For years Americans have assumed that they are not as vulnerable to “homegrown” terrorists as Europe is. The 9/11 hijackers prepared inside the U.S., but they were not U.S. citizens. Of course John Walker Lindh achieved notoriety for fighting with the Taliban against the U.S. military, but he was not implicated in any terrorist plot against the U.S. homeland. In contrast, Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber,” was a British citizen. The perpetrators of the London bombings in 2005 were also homegrown terrorists.
Americans must rethink the perceived lack of homegrown terrorists in the U.S., however. In the last few months there have been numerous plots that should change perceptions for good. In September, the American Michael Finton was arrested by the FBI for trying to blow up a federal building in Springfield Illinois. Also in September, another terrorist plot was uncovered to bomb buildings in New York. Although the plotter, Najibullah Zazi, was not a U.S. citizen, he has lived in the U.S. for the last ten years. In November, U.S. citizen Nidal Malik Hasan gunned down 13 people and injured 32 others at Fort Hood. On December 7, the Justice Department filed charges against David Headley for helping to plot last year’s Mumbai terrorist attacks. Headley is a U.S. citizen who is also charged with plotting terrorist attacks against the Danish newspaper that published controversial cartoons depicting Mohammed. The Mumbai attacks killed six Americans and Headley is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens.
Just today Pakistani police arrested five American men who went missing from the Washington D.C. area last month. A farewell video left by one of them stated that Muslims must be defended and showed images of U.S. casualties. Family members tipped authorities off that the young men may have gone to Pakistan. It is as yet unknown whether they were there for “business or pleasure,” but it will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds over the next few days. In any case, there have been a number of homegrown terror plots in the last few months. Americans need to take the threat of homegrown terrorism seriously. Muslim Americans need to be better integrated into American society and not alienated. Addressing homegrown terrorism is yet another critical issue that the Obama administration needs to address in the coming months.