Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homegrown al-Qaeda

A really fascinating study was released by the Henry Jackson Society that examines the profile of al-Qaeda related offenders charged and convicted in the United States. The study, Al-Qaeda in the United States, by Robin Simcox and Emily Dyer, concludes that the majority of al-Qaeda offenses against the United States originated from the United States. The sample set only looks at U.S. charged and convicted, so I do not think it is entirely representative of all terrorists associated with al-Qaeda. The study, makes a point of clarifying the sample set and distinguishing between what it defines as al-Qaeda related and what other studies have loosely defined as either terrorist or al-Qaeda affiliated. One of the things that strikes me about the study, is that the profile of an al-Qaeda related individual is not exactly the profile one might think. This study points out that they are well educated, relatively young, in many cases converts to Islam, and most, interestingly, are U.S. born.

Another thing that strikes me as interesting is that the institution of law works in some fashion to address security threats. This certainly draws further attention on the legal ramifications of international drone strikes against terrorist subjects without due process. The subjects of this study were charged and/or convicted in U.S. courts, indicating at least some legitimacy and effectiveness of the institution of law. Recognizing that so-called terrorists are being convicted in the U.S. court system raises questions about a national security strategy that potentially supersedes domestic and international laws by categorizing threats under a different legal framework.

Furthermore, the study raises questions about perceived threats and real threats. The perceived threat is that terrorists, in this study's case al-Qaeda related terrorists, exist in some impoverished, lawless land, and are perpetrated by individuals with little to no access to modernity. While, there is an element of the terrorist threat dynamic that includes those areas and those individuals, this study suggests that perception is a myth. The account of direct threats to the U.S. homeland may actually be otherwise, hence we should be prudent about where we turn our attention and to whom.