaRose, aka "Jihad Jane," was a suburban housewife. And many of the potential homegrown terrorists are becoming radicalized online, a forum that permits terrorists to reach and recruit people far more readily than conventional outreach tactics do.

The report contained some good news: Support for al-Qaida in the Muslim world is waning, it concludes, and the group's credibility among Muslims has fallen significantly since the 9/11 attacks. The report predicts that eroding support for the group will eventually cause it to die out.