WASHINGTON — Homegrown terrorism is a major national security threat to the United States in the 21st century because of the combination of violent extremist ideology and the internet.
Last week, 22-year-oldc, of Topeka, Kansas, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for attempting to detonate a car bomb on the Fort Riley military base.
Agents say he tried to connect wires to what he believed was a bomb inside of a van. What he didn’t know was the device was fake — provided by an FBI informant. Thankfully, federal authorities had him under surveillance for months.
Authorities say Booker, who pleaded guilty last year, acted on behalf of the ISIS terror network.
“Mr. Booker was a young man who born in Kansas, raised in Kansas, went to school in Kansas but somehow became lost,” said former U.S. Attorney of Kansas Barry Grisson. “He became self-radicalized in the basement watching jihad tapes and adopted a perverse notion on what Islam was.”
Grissom says the FBI investigation began after Booker posted on Facebook that he wanted to commit jihad.
“Booker tried to enlist in the U.S. Army to commit an inside attack against American soldiers,” said Grissom. “The notion that we can build a wall, that we can deny visas for folks who want to do our citizens harm, as if that is going to address any issues we have, is completely wrong. Our biggest problem in law enforcement right now is the lone wolf.”
Terror experts say people who feel disenfranchised from society as a whole and are looking for something bigger then themselves are targets for groups like ISIS. Many times these people are not on government watch lists because they’ve never been arrested.
Sources say the FBI has over 1,000 active terrorism investigations in all 50 states. Also, at least 250 people have attempted to or have traveled from the U.S. to join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq. Since March 2014, 128 individuals have been charged with terrorism-related activities in connection with the Islamic State.
Experts call it a ‘homegrown’ phenomenon in the truest sense of the word.
“They are vying for our youth. They are trying to attract them. There is a whole long list of various groups, ” said Christianne Boudreau, who lost her son, Damian, to ISIS.
While growing up in Calgary, Boudreau remembers Damian as warm and compassionate. That all changed in high school. At 17, feeling disconnected from his classmates, Damian converted to Islam. She had no idea what was coming when Damian told her he wanted to study Arabic in Egypt. In reality, the 22-year-old headed instead to Syria to join ISIS fighters.
“At the end of January 2013, that’s when our Canadian equivalent to the FBI showed up at the door step and said they’ve been watching him for almost two years,” she recalled.
In November 2012, Damian died during rebel infighting.
Boudreau now runs Hayat Canada Family support and Mothers for Life to provide support and outreach for those affected by violent extremism.
For Boudreau, the anti-jihadist cause has taken over much of her life. She urges all parents to watch over their children, be aware of what they are watching online, and communicate with them about the dangers of extremists.