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July 29th, 2009
08:26 AM ET

Homegrown Terrorism: We're seeing a new phase in the radicalization of American citizens

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/29/am.intv.emerson.homegrown.terrorism.art.jpg caption="Emerson says if an individual is constantly fed a diet that the U.S. Government is an enemy he will naturally end up radicalized."]

The feds are searching for an eighth suspect accused of being part of a terrorist cell in North Carolina. Their alleged ring leader is accused of hoarding weapons and visiting terror camps overseas. This is just one in a string of recent reports of alleged terrorists here at home. So how safe is America from home grown terrorism?

Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism spoke with CNN’s Carol Costello Wednesday.

Carol Costello: So it seems like there are a lot of people here in America, alleged home grown terrorists, being indicted for crimes for jihad. How scared should we be?

Steve Emerson: We’re seeing a new phase, Carol, here, in the radicalization of American citizens as well as American-born Muslim. In the past six months alone, there have been more than 40 arrests of either American-born Muslims or of Americans who converted to Islam in trying to carry out plots overseas or in the United States. This is indicative of what has happened in Europe over the last ten years where the environment there and some of the calls by the Islamic groups have radicalized the Muslim populations there. Were seeing it here but more interestingly we’re seeing American citizens who convert to Islam and stage operations from the safety of overseas and carry out jihad.

Costello: I want to talk specifically about Daniel Patrick Boyd, the guy from North Carolina. He just looked like your average Joe. Neighbors said if he was the terrorist, he's the nicest terrorist we know. He just seemed like such a normal guy. Yet he supposedly carried on this secret life. From 1989 to 1992, he traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. What did he do there, exactly?

Emerson: Well, in 1989 to 1992, he volunteered against the Soviets who had occupied Afghanistan and he volunteered and trained with the Afghan Mujahedin, the holy warriors. But he kept up and he was interviewed in ‘The Washington Post,’ actually, in 1991 where he called the US a ‘kufr’ or an ‘infidel country.’ He kept up his religious animosity to the United States; even indoctrinating his own kids willing to send them on suicide operations in Israel and elsewhere abroad to carry out jihad. So it shows you the extent to which he was radicalized. What's more interesting here is the extent to which there are other cells across the country, Carol, that have been involved in carrying out plots either here in the U.S. and overseas but using the safety of the United States and becoming radicalized here, even though they were originally not radical or not even born Muslim.

Costello: I want to get to some of the psychology of this. Because Daniel Patrick Boyd allegedly plotted these terror missions overseas, not here in the United States. But then again, who knows, right? But how does one who lives in America, grows up in the American culture, become radicalized like this?

Emerson: You’ve raised an excellent question. I think part of the question lies in the fact that once you make the conversion to Islam, and most Muslims are not radical. Once you make a conversion to Islam, sometimes the Islamic groups, the national groups that control the distribution of literature, of the media, of the educational system, teach them jihad and teach them that the United States is the enemy. Just the other day, letters from Congress representing seven Islamic radical groups claimed to be mistreated by the U.S. government and they themselves in statements in the last ten years have been saying the U.S. government is the enemy. If you constantly are fed a diet that the U.S. Government is an enemy, that the U.S. government is part of the conspiracy to suppress Islam; you will naturally end up radicalized, hating the U.S. and even willing to carry out violence to advance that goal.


Filed under: Politics • Religion
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Dennis Wellington

    You do not need to be spoon fed the America is evil meal by a religious outfit. In my travels around America I have met people who are soured on the way the USA is moving towards a nation of Socialists.

    Many of the USA citizens have lost everything by Government actions that are in essence UN-American.

    Take a look at the USA and see if a few of these Actions might sour you against your nation:

    The IRS takes your home or business. No recourse of course.
    Eminent Domain is used to close your life long business and or your home.

    You pass a test for a Government job, and the job goes to an individual who failed the test but the are a person of color.

    You work hard all your life, pay taxes, involved in your community living GOOD, then a Katrina event happens. You lose everything , try to rebuild, work, struggle only to watch, people who are at the lower end of the economic ladder get endless government help, housing, food.
    While you and your family struggle and work to regain what you lost.

    You serve your nation in the military proudly, lose major body parts, or you have developed a mental disabilities. You come home and the military decides to throw out like a piece of trash. You go from a father, husband, defender, to an unemployed homeless confused American.

    If you think that these kind of life experiences would give you a cheerful government approval rating, you are wrong.

    Not everyone is happy, after working, trying to be accountable and proud of your nation; that after watching people who chose not to get an education, not to be a productive citizen, or even be a legal resident or choose a life on the fringes of the law; to be coddled, given so much attention and assistance while you and your neighbors struggle to rise from the ashes.

    I bet if you checked on who received more media coverage, the hard working American Citizen received less than the poor illegal, who has EARNED nothing, but the US Government bends over backwards,

    Nothing would sour an American Citizen if this or any number of life happenings would occur in your life!

    July 30, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  2. George McDaniel

    I'm a middle aged white American grandpa and I'm radicalized. I'm tired of the poor or sadistic being the only U.S. military recruits. I'm tired of the poor and middle class dying in agony in substandard smelly nursing homes with minimum wage caregivers. I'm tired of the "war" on drugs that leaves well over a third of our population in pain and suffering daily. I'm tired of the capitalistic industrial military complex bursting into our homes, cars and places of worship just for kicks and hiding behind the dreaded "terrorist" word. Of course the U.S. government was there with Timothy McVeigh. They also knew about 9-11. Start reading, folks. And perhaps some English lessons would be in order, too, for those of you too illiterate to publish a simple post. The "Ts" are now smarter, more determined, and better educated. We as a nation truly are living up to the heathen label. Why are we starting wars when most of our own people are living lives of desperation? Anarchy is sure to follow. Move? I would love to.

    July 29, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  3. mike-sey

    Why is it so unthinkable that some Americans might become radicalized given Americas long history of extremism : Think fenians and IRA; The Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, The Bund, the KKK etc.
    Talk about Racial profiling when the alleged mastermind of this alleged plot is referred to on your newscasts as looking like an "ordinary guy." Does this mean he's white, fair haired and freckled? And are radicals swarthy, unkempt, beady-eyed, and unable to do dry-wall?
    The fact his dad was a marine probably contributed to his radicalization in the course of his normal youthful rebellion or conversely as a result of his Vietnam experiences. Why is it such a shock? Unexpected, yes, Incomprehensible No!

    July 29, 2009 at 9:59 am |
  4. Chrissy

    This is indeed a concern as there is a 'Cause and Affect' in this. Such radical groups as these can affect the liberties of us American Citizens that do not hate our government. The DHS will be left with no alternative than to further their authority in imposing on the rights of privacy to all American citizens. This could also lead to less freedom for the press and mainstream media as well, due to the affect that certain publications and opinions instill hate and lead( or blamed that it lead ) to hate crimes and the belief that the U.S Government is their enemy. I don't limit this to Islam. There are many other radical groups out there that are not Islamic who say not to trust the government either. I think once again there is some profiling going on. Look at Timothy McVae and his actions for instance. Was he not considered a radical or terrorist figure? Yet he was not connected with Islam. Oh and lets not forget these drug lords crossing our borders and killing innocent Border Patrol Officers. I suggest we re-think and expand "radicalization" here in America.

    July 29, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  5. michael armstrong sr.

    Who knows what would drive a person to follow the path of a serial killing gihad freak if these people need thrills why cant they just go bungy jumping or jump out of a perfictly good air plane my guess would be is they smoke to much opeum.

    July 29, 2009 at 8:49 am |