The Global War on Terror has a new participant: the American lone wolf who has pledged allegiance to an external/foreign organization. Domestic terrorism is not new to the U.S. From the KKK to Timothy McVeigh, there have always been individuals so filled with hate—whether originating from racism, religious fanaticism, or anti-government sentiments—they feel compelled to take violent action. Still, the San Bernardino massacre presents new challenges for our law enforcement and intelligence communities.
Sayd Farook was a U.S.-born citizen. He had a good job and loved rebuilding cars. By all accounts, a normal American with an easy smile. He met a woman online. She came to America on a fiancée visa. They had a child, and Farook’s mother lived in the house to help out. It all seems very American.
But his wife, Tashfeen Malik, came to the country with a nefarious purpose: to radicalize her new husband and commit acts of terror in the name of ISIS. While it is highly doubtful that ISIS leadership directed this assault, the lone sympathizer (or small cell) acting on their behalf represents an extension of their reach to our soil.
ISIS is no longer a potential domestic terrorist threat, it is reality. The attack on San Bernardino was planned and deliberately executed. Despite the fact that the attackers killed 14 people, law enforcement’s quick reaction time likely saved many lives. Pressure-cooker bombs and IED-building materials (the FBI used the term “IED factory”) clearly demonstrate the killers’ dedication to war. Their goal was to create fear.
Fear directly contributed to this massacre; not a fear of terrorists, but a fear of labels. Several neighbors said that they noticed strange behavior, yet were unwilling to come forward or call authorities for fear of being labeled a racist or racial profiler. Get over it. This attitude must change immediately. Our intelligence communities need Americans to step up to the plate. Don’t be afraid of a label, but be observant and diligent, cognizant of this new domestic threat targeting our local communities at a time when the external ISIS threat targets everything not within their belief system.
All Americans—military, former military, and civilians—do not need to live a life of fear, yet we must understand the growing number of methods used to commit domestic terror attacks. San Bernardino represents all the things that concern counter-terrorism experts: immigration from Islamic nations (Pakistan, in this scenario), social media as a recruiting tool, the increased role of women on the operational front lines, and the increasing unwillingness of the American population to cooperate with law enforcement due to the fear of being labeled. Domestic terrorism and hate groups no longer hide behind white robes and masks. The face has changed. It now belongs to the normal-looking couple who can hide in plain sight behind a grandmother and infant.
(Featured image courtesy of abclocal.go.com)