Before the Underwear Bomber, and the vows of Yemen-based terrorists to strike Americans, 2009 was notable for the number of terror threats that originated within the United States. From Fort Hood, Texas to the D.C. suburbs, Americans have been surprised to find their own neighbors plotting or committing violence.
"It's been a bad year for America," said Jarret Brachman, an expert on terrorism and the author of "Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice," because now the power of the Web has become apparent.
In many of these instances, Brachman explained, the suspected terrorists radicalized themselves via the Internet . Previously, said Brachman, al Qaeda and other militant Islamic propaganda might have only been available online in Arabic, but now English versions are easily accessible.
"al Qaeda has transformed from a terrorist organization that uses the media into a media organization that uses terrorism," said Brachman. "By doing that, they're not just a centralized group in Afghanistan, Pakistan. It becomes an ideology that anyone can buy into."
Among the instances of homegrown terror this year:
The Alexandria Five
Accused of Seeking to Join Pakistani Militants
In November, five young men from Washington, D.C. suburbs traveled to Pakistan to train for jihad, Pakistani police said.
Identified as Ramy Zamzam, Umar Farooq, Waqar Khan, Ahmad Mini, and Aman Hassan Yemer, the men reportedly became radicalized on the Internet. 20-year-old Mini frequented YouTube, where he praised videos showing attacks on U.S. troops.
According to a Pakistani interrogation report, the men ended up in a house in Sargodha in Northeast Pakistan after traveling to the country on separate flights over the Thanksgiving weekend. They were allegedly on their way to al Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan in hopes of targeting U.S. troops when they were arrested. Their families back home had alerted the FBI that they were missing.
The men are currently being held in Lahore, where a high court ordered they cannot be deported to the U.S. without its consent. On December 30, Pakistani police said they would seek terrorism charges against the men, which could mean life sentences if they are found guilty.
FBI agents have had access to them and are also looking into any potential U.S. charges.
Accused of Assisting in the 2008 Mumbai Attack and Plotting Attacks in Denmark
Headley, a U.S. citizen born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C., is accused of helping the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba plot the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, India, which killed more than 170 people.
Two months ago, authorities arrested the 49-year-old and charged him with scouting locations for the assault. According to court documents, Headley went to Mumbai five times between Sep. 2006 and July 2008. During each visit, he allegedly took pictures and shot video of places later hit in the attacks, as well as the spot where the attackers would land by boat.
Headley is also accused of conspiring to attack a Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in Sep. 2005. Court documents assert Headley had twice traveled to Denmark to prepare for the assault. Authorities say he had also traveled to Pakistan and met with terrorist groups to talk about plans to attack the paper.