New brand of terrorism?

Seven men have been charged with a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, according to a frontpage NYTimes article.

What interests me is this, a quote from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales:

“Today, terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with Al Qaeda, but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message, and left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda.”

Smells awfully familiar of the Taheri-azar “incident.” These non-Al Qaeda terrorists are arguably more stupid and less purposeful than “real” Al Qaeda terrorists. Taheri did a bang-up job if his intent was actually to kill students, failing to even send anyone to the hospital overnight; and these Sears Tower terrorists didn’t even get past the “let’s pledge an allegiance to Al Qaeda for the FBI informer” stage.

I think this underscores the fact that there ought to be a distinction between institutional terrorism, and these rogue renegade types. Both are terrorism, mind you, and both are ideologically motivated. But one clearly poses a bigger “threat” than the other, and I think it serves a purpose to distinguish between the two.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. The talking heads on CNN think the indictment is “thin,” especially for a conspiracy case. It’s uncertain if the FBI informer didn’t bait some of these suspects into the things they’re being charged with, which would be entrapment, which would mean they go home scott-free.

7 comments

  1. While I agree that homegrown terrorists without links to terrorist organizations are different and that such a distinction should be made, it does not follow that they are less of a threat. The recently foiled plot in Miami shows that there are people living in the west without direct ties to terrorists that want to kill innocent people. This could prove even harder to combat than terrorist organizations b/c we don’t know what direction it will come from. Just b/c these people did not succeed does not mean that others like them won’t. There have been many unsuccessful plots perpetrated by terrorist networks. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t pull off another Sept. 11 in the future.

  2. Lets see here:Serial Killers (Jeffrey Dahlmer for example)The DC snipersOklahoma City bombingUnabomberColumbineLee Harvey Oswald (unless your a conspiracy theory enthusiast)John Wilkes Boothetc., etc., etc.It seems to me that other then times of outright war, “homegrown” terrorists without links to global terrorist organizations have had quite a threatening and destructive impact on this country. And before 9/11, one could even say fairly confidentally without doing too much research, that the independants and loners have exacted a far larger death toll on American civilians then the lunatics in the Middle East and North Africa.

  3. I’m a little late but I have to throw my two cents (though probably worth less than that) into this blog post.I do not believe that you can say that one form of terrorism is less of a threat than another one. How can you say that a person with ideological reasons aiming to kill innocent people in one place is less of a threat than someone doing the exact same thing in another? Certainly, more people were killed on 9/11 than were injured back in March, but you can’t say that quantity of people involved equals more of a threat. Taheri Azar was just as much of a threat to people walking across campus as homegrown terrorists are in Chicago. Again, if the reasons, motives, actions and results are the same, it seems that the threat would be the same as well.

  4. the distinction serves a purpose for this reason:we can fight and dismantle groups like al qaeda. we cannot, and will never be able to, root out ideologically motivated “lone wolf” scenarios like the taheri azar, or the unibombers, etc. and so, to lump them together into the war on terror, is to define a war in which we cannot win symantically, and is stupid. just plain stupid.

  5. David, what in the world are you talking about? You wrote in your post:”But one clearly poses a bigger ‘threat’ than the other, and I think it serves a purpose to distinguish between the two.”It is in reaction to this assertion that myself, brian, and taylor wrote a response to.

  6. yea, you guys killed that original assertion about danger levels. point you.but then, let me make a new (because thinking it about it further helped clarify why i think there needs to be a distinction in the first place).defining terrorism broadly to capture the “lone wolfs” is crazy to me. it defines a “war on terror” that we cannot win. unless of course we wage war against “an idea” (islam), which is still impossible unless we go crusading in the middle east again with the purpose of obliterating the religion, and nobody wants that.

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