There are other disturbing statistics here, after the obligatory expressions of shock from the neighbors. “American-Bred Terrorists Causing Alarm For Law Enforcement,” by Jason Ryan, Pierre Thomas, and Xorje Olivares for ABC News, July 22:
A Virginia man charged with providing material support to terrorists abroad appeared in court today requesting an attorney be appointed to him.
Zachary Chesser, 20, is accused of trying to join Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based Islamist militant group suspected in the recent bombing attacks in Uganda that left 73 dead and dozens more injured as they watched the World Cup final.
“I’m shocked–I’m just surprised,” said Yvette Deale, Chesser’s former neighbor. “It’s not the kind of thing I would have expected in this neighborhood.”
Chesser, who just two years ago was a high school football player and crew member in Fairfax, VA, is now one of 34 Americans accused of and charged with having ties to international terrorists in the past 18 months.
Sources say this trend represents an unprecedented spike in homegrown terror and is an emerging threat that has them deeply concerned. What they consider to be most alarming is the fact that many of those charged were radicalized on the Internet, with thousands of Americans reportedly frequenting terror websites that espouse mass murder.
“This Is What We Have Feared”
A recently disclosed FBI Directorate of Intelligence document from July 2009 estimated that there were as many as 15,000 websites and web forums that were supportive of terrorist activities. Yet, officials say the number of websites is constantly changing since many of the sites and forums are not maintained, with current estimates indicating as many as 10,000 active sites.
The FBI analysis noted that about 80 percent of those sites existed on U.S.-based computer servers. U.S. officials say these type of sites rapidly gained popularity when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, began to post beheading videos on the Internet in 2003.
“This is what we have feared for a very long time–that finally the ideology of radical Islam is effectively reaching into the United States to disaffected people here over the Internet,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism adviser. […]
There’s a long way to go from being your garden-variety “disaffected,” usually young person, to embracing a brutal supremacist ideology. And that doesn’t explain the relatively well-to-do jihadists who otherwise had everything going for them.
With so many potential threats, authorities say they are in a race against time to find these radicals before they launch a successful attack on the land they grew up on.
“In the last six to nine months,” Clark said, “the FBI has seen more domestic Islamist extremist activity than at any time since immediately right after 9/11.”