I was a little slow to catch this item:

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials say they are taking steps to monitor and combat the possible spread of Islamic extremism and support for a violent holy war against the West among a “Pepsi jihad” generation of young Muslims in the United States.

At a hearing last week, officials from the CIA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers that the United States had less of a problem with potential “homegrown” Islamic terrorists than Europe did, because of its history as a nation of immigrants.

But despite that, Phillip Mudd from the FBI’s National Security Branch, added that the ideology of extremist Islam — and its attendant support for violent jihad against the West in general and the United States in particular — was spreading even here.

A very brief and seriously culled extract, the full story deserves your attention.

So of course I start doing the math: what could aspiring, self-radicalized terrorists do if they were so inclined?

  • Conduct reconnaissance and basic tradecraft (Google earth, myriad books)
  • Buy, train in the use of, and employ small arms (remember they’re domestic and “clean”)
  • Design, build and employ IEDs (numerous resources though validity of some is questionable – requires testing)
  • Intercept the communications of those who are hunting him (no shortage of police scanner resources)
  • Jam navigation systems and systems that might be used to track him (see this GPS World story – H/T Global Guerrillas)
  • Communicate securely and anonymously (ppd phones, onion routing, G/PG/P, etc.)
  • Raise substantial amounts of funds to support operations (start with online cc-fraud and go from there)

Assuming our aspiring Keffiyeh Mafia have day jobs of some sort, we’re probably talking tens of weeks if not months before an initial operating capability is established; longer than it would take them to get to the point where they’d actually contemplate building the skill set.

Of course there are nay-sayers:

“It’s ridiculous to think that the U.S. or any other military would do its training over the Internet,” said analyst and author Peter Bergen, arguing al-Qaida was just as professional in its approach. “Radicalization is one thing, having operational cells with the capacity to launch attacks is something else entirely.

“That basically means people who have been through one of the (terrorist training) camps.”

Bergen might have amusing footage that could be used for “UBL’s Funniest Home Videos” but he’s apparently never heard of the Army’s long-time use of computer-based training, combat-training video games (adopted by Hezbollah no less, and this little thing called Future Combat System, which is basically the Army.com. Still, he does hit one in the park:

The exception, [Bergen] said, was the Islamic extremist cell which had sprung up in southern California jails last year. As hardened criminals, the individuals involved in that group, he said “had some hands-on experience.” [emphasis mine]

When the IEDs go off no one is going to care about where they received their training, only that they got it, which makes ‘location, location, location’ irrelevant.

Bright points of the day included Charlie Allen, who as usual recognizes a good thing when he sees it and applies resources accordingly:

… Allen, the head of intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security, said the department had reorganized its intelligence analysts late last year and “created a branch focused exclusively on radicalization in the homeland (which) is studying the dynamics of individual and organizational radicalization.”

Dismissing a potentially explosive problem by claiming cultural differences seems like a high-handed way to marginalize some important points. Simply playing the numbers culturally obtuse Britain reportedly has 200 known networks of evil doers on the loose. We might have a greater tradition of inclusiveness, but in case you haven’t noticed goodly numbers of immigrant Muslims in this country aren’t assimilating. We’re five-times larger than the UK population-wise, so whatever “savings” we get by being a melting pot would seem to be nominal if any. Culturally speaking, even if you are born here and have all the advantaged you’re not a lock for citizen of the year, as the OK City bombers and pretty much every school shooter attests to. Besides, we’re at or rapidly approaching the point where numbers don’t matter all that much.

Methinks the biggest problem outside of the issues related to mentorship, is the lack of understanding of just how long, hard, and complicated it is being a covert operative. Even if you’re not all that deep, just having a meeting can be a multi-day affair and even professionals with years of training and experience under their belts get lax on occasion.

I’ll withhold further judgment until Charlie’s folks issue a report on radicalization on the home front (begin holding breath . . . now!).

Similar thoughts on future attack size and methodology at OPFOR.