- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s murderous rampage at Fort Hood last month that killed 13 was a wake-up call on the continuing threat to our nation from radical Islam and the growing problem of homegrown terrorism. We need to quickly launch a thorough investigation and congressional hearings to understand these threats and how to defend our nation from them.

Unfortunately, not only is there is a lack of urgency to investigate the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting from the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, but there has been a troubling refusal by Obama officials to acknowledge that the shooting likely was an act of homegrown terrorism.

How can it be that the House Committee on Homeland Security has launched an investigation and called hearings within a week to look into the couple who crashed a recent White House state dinner, yet a month after Fort Hood there has yet to be a single congressional hearing into the Fort Hood attack? I fear that our nation is returning to the naive security outlook of Sept. 10, 2001, when radical Islamic terrorist attacks were considered law enforcement and criminal problems and not threats to our national security.

It is urgent that we immediately begin to better develop the record of the Fort Hood shooting as a possible case of homegrown terrorism and investigate the intelligence failures that prevented it from being detected. Americans underestimate the threat from homegrown terrorism. The president said it is inconceivable that this would happen in America. Wrong. It is not inconceivable and is a growing global problem that needs to be addressed.

During 2009, there were arrests of persons allegedly planning homegrown terrorist attacks in New York, Chicago, North Carolina and Atlanta. Russia recently has seen several alleged homegrown terrorism attacks, including a train bombing and an attack against a gas storage facility. There were horrific homegrown terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In 2006, 18 homegrown terrorists were arrested in Toronto. It has happened here and will happen again if we don’t act. We cannot wish it away.

We need to understand how homegrown terrorism works if we are to identify and stop homegrown terrorists before they carry out acts of violence. How are al Qaeda leaders and other radical jihadists recruiting and radicalizing homegrown terrorists? A principle route seems to be the Internet. We know that Maj. Hasan was in contact via the Internet with radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and that Mr. al-Awlaki’s sermons have influenced would-be homegrown terrorists in the United States and the terrorists who launched the deadly 2005 London subway bombings.

Mr. al-Awlaki, who was born in the U.S. and speaks perfect English, has been using his own Web page, social-networking sites such as Facebook, and e-mail to preach a message of violence to English speaking Muslims around the world. We need to better understand how Mr. al-Awlaki and other radical jihadist figures are using new technologies to recruit and communicate with their homegrown followers.

We also need to understand how radical Jihadist groups are being financed. It has been reported that Maj. Hasan sent money abroad to Islamic charities that reportedly support terrorism. How much funding are these so-called charities receiving from the U.S.? How much U.S. government funding is indirectly going to these groups? I don’t know whether suspect Islamic charities are supporting radical jihadists such as Mr. al-Awlaki, but this is possibility that should be looked into.

An investigation of the drivers behind homegrown radical jihadists must be realistic and focused on the extremist ideas of radical jihadists leaders such as Mr. al-Awlaki, who recently posted a long article on the Internet stating his beliefs that the West is at war with Islam, that democracy is not Islamic, and that moderate Muslims are non-Muslims. Contrast this with the assertion by those who claim the Guantanamo Bay prison facility is a factor driving the radical Islamist ideology and that by closing this facility and trying its al Qaeda suspects in New York we will somehow tame radical jihadism. It is hard to understand the logic behind such a claim since radical jihadist ideology predates the Guantanamo facility by decades. Clearly Mr. al-Awlaki and other radical jihadists are not going to suddenly moderate their views because we closed the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The serious national security implications of the Fort Hood shooting concern both a possible homegrown terrorist attack and a likely failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to cooperate, yet Congress has done nothing to investigate and the Obama administration has stonewalled requests by individual members of Congress for information.

The Obama administration seems to forget that it is a requirement, not an option, for the executive branch to keep Congress fully and currently informed. Instead of a healthy discussion with Congress on why this horrible event occurred, we have something akin to pulling teeth to get even basic information. This is wrong and it makes me wonder what Congress will find when the layers are pulled back.

The Fort Hood shooting brings to the surface serious threats to our national security. These threats require three things from the president and congressional leaders: leadership, action and speed. We cannot wait for the next homegrown jihadist to strike.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, is ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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