By Jeffrey V. Gardner, Faculty Member, Homeland Security at American Military University
For almost a full decade after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government was concerned about sleeper cells within the U.S. or terrorists infiltrating from overseas. However, there have not been any significant external attacks from Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups in the U.S. since 2009. Instead, the U.S. (and Canada) has seen a long string of attacks committed by homegrown extremists.
Homegrown extremists are individuals who were born, or spent most of their lives, in the U.S. and who generally lack any direct foreign support or control, but have been radicalized and trained to carry out (or attempt to carry out) attacks on home soil. Some recent examples of homegrown terrorism by American citizens include the recent attack in Orlando, as well as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting — all of which were committed by individuals claiming allegiance to international terrorist groups.
This shift to attacks by homegrown extremists represents a major change to the domestic threat environment. Individuals working (or aspiring to work) in homeland security and intelligence professions must advance their understanding of what leads individuals to radicalize and engage in terrorist activities, as well as de-radicalization approaches.