WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. government must engage Muslim Americans to counter attempts at recruiting U.S. citizens vulnerable to radicalization, experts told Congress Wednesday.
"Most troubling is the pattern of increasing terrorist recruitment of American citizens and residents to act as lone wolves," Lee Hamilton, a member of the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council, told a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. "There were two such attacks just last year or two, and it's very distressing that Americans seem to be playing an increasingly prominent role in al-Qaida's movements.
"We know that individuals in the U.S. are engaging in self- radicalization, which is an alarming development. … While there are methods to monitor some of this activity, it's simply impossible to know the inner thinking of every at-risk person. Thus, self-radicalization poses, I believe, a threat, a great threat to the United States," Hamilton said.
"Whether or not there's radicalization of youth here in the United States is not a political issue open to debate, so people just need to suck up and get over that," said Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush. "It is a fact. It's happening. … We have credible instances of it. And so it's not -- it should not be an issue of debate. …
"Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have learned to use it [the Internet] to their advantage to recruit, to train, to radicalize and to fundraise. Every plot we uncovered during my time in government, computers were used. … Al-Qaida has made it a priority to recruit Americans and permanent residents who more easily cross our borders," Townsend said, citing the Fort Hood, Times Square and Christmas Day attacks.
"Until people accept the fact of radicalization of American youth, we can't effectively combat it," Townsend said, promoting the notion of a "counter-narrative" and encouraging and recruiting Muslim Americans to participate in that narrative.
MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann cautioned that social networks have the potential to produce lone wolves, whose moves are next to impossible to anticipate.
"The Pakistani Taliban (are) far more sophisticated than people give them credit for. They are recruiting people right now, Americans, using YouTube. They have not done this once; they have done this multiple times. They are recruiting people using Facebook. … And increasingly, we are seeing individuals, who are popping up, who were not recruited by any individual cleric or any individual mosque. They're being motivated purely by what they see on the Web," Kohlmann said.