It is unprecedented in American counterterrorism annals: in one day, the nation was dealing with three separate jihadist plots to blow up civilian and other targets inside the homeland. Although the cases were addressed at different time periods by the FBI and other agencies, nevertheless, the thickening web of terror attempts breached the crossing-line of U.S. national security.
This past week, authorities revealed three conspiracies by American jihadists: Michael C. Finton, a 29-year-old man who wished to follow the steps of American-born Taliban John Walker Lindh, was arrested after trying to detonate what he thought was a bomb inside a van outside a federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian national, was arrested after placing what he believed was a bomb at a downtown Dallas skyscraper. But perhaps the most troubling case is of Afghan-born Najibullah Zazi, who set up shop in suburban Denver, scouting the Web and visiting beauty supply stores in a hunt for chemicals needed to build bombs for al Qaeda. Sources called the alleged plot one of the most significant terror threats to the U.S. since 9/11. Add to the list the North Carolina Jihad cell, led by Daniel Patrick “Saifullah” Boyd, which was planning on attacking civilian and military targets across the country.
The immediate question being raised by an increasingly worried public regarding all of these terror cases is: are they all connected? While law enforcement and certainly judicial authorities proceed in a bottom up reasoning – that is, to build the case for a global connection between all what is happening with the help of legal evidence – analysts in the field of counterterrorism and conflict are already realizing the meaning of what is happening inside America.
In my book Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America (2005-2006), I clearly projected that jihadists, individuals and cells will be mushrooming and expanding inside the United States within few years from that writing and that they would do precisely what they are trying to do now. I also projected how large a group they will become with time. It was a simple deduction: if the government doesn’t counter this ideological growth, jihadists will keep coming. And in fact, they are coming, spreading crossing the barriers of ethnicities, races, nationalities and geographical frontiers. The jihadists are committed to harming the U.S., and are now based inside our borders by the hundreds. When I suggested this fact on CNN in 2006, and reiterated it on Oprah Winfrey’s show so that the public would realize what is to come, I raised a few eyebrows. Now, unfortunately, we are discovering the cells of jihadism in our cities and little towns and sadly, the expectation is that we will see more. We may not be able to stop them all from reaching their goals.
The North Carolina cell, the New York subway plot, the Dallas attempt, the Illinois case, and the previous cases of the shooting of a soldier in Arkansas, the New York cells, Georgia’s young jihadists (all the way back to the infamous Virginia paintball network). If anything gives us the genome of what is morphing inside the country – a vast body of dispersed cells with at least one binding force – the jihadi ideology. We must find out who is propagating the doctrines of jihadism: who is funding it; who is protecting the indoctrination operation which leads naturally to the rise of homegrown or foreign linked jihad, lone wolves or packs of jihadist terrorists. That is the real question: where is the factory?
What should the U.S. government do? It must first face the threat and lead the nation against it. This is not a matter of just local police or law enforcement efforts. President Obama and Congressional leaders from both parties must give this spreading plague a top priority. For if one of these groups is successful, our national economy will crumble again, or at least will be wounded even more severely – not to mention the human consequences of terror. Americans are watching these terror plots being revealed with great concern. They expect their elected officials to address these fears before the worst happens.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad", Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He also serves as a Co-Secretary General of the Trans Atlantic Legislative Group on Counterterrorism.