U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials say they are taking steps to monitor and combat the possible spread of Islamic extremism and support for a violent holy war against the West among a "Pepsi jihad" generation of young Muslims in the United States.
At a hearing last week, officials from the CIA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers that the United States had less of a problem with potential "homegrown" Islamic terrorists than Europe did, because of its history as a nation of immigrants...
"While the incidents might be homegrown and the recruitment base, if you will, can often be second-generation immigrants who have a Muslim background, we've always found some kind of linkage back to" al-Qaida central, said Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.
Negroponte's words echo the conclusions of independent analysts, some of whom who have long argues that the threat of homegrown violent extremism is over-stated.
"It's ridiculous to think that the U.S. or any other military would do its training over the Internet," said analyst and author Peter Bergen, arguing al-Qaida was just as professional in its approach. "Radicalization is one thing, having operational cells with the capacity to launch attacks is something else entirely.
"That basically means people who have been through one of the (terrorist training) camps."
Bergen said that the homegrown plots uncovered in the United States so far appeared to lack that thread back to al-Qaida central, which was one reason why he said they had been "pretty pathetic ... not much of a threat."
The exception, he said, was the Islamic extremist cell which had sprung up in southern California jails last year. As hardened criminals, the individuals involved in that group, he said "had some hands-on experience..."
Bergen nonetheless said it made sense for officials to start looking at the radicalization issue, "just from a prophylactic point of view..."
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