WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., heard testimony Thursday during the fourth in a series of hearings on how Islamic extremists radicalize impressionable young men and women and what the U.S. government is doing to counter terrorist propaganda.
The hearing took on added urgency with the arrest Monday in Fort Dix, N.J., of six Muslim men who allegedly plotted to kill soldiers at the army base there. The radicalization of these young men is exactly the kind of violent conversion to which the Committee is trying to draw attention.
“These six were not radicalized in faraway extremist madrasahs, nor did they receive their weapons or tactical training at Al Qaeda camps,” Lieberman said. “The accused terrorists were radicalized and planned and trained for their attack right here in the United States, according to the FBI. They were propagandized and trained with videos either downloaded from the internet or passed from computer to computer on DVDs.
“Although there is no evidence at this time of an operational link to Al Qaeda, there is quite clearly an ideological link – Osama bin Laden’s radical message reached across cyberspace and traditional borders and poisoned the hearts and minds of these men in New Jersey.”
Collins said: “On Monday, FBI agents arrested six men in New Jersey for plotting to attack Fort Dix and kill hundreds of American soldiers. These suspected violent extremists were living within our borders, three of them legally. They appear to have had no direct contact with foreign terrorists, but were inspired and motivated in some measure by violent messages and videos available over the Internet, as well as by their own shared hatred.
“The New Jersey conspirators serve as a chilling reminder that no matter how secure we make our borders, no matter how effectively we track foreign terrorist groups, America remains exposed to the threat of home-grown terrorism. The planned attack on Americans at Fort Dix is a stark warning to citizens, to law-enforcement officers, and to homeland-security and intelligence officials of the urgent need to be alert to this domestic threat.”
Thursday’s hearing highlighted the fact that violent Islamist extremism is an international and domestic threat that demands coordination across government, including agencies that traditionally have different jurisdictions, such as the FBI and the Department of State.
The Committee has held previous hearings on Islamist radicalization within U.S. prisons and over the Internet.
Witnesses Thursday were: Jeremy F. Curtin, Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs at the Department of State; Chip Poncy, Director of Strategic Policy at the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the Department of the Treasury; John J. Miller, Assistant Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice; and Jeffrey J. Grieco, Acting Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Legislative and Public Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development.