Cover Story: Home grown terrorism

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Concerns being raised about home grown terrorism after federal officials charged eight Raleigh area men of planning a "violent jihad."  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson says when you think of terrorism, you don't think of North Carolina.  But this latest case has certainly opened our eyes.

This case here in North Carolina and similar recent incidents worry American law enforcement officials.

In fact, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says he's increasingly concerned about Americans becoming radicalized and turning to terrorism.

He says it's something that didn't loom as large a few months ago as it does now.


It's a threat that keeps law enforcement officials up at night.

Home grown terror.. a threat that some believe is increasing.

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).. in a speech last week.

"It is critical to reinterate that the threat remains. The consensus view of the intelligence community of which DHS is a member.. is that the terror threat to the Homeland is quote-- persistent and evolving," says Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary.

It's the shifting nature of threats and this case in particular-- a North Carolina man.. Daniel Boyd and six other men accused of quietly planning a "violent jihad" that raised the red flags for federal officials again.. and pointed to evidence they say of a growing trend.

Other recent cases-- an American raised on Long Island currently being detained for training with al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And a Virginia man, who had joined al-Qaida, sentenced last week to life in prison for planning to kill former president George W. Bush.

"Ultimately something happens that brings them to engage in violence."

David Schanzer directs the "Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security" at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill.

He says home grown terror can come in any form.

Timothy McVeigh.. who bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City 14 years ago.

Eric Rudolph.. abortion clinic bomber and set a bomb to go off at the Atlanta Olympics in '96.

Now.. it's Daniel Boyd and his accomplices charged with plotting attacks in a foreign country.

Schanzer says there's no single pattern to radicalization.

In the case of Boyd federal prosecutors say he endorsed a radical ideology.. got a group together who had similar inclinations and became more radical in their discussions.

In many cases it escalates.

"Watch videos of bombings or beheadings and endorse this ideology to a deeper and deeper extent," says Schanzer.

And it can happen anywhere.

But Steve Emerson, author of "American Jihad" one of the foremost experts on terrorism says North Carolina is a "hot bed" for terrorist activity.

The state has significant military bases and many universities which attract a wide range of people from all over the world.  And it's still largely rural.. plenty of area for groups to practice their warfare in relative seclusion.

Charlotte had its own ties to terrorism.. seven years ago.. two Lebanon-born brothers were convicted of running a cigarette smuggling operation that sent some of its profits to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The FBI's become more focused on terror cases since 9/11.. what's happened?

The former head of the FBI's Raleigh office says every credible terrorism lead that comes into the FBI must now be disproved by an agent.

It used to be up to management what leads they looked into..

Counter-terrorism has become the FBI's top priority since the Sept. 11 attacks.