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An Intelligence Assessment of terrorist plots against the United States and US interests between 2001 and 2010 concluded that “a broadening US military presence overseas and outreach by Islamist ideologues” was behind an 11 percent increase in plotted attacks since 2006.
The FBI and JRIC assessed “with high confidence” that Americans rather than foreign nationals were behind the 11 percent increase in terrorist plots since 2006. Foreign nationals “led anti-US targeting prior to 2006,” plotting 52 percent of all attacks, while U.S. persons and groups planned 70 percent of all attacks after 2006.
The increase in plots by Americans was not the result of “a formal, face-to-face recruitment plan by foreign violent extremists” but largely due to “self-selection, sometimes passively influenced by Internet provocateurs.” The FBI and JRIC were not able to quantify the degree to which Islamist propaganda and ideologues such as Anwar al-Awlaki were influential in inspiring terrorist attacks against the United States.
According to the documents, which were acquired by the Syrian opposition site Zaman al-Wasl and shared with the AP, 70 percent of recruits were listed as having just "basic" knowledge of Shariah — the lowest possible choice. Around 24 percent were categorized as having an "intermediate" knowledge, with just 5 percent considered advanced students of Islam. Five recruits were listed as having memorized the Quran.
A 2004 report by the Defense Science Board Task Force stated that “American actions and the flow of events [since 9/11] have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims.” Specifically, it blamed the “one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights,” U.S. support for “what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies,” and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq for “elevating the stature of and support for radical Islamists.”
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
The Assessment raises uncomfortable questions for the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs. CVE initiatives are ostensibly aimed at reducing the threat of terrorism in the United States.
In February of last year, the White House hosted a three-day summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), bringing together community leaders, ministers representing seventy countries, civil society and private sector representatives, and officials from multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.
According to a White House factsheet, the purpose of the summit was to “discuss concrete steps the United States and its partners can take to develop community-oriented approaches to counter hateful extremist ideologies that radicalize, recruit or incite to violence.”
Theories of radicalization are supposed to provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with a method of identifying those most susceptible to becoming terrorists and intervening before an attack can be planned and executed. Proponents of CVE initiatives, however, have struggled to contend with the fact that these theories are scientifically dubious and simply cannot predict who is likely to become a terrorist.
As Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, recently wrote, “it’s clear that western policies in the Middle East have led to high levels of frustration and may well explain why some individuals have adopted extremist views.” CVE programs, he continued, are “almost entirely mute” on this subject.
The British government, like its European and US counterparts, has been struggling to find an effective strategy to counter “radicalization” within Muslim communities. When programmes like Prevent were established, they quickly came under heavy criticism, both for their approach and for their poor results. Over a decade on, it is clear not a single anti-radicalisation scheme, either in Europe or the US, has proved effective.