NEW YORK – People in the U.S. who quietly band together and adopt radical ways — not just established overseas terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda — pose a serious threat to America's security, a new police analysis has concluded.
The New York Police Department report released Wednesday describes a process in which young men — often legal immigrants from the Middle East who are frustrated with their lives in their adopted country — adopt a philosophy that puts them on the path to violence and attacking civilians that Muslim extremists say is acceptable under jihad, or holy war.
At a briefing, NYPD officials argued that local law enforcement is best-suited to deal with the homegrown terror threat.
"Hopefully, the better we're informed about this process, the more likely we'll be to detect and disrupt it," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during the meeting with private security executives at police headquarters.
The study is based on an analysis of a series of domestic plots thwarted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including those in Lackawanna; Portland, Ore.; and Virginia. It was prepared by senior analysts with the NYPD Intelligence Division who traveled to Hamburg, Madrid and other overseas spots to confer with authorities about similar cases.
The report found homegrown terrorists often were indoctrinated in local "radicalization incubators" that are "rife with extremist rhetoric."
Instead of mosques, those places were more likely to be "cafes, cab driver hangouts, flop houses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah bars, butcher shops and bookstores," the report says.
The Internet also provides "the wandering mind of the conflicted young Muslim or potential convert with direct access to unfiltered radical and extremist ideology."
Kareem Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the findings faulty and potentially inflammatory.
"It plays right into the extremists' plans because it's going to end up angering the community," said Shora.
The report warns that potential terrorists are difficult for law enforcement to detect because they blend in well with society. It also argues that more intelligence gathering is needed to thwart potential terror plots at their earliest stages.
Potential homegrown terrorists "are not on the law enforcement radar," the study says. "Most have never been arrested or involved in any kind of legal trouble."
They "look, act, talk and walk like everyone around them," the study adds. "In the early stages of their radicalization, these individuals rarely travel, are not participating in any kind of militant activity, yet they are slowly building the mind-set, intention and commitment to conduct jihad."