It is unprecedented in American counterterrorism annals: In one day the nation was dealing with three separate jihadist plots to blow up civilian and other targets inside the homeland. Although the FBI and other agencies addressed the cases at different time periods, the thickening web of terror attempts nevertheless breached the crossing line of U.S. national security.
This week, authorities revealed three conspiracies by American jihadists: Michael C. Finton, 29, who wished to follow American-born Taliban John Walker Lindh, was arrested after trying to detonate what he thought was a bomb inside a van outside a federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian national, was arrested after placing what he believed was a bomb at a downtown Dallas skyscraper.
But perhaps the most troubling case is of Afghan-born Najibullah Zazi, who set up shop in suburban Denver, scouting the Web and visiting beauty supply stores in a hunt for chemicals needed to build bombs for al-Qaida. Sources called the alleged plot one of the most significant terror threats to the U.S. since 9/11. Add to the list the North Carolina jihad cell, led by Daniel Patrick “Saifullah” Boyd, which was planning on attacking civilian and military targets across the country.
The immediate question raised by an increasingly worried public is the connection between these terror cases. While law enforcement and judicial authorities proceed in a bottom-up reasoning, that is to build the case for a global connection between what is happening with the help of legal evidence, counterterrorism and conflict analysts are already understanding what is happening inside America.
In my book “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America” (2005-2006) I clearly projected that jihadists, individuals, and cells will be mushrooming and expanding inside the United States within few year from then, and that they will precisely do what they are trying to do now. I have also projected how large they will become, with time.
It was a simple deduction: if the government doesn’t counter this ideological growth, jihadists will keep coming. And in fact they kept coming, spreading crossing the barriers of ethnicities, races, nationalities, and geographical frontiers. The jihadists committed to harm the U.S., and based inside our borders, are now in the hundreds. When I suggested this fact on CNN in 2006, and reiterated it on Oprah Winfrey’s show, I raised a few eyebrows. Now unfortunately, we are meeting the cells of jihadism in our cities and little towns, and sadly the expectation is that we will see more, and we may not be able to stop them all from reaching their goals.
The North Carolina cell, the New York subway plot, the Dallas attempt, and the Illinois case added to the previous cases of the shooting of a soldier in Arkansas, the precedent New York cells, Georgia’s young jihadists, all the way back to the infamous Virginia paintball network, gives us a glimpse of what is morphing inside the country. It is a vast body of dispersed cells with at least one binding force: the jihadi ideology.
Who is propagating the doctrines of jihadism? Who is funding it? Who is protecting the indoctrination operation that leads naturally to the rise of homegrown, foreign-linked, lone wolf, or packs of jihadists and terrorists? More importantly, where is the factory?
What should the U.S. government do? It must first confront the threat and lead the nation against it. This is not a matter of only local police or law enforcement efforts. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties must give this spreading plague a top priority: For if one of these groups is successful, our economy will crumble again, or at least will be wounded even more severely than 9/11, let alone the human consequences of terror. Americans are watching with great concern as these terror plots are revealed. They expect their elected officials to address these fears before the worst happens.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad” and a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Phares is an advisor to the U.S. House Caucus on Counterterrorism. www.walidphares.com
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