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Napolitano Toughens Language on Domestic Terrorism

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano offered a blunt assessment this week about domestic terrorism -- a term she described only as "man-caused incidents or disasters" just nine months ago.

"These recent arrests should remove any remaining comfort that some might have had that if we fight the terrorist abroad, we won't have to fight them here," she said. "If only the world were that simple. The fact is that home-based terrorism is here."

Speaking to the America-Israel friendship league in New York, the secretary said the spate of recent terrorism arrests left no doubt that extremists are inside the country.

"We are seeing young Americans who are inspired by Al Qaeda and radical ideology," she said.

Napolitano cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, the Denver airport shuttle bus driver who was arrested in September after allegedly training in Pakistan. Zazi, an American resident who was in court Thursday as more charges were considered, is part of a growing body of evidence that Americans are being radicalized.

"We are seeing increasing links between Al Qaeda and these citizens for purposes of planning terrorist attacks," she said.

Those bold statements about terrorism were in stark contrast to comments she made to a group of fire fighters in March.

"If you think about both from the man-caused and non man-caused incidents, but particularly on the man-caused, the weapon of mass destruction involving a hazardous chemical or biological weapon is very high up on the scenarios that we are seeing and the scenarios that we need to be prepared for."

And in February, Napolitano's prepared remarks, before a congressional committee, were leaked to the media by Republicans because there was no mention of the word "terror."

Asked if there has been an evolution in Napolitano's thinking, a Homeland Security spokeswoman said the secretary spoke frankly Wednesday night about the threat from those who are living in the U.S. and who are influenced by overseas terrorists.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.