Home January 2013 Global Threat

Global Threat

It started out as a normal, sunny Tuesday morning in New York.  On September 11, 2001, Zachary Stern was a student at Stuyvesant High School, a math-science magnet school built on land near the World Trade Center.  He saw the planes hit the buildings, experiencing the shock, the panic and the heartbreak from a front row seat.  He witnessed the horror beyond the imagination of most Americans at that time.

“I knew everything changed,” he said, with a quiver in his voice.  He became a man on a mission.

Stern, who has served as a terrorism analyst for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism in New York for the past year and a half, knew he wanted to do everything he could to stop terrorism in its tracks.  He focused his studies – first a B.A. in politics and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and then a J.D. at George Washington University Law School – on the Arabic language, Middle Eastern culture, politics and theories of terrorism.  Then he worked for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the U.S. Air Force and the New York University School of Law’s Center on Law and Security before coming to ADL, which fights hate and extremism.

Now Stern, who was in Orange County in December, spends 9 hours a day in front of a computer screen tracking current events among radical groups, checking websites used by extremists and following up on research to monitor the criminal activity motivated by radical interpretations of Islam.  Why does he “troll the Internet” to get this information, which seems so random?

“I once saw somebody online who looked familiar at the same time as he was on the loose ready to set off a bomb in Tampa,” he said.  “You don’t necessarily know who these people are.”

Additionally, “these people are getting smarter,” Stern said.  “Sometimes they watch us watch them.  We have to be even more vigilant.”

Stern and the other Arabic-speaking analysts at ADL monitor people who are friendly and those who are not for clues to possible terrorism.  The terrorist group Al Qaeda and its affiliates are recruiting people for their computer skills in order to spread propaganda, because they understand the value of the ideological war, Stern explained.

Since September 11, 2001, there have been more than 20,000 fatal terrorist attacks committed in the name of jihad, defined by Merriam –Webster as “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty.”  Included among the attempts at terrorist plots and conspiracies is “an alarming number of Americans motivated by radical interpretations of Islam,” Stern said.

Today, thanks to the Internet and its availability to people in the most seemingly backward places, everything has a global reach, according to Stern.  Even in Somalia, there is 90-percent cell phone usage.  A terrorist plot could involve a ringleader in Ireland recruiting people in the U.S. to train in Asia and stage attacks in Asia and the U.S.  Thus, it can be hard to look for indicators of where people are.

If it’s hard to figure out where terrorists are, it’s even harder to determine who they are, according to Stern, who cited examples of Americans who have gotten involved in radical Islam.  For instance, one “American fighting against America” is John Walker Lindh, a middle-class northern California native who developed various online personalities to investigate Islam, converted and was captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Another Californian, Adam Gadahn, converted to Islam and became an American spokesman for Al Qaeda, calling for Americans to launch attacks on U.S. soil.

A key player in the Al Qaeda English-language propaganda machine was Samir Khan, a Saudi-born American of Pakistani heritage who was raised in Queens, New York.  Khan, who said that ideas are bulletproof and have an unending lifespan, died shortly thereafter in 2011.  His legacy, Inspire Magazine, lives on.   The English-language Al Qaeda propaganda magazine looks like Sports Illustrated.

“It’s slick with self-help articles, poetry and ads,” Stern said.  “Mere possession of it is a crime in the U.K. and grounds for investigation in the U.S.”

The magazine actually has a feature called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”  Brits hacked into the online version and replaced it with real recipes, according to Stern.  There are also features on making advanced bombs, using guns, killing people using trucks and sending encrypted messages.  Another item, “Open Source Jihad,” provides do-it-yourself terrorist training.  It showed the Chicago skyline just before a synagogue bombing plot was uncovered, prompting law enforcement officials to take a serious look at the magazine.

“In the U.S. we’ve been blessed with stupid terrorists,” Stern said, because most attempts at terrorism in this country have been foiled.  “Americans have traveled abroad rather than doing things here, but there have been close calls.  There have only been two successful attacks here since 9/11 – at Fort Hood and a base in Arkansas, but both were ‘lone wolf’ attacks with one person working by himself.  These are harder to catch, because the person involved is not talking to anyone else.”

Still, more than 30 U.S. residents have traveled or attempted to travel to Somalia to join an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, while others have provided material support, according to an ADL terrorism update brochure.  Many come out of the U.S. suburbs and get recruited online.  There’s even a former Satmar Hasid who advocated throwing gasoline on sukkahs.

Why do they do it?  Some people just have a victimization attitude about the perceived U.S. occupation of Muslim countries, the U.S. participation in Middle Eastern affairs and the U.S. support for Israel, according to Stern.  Others have a history of mental illness or the perception that the U.S. is at war with Islam.  “Some want to convert to what they think is the true religion, and they choose the one that is the most radical,” he added.  “They might find Islam through other people or find it online, and the power of the Internet is really strong.”

Stern concluded, “At the end of the day there’s no way to develop a profile for those who convert to Islam with no prior exposure to it, and the terrorists go out of their way to break the profile.  All people can do is be informed, report suspicious activity and support organizations like ADL, which, in turn, support law enforcement.”

Jihad in Perspective

“A little less than every five hours, somewhere around the world a Muslim is carrying out a fatal jihadist attack.

These are not the regular beatings and vandalism against Christians, Hindus and Buddhists but religion-oriented attacks in which someone dies at the hand of a member of the “religion of peace.”

A website called “The Religion of Peace” has listed more than 20,000 such fatal attacks since September 11, 2001.

As of today, the total was 20,022.  The 20,000th came a few days ago when a Jewish woman was cut in pieces in Iran by religious radicals “intent on expanding a mosque.”

Some 1,800 deadly Muslim terror attacks happen each year, amounting to about 150 a month and five a day.

The purpose of the website, according to operator Glen Roberts, a pseudonym, is to put the level of violence being inflicted by Muslims in perspective.

‘I started watching [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] in the months after 9/11,” said Roberts, ‘and I was astonished by the self-absorption.  Each day people are maimed and killed explicitly in the name of Islam while this organization complains about headscarves and hurt feelings.’

‘I thought,’ he said, ‘that maybe if I started documenting the violence, it would inspire a sense of moral perspective on their part.’

‘I was wrong, of course.’…

The website notes attacks have been documented in the U.S., Iraq, India, Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, England, Thailand, Spain, Egypt, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Germany, Canada and more than 60 other nations.

In one recent week, November 24 to 30, there were 53 jihad attacks resulting in 272 dead bodies and 743 with injuries.”  Α

Excerpted from Guess How Many Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11, by Bob Unruh, WND, December 5, 2012

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