What Senators Didn't Hear About Somali-American Jihadists
Since 1991, Somalia has been an ungoverned, lawless state. In recent weeks, things have gotten worse as the al-Qaeda-allied group al-Shabaab ("The Youth") tightens its grip on the country. Earlier this week the cabinet of "president" Sheikh Sherif Ahmed endorsed a plan to institute Sharia law in areas it controls. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples testified that analysts expect that al-Shabaab will officially merge with al-Qaeda in the very near future.
Events in Somalia are not so distant. Since this past summer, as many as 40 Somali-American men have left the U.S. to join up with al-Shabaab and train in their terrorist camps in Somalia. And one of those men, Shirwa Ahmed, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, launched a suicide attack in northern Somalia on October 28 that killed at least 30 civilians -- the first recorded case of an American suicide bomber.
And earlier this week it was reported that a federal grand jury has been impaneled to investigate the escalating issue of Somali-American jihadists and Somali terrorist groups operating in the Minneapolis area, which adds to the list of ongoing investigations in Columbus, OH; Washington, DC; San Diego, CA; Boston, MA; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; and Portland, ME. The problem has concerned investigators to the point that high schools in some of these areas have been briefed by law enforcement to watch out for signs of radicalization among their Somali male students.
But you wouldn't have gotten even the slightest sense of urgency or alarm if you had listened to the testimony of two government officials testifying on the matter before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Wednesday, chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman. Instead, what you would have heard about from the testimony of FBI Associate Executive Assistant Director J. Philip Mudd and National Counterterrorism Center Deputy Director Andrew M. Liepman is government inter-agency initiatives and outreach programs to selected Somali community leaders -- in some cases the very individuals responsible for the radicalization and recruiting to al-Shabaab's cause.
The primary narrative spun by these two top homeland security officials and the other three panelists is of poor Somalis deprived of any opportunities and victimized by racist America, who have no alternative but to turn to gangs and jihadists to vent their rage at American foreign policy.
These officials also sanitized their reports of any politically incorrect facts. For instance, in his published testimony Mudd assured the committee that there is no widespread support for violence and terrorism within the American Muslim community, citing a 2007 Pew poll in support. What Mudd forgot to mention was that same Pew poll, the most comprehensive survey ever of the American Muslim community, found that an astounding 26 percent of 18-to-30-year-old Muslim males -- the very group being targeted by jihadist recruiters -- supported suicide attacks.
The true causes of the Somali jihadists, however, are much more obvious than these officials cared to let on to the Senate committee.