November 4th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

'Homegrown' terrorists pose unique threat

by Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly

The arrest this week of four Georgia men charged with plotting to attack government officials with explosives and a biotoxin raises the question of just how big of a threat are homegrown terrorists in the United States?
While security experts obviously can't put a ranking on a would-be terrorist, there are some reasons why the homegrown variety pose a unique challenge to law enforcement.
"Homegrown terror groups tend to be small and tight-knit, which makes detection and infiltration a law enforcement challenge," said CNN National Security Analyst Fran Townsend. "These groups vary widely as to their grievance and motivation, but all use violent means to get attention."
The most deadly domestic terror attack in the United States remains the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995. Timothy McVeigh, who headed a small group of individuals, planted the truck bomb that killed 168 people.
Dr. Anthony Lemieux, a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta and an investigator with the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), says there are plenty of cases of homegrown terror within the United States.
"It's interesting because on the one hand, you've got relatively small clusters, but for instance - Timothy McVeigh was one guy with a couple of assists and caused massive damage, so with the right kind of explosives, a team of four people can be quite lethal and quite dangerous," said Lemieux.
And that's part of what makes homegrown terrorists so difficult for law enforcement to detect. Though there are, according to Lemieux, common grievances that bring these individuals together.
Lemieux and his colleagues have researched terrorist motivations, and found that many grievances shared among particular groups within the United States tend to be anti-government, anti-tax or some may share white supremacist views. They also typically share common targets.
"They will go after civilians particularly, or people related to the justice system," said Lemieux.
Another unique problem in investigating these would-be terrorists, according to experts like Lemieux and Townsend, is that having extreme views and sharing them isn't against the law - making it difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate smaller groups and determine whether they are just disgruntled, or an actual threat.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Another unique problem in investigating these would-be terrorists, according to experts like Lemieux and Townsend, is that having extreme views and sharing them isn't against the law ...

    Well .. for now.

    November 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  2. Dreamer96

    From above story;

    "Lemieux and his colleagues have researched terrorist motivations, and found that many grievances shared among particular groups within the United States tend to be anti-government, anti-tax or some may share white supremacist views. They also typically share common targets."

    And people say the Tea Party is not acting like a bunch of Terrorist, holding the U.S. Government and 99% of Americans hostage...

    But seriously 1995 Oklahoma bombing was horrific, and that event, like this story says was one guy, and a few assistances...Unibomber was one guy in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere, and he terrorized people for many years.

    November 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  3. Slavetousa

    Papers Please. It's coming, keep going along with everything, watch tv, consume.

    November 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  4. kingkrunknificent

    dont forget that veterans, gun owners, civil liberties activists, and constitutionalists are now considered homegrown terrorists by the DHS.. this is just more propaganda to increase the size of govt and intrude into our lives.. if you believe in the constitution and are angry at the govt, you may be a terrorist.. there must be a lot of terrorists in this country

    November 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  5. DN

    does anyone really thing these 4 senior citizens could pull off a terrorist attack? I mean seriously why is this getting blown out of proportion by the media

    November 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply

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