- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
- U.N. warns of Muslim ‘cleansing’ in Central African Republic
- Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases
- Drug mix may have cured child born with HIV, doctors say
Boston bombings show a changing face of U.S. terrorism
The Boston Marathon bombings have ignited a debate in Washington and among terrorism analysts over how the wider threat facing the U.S. has evolved since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
The Tsarnaev brothers, who spent a solid portion of their formative years as immigrants to one of America’s oldest cities, present a completely different dilemma than the 19 globe-trotting al Qaeda operatives who flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon nearly 12 years ago.
From an operational standpoint, the Boston case suggests that the core threat facing the U.S. has shifted from one of internationally financed and plotted mass carnage to something more akin to “lone-wolf type attacks that are less deadly but more difficult to disrupt,” said Joseph Young, a professor at American University who specializes in the causes and consequences of terrorism.
“We’re seeing a rise in the number of individuals that are radicalizing in the United States and are plotting attacks without being members of an actual terrorist group,” Mr. Jones said. “If you look at a lot of the FBI arrests over the past several years, they’re individuals with nominal or no links with a terrorist organization overseas, but have simply been inspired to conduct attacks.”
He added that the “online component” in such cases is “increasingly important” because it opens a virtual world for anyone with an Internet connection to read jihadist websites and listen to online sermons by such extremist fomenters as Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual American-Yemini citizen who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
The fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, effectively grew up in the U.S. is important, said Mr. Young, who described their suspected terrorist action as a “mash-up between Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up Times Square in 2010 and the Columbine shooters in Colorado in 1999.”
“I think their motivation probably lies at the intersection of those two events,” he said. “Some sort of personal alienation mixed with a larger radical goal, which is poorly defined.”
A key part of the trend also appears to involve individuals, such as al-Awlaki, who straddle two worlds in their terrorist pursuits, keeping one foot in the U.S. while remaining — or becoming at some point in their young adulthood — emotionally connected to ideologies alive elsewhere on the planet.
One example is the 2009 case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American who pleaded guilty with two other defendants to plotting suicide bomb attacks on the New York City subway. In another case, Shahzad, a Pakistani-American citizen, confessed to attempting to carry out a car bombing in Times Square in 2010.
In both cases, the men “did go overseas for some training and then came back,” said Mr. Jones. “But they were Americans.”
The lack of a clear motive has prompted reflection among some on Capitol Hill, particularly among lawmakers briefed last week by the FBI on the probe into the Tsarnaevs’ activities before the Boston bombings — including a trip one of the brothers made to Chechnya last year.
The trip seems to suggest a connection to the Islamic extremists active in the break away Russian province, but the extent and relevance of such a connection has eluded authorities.
Alternatively, lawmakers said they were told during last week’s briefings that the Tsarnaev brothers likely learned bomb-making from jihadist websites — not from a terrorist school in a far-flung Muslim corner of the former Soviet Union.
“Probably the most profound questions that’s been raised by this is: Has the nature of the threat changed?” Rep. Adam B. Schiff said during a brief meeting with reporters after one of the FBI briefings Wednesday.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
- U.S. urges direct talks between Russia, new Ukraine government
- Israelis had U.S. help in intercepting Iranian missile shipment to Palestine
- Special congressional panel to investigate FBI contact with bin Laden
- EXCLUSIVE: FBI had human source in contact with bin Laden as far back as 1993
- Ambassador denies reports Iraq has weapons deal with Iran
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- BRUCE: Obama's bizarre immigration rules
- IRS to turn over Lerner emails in tea party targeting probe
- Unemployment insurance vote could happen next week
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- DELAY: A revolution for the Constitution
- PRUDEN: Likening Putin to Hitler on Ukraine shows Hillary's shaky grasp of history
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again