The enemy withinBy GEOFF EARLE in Washington and ANDY SOLTIS in New York
New York Post
December 22, 2010
In a blunt, urgent warning, Attorney General Eric Holder said the threat from homegrown terrorists has increased significantly -- and the prime cause is a fanatical US-born Muslim cleric.
"It is one of the things that keeps me up at night," Holder told ABC News. "You didn't worry about this even two years ago -- about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we do now."
Rep. Peter King (R-LI), the soon-to-be chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, welcomed Holder's admission.
"I think Eric Holder now realizes how severe the threat is," he told The Post. "He realizes there's a threat from homegrown terrorism."
Holder said he is confident the nation will thwart attacks, but is concerned US officials may have missed a signal one is coming -- and Americans "have to be prepared for potentially bad news."
King, who plans to hold congressional hearings on the radicalization of some in the US Muslim community, said there is even "concern this holiday season" about a possible terror attack.
"There's intelligence indicating that we could be attacked at Christmastime."
Holder noted that 50 of the 126 people indicted in the United States on terror-related charges over the past two years were American citizens.
What many of the al Qaeda-linked terrorists have in common is a connection to Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born cleric who spews anti-American rhetoric via the Internet from a suspected lair in Yemen.
Holder said Awlaki should be on the same most- dangerous list as Osama bin Laden, adding, "He's up there. I don't know whether he's one, two, three or four. I don't know."
US officials believe that Awlaki master minded the Christ mas Day "underwear bomb" attempt aboard an airliner over Detroit last year and the October plot to blow up cargo planes headed from Yemen to Europe and the United States.
"The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens -- raised here, born here, and who, for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," Holder said.
He said the attempted Times Square bombing in May and the 2009 plot to attack the New York subway system give an idea of how big al Qaeda is thinking, and that is "what is most alarming to me."
King welcomed Holder's expression of alarm. "I give him credit," he said. "I felt this way for a number of years. He seemed to spend the first years of the administration almost making believe terrorism wasn't there."