Declassified FBI report: Foreign policy, not religion, sparked rise of terrorism in US

© Larry Downing
A newly-released 2011 FBI Intelligence Assessment shows the 11 percent uptick in terror plots against the US from 2006 was led by US persons, not foreigners. A “broadening US military presence overseas and outreach by Islamist ideologues” bolstered the increase.

The previously classified document was the result of analysis conducted by the Los Angeles Division of the FBI and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), covering terrorist plots against the US and its interests from 2001 to 2010. It was made public via a California Public Records request to the Los Angeles Police Department, according to Muck Rock.

“With high confidence,” the March 2011 intelligence report says, foreign nationals “led anti-US targeting prior to 2006” with 52 percent, but a swift change came in the subsequent years, with Americans plotting 70 percent of attacks.

Behind the surge in domestic or homegrown threats was “self-selection, sometimes passively influenced by Internet provocateurs,” the FBI and JRIC found, although they did not determine how much of the phenomena was caused by propaganda.

The assessment also was unable to whittle down a profile of whom would fit into this new rising breed of terrorists. Of the 33 Americans the report looked at, there were “few identifiable unifying qualities” and “no identifiable religious affiliation.”

But there was one common factor the FBI and JRIC found.

“Much of the activity stemmed from a perception that the United States is at war with Islam and jihad is the correct and obligatory response,” the report found.

As Muck Rock pointed out, this fits the story of Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, whose May 2010 car bombing attempt on Times Square failed, made clear in court why he turned to terrorism.

“I want to plead guilty 100 times because unless the United States pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq, until they stop drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen and stop attacking Muslim lands, we will attack the United States and be out to get them,” Shahzad said in June 2010.

While the US wars and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq contributed to at least 25 percent of the pre-2006 cases, the post-2006 cases were actually tied to those invasions less often. Hard feelings over the 2006 Lebanon War waged by Israel as well as a Danish newspaper’s publishing of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad were cited in later cases.

This 2011 FBI Intelligence Assessment’s findings are mirrored in other government and independent research reports that were compiled both beforehand and afterward.

A September 2004 report by the Defense Science Board Task Force, run out of the Department of Defense, concluded that “American actions and the flow of events [since 9/11] have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims,” according to Muck Rock.

US foreign policy, including its “one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights” as well as its support for Middle Eastern governments, “what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies,” along with the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations, was cited in the 2004 report.

In April 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate, a collective analysis from some 17 US intelligence agencies, was finalized. Titled, “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it found that “the American invasion and occupation of Iraq … helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism,” according to Muck Rock.

Released in March 2011, about the same time the 2011 FBI Intelligence Assessment was done, the Brennan Center for Justice’s report “Rethinking Radicalization” found there to be “no profile of the type of person who becomes a terrorist; indeed, the process by which a person embraces violence is fluid, making it nearly impossible to predict who will move from espousing ‘radical’ views to committing violent acts.”

This runs against the entire premise of the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs, which seek to prevent terrorism within the US by using complex data, most often from Muslim communities, to more or less profile for potential terrorists. The CVE programs do not entertain the idea of foreign policy driving domestic threats.

Last month, the Associated Press analyzed some 3,000 leaked Islamic State documents to discover that most recruits had little or no understanding of the religion of Islam.