'Jihad Jane's' Arrest Raises Fears About Homegrown Terrorists

Jihad Janes Arrest Raises Concern About Homegrown TerroristsABC News
The arrest of a suburban Pennsylvania woman known by the alias Jihad Jane, who was allegedly plotting with Islamic radicals abroad to kill a Swedish cartoonist, has raised concerns about homegrown terrorists in the United States who may be difficult to to spot.

The arrest of a suburban Pennsylvania woman known by the alias Jihad Jane, who allegedly plotted with Islamic radicals abroad to kill a Swedish cartoonist, has raised fears about homegrown terrorists in the United States who may be difficult to spot.

"This woman might as well have advertised in the Washington Post," former White House counterterrorism official and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke said on "Good Morning America" today. "It was easy for the FBI to find her, but there are other people who are much more covert."

VIDEO: Jihad Jane ArrestedPlay
Jihad Jane: U.S. Citizen Goes Rogue

"There will likely be more attacks," Clarke said. "Hopefully, they will be small, and hopefully, we can catch them early."

Colleen R. LaRose, 46, of Montgomery, Pa., was arrested in October 2009 and charged with trying to recruit Islamic fighters and plotting to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist who made fun of prophet Mohammed, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.

The FBI had kept the case secret while it looked for more suspects in the United States and abroad. The case was made public after seven men were arrested in Ireland this week, suspected of plotting to kill the Swedish cartoonist.

LaRose's case is rare, Clark said, but it shows the capability of international dissident groups to reach out to Americans via the Internet.

"This is a very rare case of a disturbed woman," he said, but it signifies how "the Internet not only allows them to communicate, it allows them to recruit."

Their persuasive speeches and sermons, which have been effective in recruiting men and women in the Middle East, are "beginning to work for some misfits in the United States," he said.

LaRose was arrested in Philadelphia Oct. 16, 2009, and has been in federal custody ever since, without bail. She has not entered a plea. If convicted, she faces a potential sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.

Her three federal public defender lawyers have yet to return calls from ABC News.

LaRose could easily fit the part of a soccer mom. She was described by neighbors as an average housewife.

"Oh, my God, unbelievable, I can't believe that," one neighbor told ABC News.

Another said the news was an "amazing, shocking surprise."

Clarke said there is likely a small group of people like LaRose. But their numbers are less of a concern than the idea that radical groups can convey their ideology via this "remote control through cyberspace," he said.

"I think it's very small but it doesn't have to be very large," he said. "So it's not so much a matter of size. It's the fact that it's going on."

Authorities said LaRose's U.S. citizenship and appearance made her appealing to the Islamic radicals she first contacted on the Internet.

"The terrorists figured out that they can't all look like Middle Eastern people, whether they be male or female," former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said. "And so they've put a lot of time and energy particularly into the Internet, of recruiting people."

LaRose is better known to federal authorities as Fatima Rose or Jihad Jane. On June 20, 2008, LaRose allegedly posted a video on YouTube calling herself JihadJane and stating she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, according to news station WPVI.

The indictment, obtained by ABC News, charged LaRose with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft.

Alleged Traget Identified as Lars Vilks

LaRose is also accused of making false statements to a government official and of attempted identity theft, a passport she allegedly stole with the intention of giving to an Islamic fighter. The court papers alleged that LaRose reached out through the Internet to jihadist groups saying she was "desperate to do something to help" suffering Muslim people, and that she desired to become a martyr.

She stated in her e-mails "that her physical appearance would allow her to 'blend in with many people' which 'may be a way to achieve what is in my heart,'" the indictment stated.

In her e-mails with five unindicted co-conspirators in South Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, LaRose allegedly agreed to recruit men and women for jihad, to raise money for Islamic fighters, and agreed on the Internet to one jihadist's request to "marry me to get me inside Europe."

In March 2009, the indictment stated, she allegedly received a directive to "got to sweden... find location of [Resident of Sweden] ... and kill him ... this is what i say to u." LaRose was instructed to kill Vilks in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [non-believer] world."

Federal officials identified the target as Lars Vilks, who had drawn Muhammed with the body of a dog.

LaRose replied, "I will make this my goal till I achieve it or die trying," according to court documents.

She traveled, according to the FBI, on or around Aug. 29, 2009 to Europe "with the intent to live and train with jihadists" and to "find and kill" Vilks. In September, she joined an online community hosted by Vilks and eventually moved into Vilks' artist enclave in Sweden.

"Today's indictment, which alleges that a woman from suburban America agreed to carry out murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," David Kris, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division of the Justice Department, said in a statement Tuesday. "I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who worked on this important investigation."

Special Agent-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI said in the Justice Department statement, "This case demonstrates that the FBI and our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities must continue to remain vigilant in the face of the threats that America faces, in whatever form those threats may present themselves or no matter how creative those who threaten us try to be. We must use all available technologies and techniques to root out potential threats and stop those who intend to harm us."

U.S. Attorney Michael Levy told the Associated Press the indictment doesn't link LaRose to any organized terror groups.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.