World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)
WASHINGTON – More than half of all al-Qaida operatives and their affiliates in
the United States who have committed terrorist offenses are US citizens and a
third were born in America, according to a new report profiling the groups’
The 720-page, telephone book-sized volume produced by
the Henry Jackson Society and presented at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies Tuesday, carefully examines the 171 cases of al- Qaida
members or those inspired by the organization who have been convicted in US
courts or participated in suicide attacks against the US homeland between 1997
The study found that 95 percent of the terrorist offenses were
committed by men, 57% of whom were under the age of 30. New York was seen as a
hub for their activity, with more – 14% – residing there than elsewhere and with
large number of those living elsewhere trafficking through.
quarter of the operatives were converts to Islam, with over half of those born
in the US having converted.
And those who converted, all of whom did so
from Christianity as far as could be ascertained, were far more likely to have
carried out offenses (as opposed to having participated only in training or
incitement) than others.
The group researched were fairly well-educated
and employed. More than half had attended some form of college, and a quarter
had done some higher study. In addition, more than half, or 57%, were in school
or had a job at the time they were charged or committed their
Report co-author Robin Simcox described the operatives as “US
citizens who are mostly educated, mostly employed, who haven’t been marginalized
by the system. They’ve mostly passed through the system.”
he and Michael Hayden, the former Central Intelligence Agency director who wrote
the report’s forward, suggested that more personal experiences of social
dislocation could be a major factor in who ended up being
“I’m willing to accept the possibility that this has a lot
more to do with the Crips and the Bloods than it does with the Koran,” Hayden
said. “Maybe this is just one expression in a post-industrial society of how
young people... deal with alienation.”
He continued, “That doesn’t
dismiss it. That doesn’t make it unimportant. In fact it’s a particular form of
embrace that makes the alienated [person] even more dangerous.”
said that there was a tremendous spike in the numbers of al-Qaida adherents in
the US after the September 11 attacks, as these individuals were apparently
drawn to the group’s ideology.
He suggested that alienated individuals
might have been attracted to radical Islam at that point, rather than other
outlets, because of the widespread attention to and dissemination of al-Qaida’s
message, particularly through YouTube and other Internet vehicles.
who were later arrested often expressed their outrage with various American
policies in the Middle East, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Simcox
noted, but he said there was little indication terror activities were carried
out in direct reaction to events overseas.
He added that, “In a lot of
them you see foreign grievances being brought up [but] from the US’s point of
view there’s only so really much you can do about that.” He concluded, “You have
to try to make your best and soundest policies, and after that it might cause
some levels of radicalization.”
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