Reprinted from
Rep.Hoekstra Warns of 'Homegrown Terrorist' Threat inU.S.

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Thursday, Sept. 21,2006

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- House Intelligence Committee Chairman PeteHoekstra, R-Mich., warned on Wednesday that the United States faces anew threat from "homegrown terrorists," in particular Muslim convertsor jihadis who have been "recruited in prisons and universities" byorganizations loosely affiliated but not controlled by al-Qaida.

 Just because we haven't had an attack since Sept. 11 inside theUnited States doesn't mean we are safe, Hoekstra told an audience atthe American Enterprise Institute today. "We know that al-Qaida andother terrorist groups are planning other attacks against the UnitedStates."

 Hoekstra noted a taped message from Osama bin Laden releasedthis January in which he said another Sept. 11 type attack againstAmerica "is only a matter of time."

 "They [the terrorists] are in the final stages, and youwill see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning iscomplete," bin Laden said in a message relayed by a jihadi Website.

U.S. Not Immune

Attacks by homegrown jihadi groups inBritain, Spain, the Netherlands, and attempts in Canada and Australiashould convince Americans that "we aren't immune from that kind ofthreat or that kind of development," Hoekstra said.

 The intelligence community has "clear indications" thatal-Qaida and like-minded groups were "focusing resources" onrecruiting potential terrorists in U.S. prisons and at U.S.universities. Americans need to understand that "we are at war with avery dangerous enemy," he said.

The committee's report on al-Qaida, released this week, revealed thatthe House intelligence committee "is aware of other credible plans byal-Qaida members to attack the United States, but cannot discussthese plans in an unclassified report."

 The ranking Democrat on the committee, California Rep. JaneHarman, blasted Hoekstra for releasing a report she claimed was"merely an assemblage of press clippings" and did "not representeffective congressional oversight."

 Other Democrats who refused to approve the report claimed it"tells us nothing new" and suggested that Hoekstra had timed itsrelease to coincide with the upcoming congressional elections, anaccusation the Michigan Republican dismissed.

 Hoekstra said that he and Harman had agreed nearly two yearsago to issue a series of reports on intelligence challenges. "Thiswas an agreed-upon strategy that Ms. Harman and I laid out at thebeginning of this Congress." The timing of the report was"coincidental" since it was approved in a "partisan vote" inJuly.

Identifying the Danger

It was important to issue anunclassified report on the evolving nature of al-Qaida to enable theAmerican public to better understand the threat, Hoekstra said. "Weare trying to get our assessment out there . . . so that hopefully wecan find common ground" with Democrats on the intelligence beforeanother terrorist attack takes place.

 Intelligence has become increasingly politicized in Washington,with Democrats accusing the Bush White House of "cherry-picking"intelligence in the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

 But in a series of reports on pre-war Iraq intelligencereleased earlier this month by the Senate Select Intelligencecommittee, Republicans turned that accusation on its head and saidthe Democrats had fabricated conclusions unrelated to the factsuncovered by the committee.

 "I will continue to draw the line when it comes to amendingconclusions in a way that mischaracterizes or ignores the underlyingfacts," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said.

 One of the Senate reports found that a former senior CIAofficial, Tyler Drumheller, had grossly mischaracterized informationprovided by Iraq's foreign minister before the war in a high-profileinterview with CBS' "60 Minutes," in order to smear the Bush WhiteHouse.

 Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Michael Tanji saidthat the future wars America will have to fight will be against hardtargets in countries that are "closed" to the U.S. intelligencecommunity, such as Iran.

 Because of this, he predicted there will be "as much ambiguity"about the intelligence in the lead up to the next war as there was inthe build-up to the 2003 war in Iraq.

 Tanji blasted the director of National Intelligence, JohnNegroponte, for packing his staff with "people who have been recycledfrom the old system that led us down the path to failure," and warnedthat "more money to the same old solutions is not going to helpus."

 Hoekstra said that the United States attack on al-Qaida inAfghanistan had forced the group to change its very structure.

Borrowing a metaphor from the business world, he said that al-Qaidahad adopted the model of "participative management," and no longerexerted central control over terrorist operations.

 "They have empowered their affiliates to act independently,then they get out of the way," Hoekstra said. "There is no longer anycentral command structure in al-Qaida today."

 This has given the organization "speed and agility," and madeit far more difficult for the United States to penetrate al-Qaidaaffiliates and prevent future terrorist attacks.

Tools for the Job

Congress needs to give theintelligence community "the ability to track finances, to listen intoconversations, to get information" on terrorist groups, he said. "Weneed to design a system that is as quick and as nimble as theenemy."

 The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today willmark-up legislation introduced by New Mexico Republican HeatherWilson that would impose new guidelines for the NSA's terroristsurveillance program.

 While Hoekstra said he supported the bill, his concern was thatother legislation currently under discussion would "lawyer up" thewar against terror.

 "The fear I have is that our front line folks are going to bemore worried about what the lawyers say . . . than about the enemy,"he said. "We need to give the people of the intelligence communitythe tools they need to respond very quickly to evolving threats thatwill enable them to get the information that keeps America safe."