American Department of Homeland Security on high alert over terrorism threats
February 11, 2011
WASHINGTON: The threat of terrorism against the US was possibly at its highest level since the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to a grim assessment by the Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano.
Al-Qaeda remained at the core of concerns, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula and via US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, now based in Yemen. But al-Qaeda-inspired local groups and homegrown radicals were augmenting that threat, Ms Napolitano said.
”We have made many important strides in securing our country from terrorism since 9/11, but the threat continues to evolve,” she told the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee.
Al-Qaeda had been diminished by the global fight against terrorism, but the US faced ”threats from a number of al-Qaeda associates that share its violent extremist ideology”, she said.
Increasingly, the group sought to recruit Westerners to carry out attacks, people who did not have strong ties to known terrorist groups that might be detected by the intelligence community.
”This means that the threat has evolved in such a way that we have to add to our traditional counterterrorism strategies, which in the past have looked at the attack as coming from abroad,” Ms Napolitano said.
The congressional hearing came as a North Carolina man, Daniel Patrick Boyd, became the latest US citizen to plead guilty to terrorism-related offences, and coincided with renewed efforts by Republican leaders in the House to win an extension for key anti-terrorism measures of the USA Patriot Act.
On Tuesday, a bid to speed up House approval for extending the measures to the end of 2011 failed when many Tea Party-backed Republicans banded with Democrats who voiced concerns that civil liberties were in danger of being infringed.
The case of ”lone wolf” Boyd, 40, who pleaded guilty in North Carolina to conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping in Afghanistan and Pakistan, appeared to strengthen the hand of those supporting an extension of the key anti-terrorism tools.
He brings to more than 120 the number of people indicted in US federal courts in the past two years on terrorism-related offences. About half of those have been US citizens.