Homegrown Islamic terrorists -- possibly including radicalized American soldiers -- who target U.S. military communities in the homeland are a "severe and emerging threat," according to a new Congressional report.
The report, released by the staff of Rep. Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says there have been at least 33 "threats, plots and strikes" against U.S. military communities since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the likelihood of another deadly attack by "militant Islamists" is a "severe threat."
"Military communities in the U.S. have recently become the most sought-after targets of violent Islamist extremists seeking to kill Americans in their homeland," King (R.-New York) said in his opening statements at a committee meeting today. "We cannot stand idly by while our heroes in uniform are struck down in the place they feel safest."
The report noted several high-profile domestic attacks and plots, most notably the November 2009 massacre at Ft. Hood in Texas in which Army Maj. Nidal Hasan allegedly gunned down 13 people -- many of them fellow soldiers -- and injured another 29.
The Fort Hood attack took place despite the FBI and Defense Department looking into communications Hasan had with radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force ran down intelligence leads relating to Hasan in late 2008 but closed the inquiry sometime in early 2009.
The Fort Hood shooting followed a June 2009 incident in Little Rock, Ark., where Carlos Bledsoe, who changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, shot two Army privates killing Army Private William Long. Muhammad was under FBI investigation for possible ties to terror and travel to Yemen.
The report went on to describe several other incidents, many thwarted attacks, involving members of the military or military targets.
"The threat we are discussing today is serious and enduring," said Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs, who testified before the joint hearing of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees today.
The report also highlighted concern about information sharing issues within the military in efforts to detect individuals who may be radicalized.
"Unresolved disagreements and communications deficiencies remain between the counterintelligence, intelligence and investigative branches of the military," the report noted.
Stockton referenced several information sharing efforts between the Defense Department and the FBI such as the eGuardian system, which allows tracking of threat reporting. He also said that military police have received increased training for responding to active shooters on bases.
The leading Democrat in the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), criticized the report, saying it paints a picture that is "not likely to be accurate, nuanced or subtle."
"Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to this nation's security is inaccurate, narrow, and blocks consideration of emerging threats," Thompson said. "A congressional hearing that focuses on religion and the military is likely to harm unit cohesion and undermine morale within our military."
Today's hearing was the fourth such hearing on the threat of radical Islamism this year.