AL QAEDA TODAYThe Evolving Terrorist Landscape
Courtesy of the FBI
A 22-year-old student—code-named “Irhabi 007”—creating a global virtual support network for terrorist plotters in Canada, Denmark, Bosnia, and the U.S., all from his basement apartment computer in London.
Small but sophisticated groups tapping into the larger al Qaeda brand—perhaps even receiving funding and training from bin Laden & Co.—but operating largely as independent terrorist franchises.
Homegrown, self-radicalized extremists inspired by the violent dogma of al Qaeda germinating plans to gun down soldiers at Fort Dix and blow up a pipeline at J.FK. Airport.
It’s the new shape of terrorism—specifically al Qaeda driven or inspired—as outlined Friday by Director Mueller at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
In the speech, the Director describes the new three-tiered threat posed by al Qaeda and its diverse band of affiliates and supporters around the world, whether that is in suburban basements, in ungoverned spaces or tribal areas in places like Pakistan and Africa, or in the shadows of the Internet.
“When America’s hammer fell on al Qaeda, al Qaeda broke into a hundred pieces,” the Director said. “Some of our adversaries were stopped, but others spread. The network is now diffuse.”
Especially in cyberspace, which the Director called “terrorism’s new frontier, offering both persuasive inspiration and practical instruction.” In the case of Younis Tsouli—aka “Irhabi 007” or “Terrorist 007”—the web was a tool to teach both the ideology and technology of terrorism. Tsouli, traced through a telephone number found in a terrorist safe house in Bosnia, posted thousands of files online, ranging from “videotaped beheadings to detailed manuals for constructing car bombs and suicide vests.”
And how to respond to this ever-evolving threat? With a united front that transcends national boundaries, agency jurisdictions, and national security disciplines. The Director says the FBI’s goal is to be an “effective bridge” in exactly those areas…and he gave several examples of how we’re filling that role today:
- By working alongside the military in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, operating as a team to “search safe houses, collect biometric evidence, analyze explosive devices, and trace terrorist financing.”
- By becoming a fully integrated member of the Intelligence Community, with stronger than ever relationships with the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security.
- By sharing information “on a daily basis with our intelligence counterparts on every continent, from MI5 in Britain to the Mabahith in Saudi Arabia.”
- By working closely with our 800,000 state and local law enforcement partners in the U.S. and with our counterparts overseas through our international offices now located in 60 capitols worldwide.
- And by being a part of globally coordinated investigations, where in the Tsouli case, for example, many different countries “made joint decisions as to when to move in and disrupt the plots, so as to protect the integrity of each other’s operations.”
To learn more about the new face of terrorism and our role in intersecting the work of militaries, intelligence services, and law enforcement agencies, we encourage you to read the full speech.