|Next US terror attack 'could be by white Americans or Europeans'
US intelligence officials increasingly fear that the next terror attack on the United States will be carried out by white Americans or Europeans.
Telegraph | September 11, 2008
As Barack Obama and John McCain head to New York's Ground Zero seven years after 19 Middle-Eastern hijackers brought devastation to the US mainland, counter-terrorism experts believe that any future attack will be made by terrorists with an "American face".
They point to reports of white faces in terrorism training camps in Pakistan - the so-called "white men of Waziristan", a reference to the remote tribal area where both al-Qaeda and the Taliban have bases.
Experts believe that dozens of westerners have undergone such training as their leaders try to recruit non-Middle Eastern Asians, particularly ethnic Caucasians, who are less likely to attract the attention of security and law enforcement agencies.
Al-Qaeda's recent decision to put out videos in English and a similar change on extremist "jihadi" websites have also been cited of evidence of a new strategy to find recruits who are less likely to attract the attention of security and law enforcement agencies.
Such concerns were sharpened last week after the arrest of three Germans over an alleged plot to destroy a club used by US servicemen.
Two of the three were white, ethnic Germans and all had allegedly been trained in camps in Waziristan.
"There is no bigger worry for the US counter-terrorism community than young Caucasian men who have turned to al-Qaeda," Roger Cressey, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton and Bush administrations, told the US news network MSNBC.
Terrorism experts say such a threat has been known about even before the arrest of Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber. However, it was not until three weeks ago that a US official explicitly admitted that the government knew of such people being trained in significant numbers.
In a little reported speech, Ted Gistaro, the US national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that al-Qaeda was training and "positioning" its operatives for attacks in the West, probably including the US.
He added: "These operatives include North American and European citizens, and legal residents with passports that allow them to travel to the United States without a US visa."
Mr Cressey, the council's director for transnational threats at the time of 9/11, said that President Bush last month hosted a joint meeting of the NSC and the Homeland Security Council to discuss current threats.
The training of the type of people identified by Mr Gistaro was "the single biggest concern" at the meeting because "they can't be tracked and they're not in anyone's database," said Mr Cressey.
Prof Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, said that the Western al-Qaeda recruits probably "run into the dozens" and did not need to be white to be useful to the terrorist group.
"Europe provides a potentially large pool from which al-Qaeda can draw. It's hard to put a figure on them but it's certainly beyond the ones and twos," he said.
"The group's having to find new ways to penetrate our defences. So, in a sense, this is a consequence of our own success."
Last month, the Homeland Security Department announced a plan to require visitors from 27 friendly countries, including Britain, to register online at least three days before flying to the US to allow more time for terrorism checks.
In Manhattan today, Mr McCain and Mr Obama have agreed to help keep the focus on remembering 9/11 rather than the election when they attend the ceremonial reading of victims' names.
Detailed designs for a 47,500-sq ft pavilion for a Sept 11 museum at the World Trade Centre site were unveiled yesterday. The three-storey glass and steel building was inspired by the Twin Towers.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor, said there should be "no more excuses, no more delays" on completing a memorial by the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Progress on redeveloping the WTC site had been "frustratingly slow", in large part because of administrative bureaucracy, he said.