Brennan: President Obama’s National Security Strategy Recognizes Threat of Homegrown Terrorists

By Alex Pepper

May 26, 2010 5:40pm

Previewing the president’s National Security Strategy, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, today said that the US is "now facing a new phase of the terrorist threat": the threat of less sophisticated al Qaeda foot soldiers, many of whom might be American.

That new phase was prompted by US counterterrorism efforts that made it more difficult for al Qaeda to recruit and train. Thus, Brennan said, “they are increasingly relying on recruits with little training.  We have strengthened our defenses against massive, sophisticated attacks on our homeland, so they are attempting attacks with little sophistication, but with very lethal intent.”

This also means that al Qaeda is seeking “foot soldiers” who don’t fit the traditional profile. The US government has seen “an increasing number of individuals here in the United States become captivated by extremist ideologies or causes,” he said, describing:

• Somali-Americans from Minnesota who traveled to fight in Somalia;
• the five Virginia men who traveled to Pakistan to pursue terrorist training;
• Chicago’s David Headley, charged with helping to plan the terrorist attacks on Mumbai;
• Pennsylvania’s  “Jihad Jane,” charged with conspiring to murder a Danish cartoonist;
• North Carolina’s Daniel Patrick Boyd, who conspired to murder U.S. military personnel; and
• Colorado’s Najibullah Zazi, who trained in bomb-making in Pakistan and “planned to attack the New York subway system in what could have been the worst terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11.”

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brennan also referred to American citizens “apparently inspired by al-Qaida’s ideology” who tried to commit terrorist attacks. Some of their plots – in Texas and Illinois – were stopped. “Tragically, we were unable to prevent others,” he said, referring to “the murder of the military recruiter in Arkansas last year and the senseless slaughter of 13 innocent Americans at Fort Hood.”

Brennan said that President Obama’s national security strategy “explicitly recognizes the threat to the United States posed by individuals radicalized here at home.” He said this was the “first national security strategy of any president that integrates homeland security as part of a broader national security strategy.”

He cautioned that “no nation, no matter how powerful, can prevent every threat from coming to fruition.  And in America, a free and open society of 300 million people, the task becomes even more difficult.”

Instead of this threat leading to “fear and paralysis, which is the goal of terrorists,” Brennan said, “we must resolve, as a nation, as a people, that we will go forward with confidence, that we will resist succumbing to overreaction, especially to failed attacks and not magnify these perpetrators beyond the despicable miscreants that they are.”

Some of the steps taking include improved communication between the Pentagon and Justice Department “regarding disaffected individuals in our armed forces,” steps taken in the wake of the Fort Hood shooter. Brennan said the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit, the US government “strengthened the analysis and integration of intelligence and have enhanced aviation security.”

-Jake Tapper

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