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The FBI and other government agencies went before the Senate's Homeland Security Committee yesterday to answer questions about the fight against homegrown terrorism. The hearing came just days after the Justice Department arrested six New Jersey Muslim men alleged to be planning to attack Fort Dix.
NPR's FBI correspondent Dina Temple-Raston reports.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut started right in, asking FBI Assistant Director John Miller how a handful of immigrant men who seem to be fitting into American society could decide to attack it.
Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Independent, Connecticut): From the large interaction that the bureau has with the American-Arab and Muslim communities, should we expect more homegrown terrorist acts?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Miller said yes. These kinds of arrests and these kinds of cases in which longtime residents of the United States unilaterally declare Jihad are likely the wave of the future.
Mr. JOHN MILLER (Assistant Director, FBI): You see a certain tempo of activity of U.S.-based, self-initiating, self-radicalizing, self-financing groups coming together. Now, when you look at them within the context of the larger Muslim population...
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Right.
Mr. MILLER: ...it's a very few...
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Small.
Mr. MILLER: ...number of individuals. So the questions that we ask are - and now we ask them again, and in a different way with the Fort Dix case - where did they become radicalized? How did they become radicalized?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Miller said the FBI and a number of other government agencies are still searching for clues.
Mr. MILLER: We are looking hard at this. We are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the larger intelligence community and the DNI, to try and figure out if there are set of models or anything that will tell us better where to lay those tripwires to look for people who are going over the line from radical ideas, which is legal in a free society and encouraged, to going operational, and finding where to set those tripwires has been a daunting and amorphous task.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Senator Lieberman seems sympathetic.
Sen. LIEBERMAN: But you know, in the ideal world, you'd be able to follow the profile and to prevent the radicalization of those individuals.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Miller said they were trying. And law enforcement officials told NPR that was going to be the concentration of the FBI's efforts on the edges of the Fort Dix case in the coming weeks. They want to understand who radicalized these men and when it happened. To better understand these kinds of questions, the FBI has started to engage Muslim organizations, like the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. At the hearing, Miller said the bureau has started to make calls to these groups when then there is an incident or arrest like the ones in New Jersey.
Mr. MILLER: This kind of spontaneous dialogue, which would have once been remarkable, has become part of our set operations plan when there is a breaking event involving terrorism, especially in the context that we know that that can bring stress on the Arab-American and Muslim community.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Of course the outreach isn't entirely altruistic. Investigators are keenly aware that their best chance at stopping a terrorist attack before it begins is to through ordinary citizens out in the communities, someone who sees something and reports it.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the case continues. NPR has learned that agents found what they believe to be the six guns the men used during shooting sessions in the Pocono Mountains. Officials also found a spotter scope, something snipers use to target their shots.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.
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