Since the 9/11 attacks, conventional wisdom has held that acts of terror on U.S. soil would most likely come from abroad.
Much time and effort have been spent on beefing up border security to make sure the next Mohammad Atta never reaches the homeland.
Yet the massacre at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan underscored what has long been known in counterterrorism circles: Muslims born and raised in the U.S. might become radicalized and perpetrate acts of terror here at home, and more resources need to be directed inward.
Now, a string of arrests by the FBI over the past year has raised awareness of a new phenomenon: there exist Americans who wish to commit acts of terror abroad.
For the most part, those arrested have been individuals who wished to join foreign jihadi groups as foot soldiers. Many of those attempts have failed.
Boston’s Tarek Mehanna went to Yemen to join al-Qaeda but was rebuffed. His friend Ahmad Abousamra traveled to Pakistan and Iraq for the same purpose and also failed. Similarly, several young men from North Carolina made a pilgrimage to the Palestinian territories to join in jihad against Israel, but they seem to have spent the majority of their time seeing the sights in Cairo.
Late last month, two arrests in Chicago seemed to confirm a pattern of American citizens wishing to engage in acts of terror abroad but failing.
But new reports from India indicate that at least one of the two arrested may have been involved in planning the coordinated attacks in Mumbai last year. Those attacks killed 173 people and have been described as India’s 9/11.
If these reports pan out, then a Chicago-area man who legally changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley — and who had previously been indicted for planning a foiled terror attack against Denmark’s Jylland Posten newspaper as “revenge” for printing cartoons of the prophet Mohammad — conducted surveillance of targets in Mumbai.
He helped facilitate the massacre in which innocent civilians were methodically gunned down at the real-time urging of their Lashkar-e-Taiba controllers from Pakistan.