28 December 2009

New Security Measures for America: Jihadi Transnational Terrorism

Walid Phares, FOX News Terrorism Expert, Director of FDD's Future of Terrorism Project, and author of Future Jihad (2006), highlighted the need for new training and re-training security initiatives on the federal, state, and local levels during his appearance on FOX this afternoon (28 December). The main task: To identify the radicalization process of jihadi terrorists. How can professionals, academics, and analysts alike differentiate between religious-minded persons and radicals?

Domestic terrorism is here, and transnational terrorism is now more scary than before because of a) the rate at which threats are arising and b) amount of time AQ and affiliates are organizing attacks on the homeland. Security agencies can counter this by following Walid's advice by increasing the rate at which we develop our protection and prevention measures (i.e. database management) and amount of time we institute training initiatives.

To aid this process, agencies have the opportunity to couple internal training with a strong recruitment campaign that broadens the pool. However, as Walid also notes, operating procedures need to be (re)defined to identify who among the acting and recruitment pool can access levels of security information. A successful strategic plan will rightly incorporate a structure for information sharing, which I call "bubblenet intelligence."

Such steps should begin simultaneously as President Obama's investigation is being conducted. The jihadi 20-year plan is entering a new phase, one I think we will see unfold at an increased rate over the next 1-2 years simply because AQ believes we are a) internally vulnerable and b) slow to counter. Of course, our activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, along with our (strained) diplomatic efforts with Iran, China, and Latin America, fuels their responsive activity.

Above all, what I think Walid is saying is that national security and international security agencies - in collaboration with one another - need to be more proactive in nature. A system needs to be implemented to ensure this transition, and I think it begins by understanding a strategic analytical framework for realistically quantifying religious radicalization. Furthermore, and perhaps one of the most important aspects of this training effort, is civic engagement with religious leaders. Community engagement promises a) steady growth of unity of mission as well as b) the ability to adapt to emerging scenarios while c) collecting sound intelligence to proactively stay ahead of the enemy at a successful rate for an extended amount of time.


  1. I agree with DP’s posting and would like to add a couple of additional comments. First, administration policies, especially those of Janet Napolitano that downplay the danger of AQ and domestic terrorists have created a perceived weakness that AQ and DT groups are quickly trying to exploit. They will exploit this weakness by continuously finding and trying to attack perceived gaps in our security and judicial systems. I believe we are now experiencing an increased frequency in attempts and I believe the frequency of attempts both internationally and domestically will increase over the coming months. I fully agree with community engagement at home, but I would also add that we need to develop some form of surveillance program to watch for prison radicalization as DP wrote in his 21 November posting. McKnife

  2. McKnife, thanks for your post. I recently posted my analysis on "Why the Christmas Day Detroit Terrorist Attack is Different" than previous AQ attacks, and look forward to hearing your comments on this topic.

    I do not think DHS and other agencies are attempting to downplay the danger of AQ; rather, I think AQ is morphing and federal leaders such as Secretary Napolitano are trying to understand their emerging tactics. However, not calling something what it is can seem to be a politically-centered approach itself.

    Hasan and Abdulmutallab are terrorists, and they are dangerous. What is more dangerous are the future planned attacks similar to theirs. The intelligence community needs to continue to implement programs that proactively monitor and counter such threats.

    Community engagement is a skill in itself, and I think leaders who are trained in the methods can be most successful. For example, when Muslim and Christian and Jewish leaders gather it is commonly agreed that participants listen first before responding.

    Community engagement must strike a balance between what is and what ought to be: one (individual, nation) can not be too soft or too harsh. It is important to understand this process as an aspect of the overall security strategy, as it is not the driving force.