A Terror Suspect Who Fits No Profile

She called herself "Jihad Jane" - a petite blonde from the Philadelphia suburbs accused of trying to recruit terrorists for attacks overseas via the Internet. The neighbors had no clue and neither did her boyfriend. But federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Colleen LaRose may represent the new face of terrorism, as CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

In many ways she represents the greatest fear of the FBI - a suspected terrorist who fits no profile; a U.S. citizen who can travel freely and blend right in.

On her Myspace page last June, an anonymous "Jihad Jane" wrote, "I'm so bored I want to scream."

But, prosecutors say, at that time the woman behind the veil - LaRose - was actually very busy inside her suburban Philadelphia home mapping terror plans and hoping to become a martyr.

"I am in shock," said Pennsburg, Penn., resident Tina Schwenk. "I can't believe it. I can't believe that in this small community like this that this is going on."

Prosecutors say LaRose - hiding behind the aliases "Jihad Jane" and "Fatima LaRose" - recruited fellow radicals over the Internet. She's accused of traveling to Europe and conspiring with others in a failed attempt to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had sketched the prophet Mohammed as a dog.

This federal indictment cites an e-mail from LaRose pledging to kill her target.

"I will make this my goal," she wrote, "till I achieve it or die trying."

And the government says blond-haired, blue-eyed LaRose knew her appearance would protect her from suspicion. In another e-mail she wrote she'd "blend in with many people" and that "may be a way to achieve what is in my heart."

Her boyfriend, Kurt Gorman, said he had no idea LaRose may have been a closet jihadist.

Hers is the latest in a string of recent cases involving U.S. residents making cyber connections to link up with terrorists. Denver shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi joined with al Qaeda and schemed to blow up New York subways. Chicagoan David Headley conspired with a Pakistani terror group to plan the bombings in Mumbai, India.

And accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan traded nearly 20 e-mail messages with radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

The challenge for the FBI is identifying the real threats amid the bluster.

"It's really hard to gauge those that are just involved in rhetoric and those who are actually going to take action," said Rick "Ozzie" Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And that's a big jump and a big difference."

The Internet is filled with Web sites and videos promoting Jihad and bloggers, many based in the U.S., looking for recruits. On Wednesday CBS News researcher Khaled Wassef scrolled through a long list.

"It would not be an exaggeration if I said that there are at least dozens of bloggers operating from the United States," Wassef said.

Free speech of course is protected. But law enforcement officials face vexing questions. When do Internet rantings cross the line and become actionable threats? And how can the FBI police an anonymous cyber-world often viewed as the new Wild West?
  • Bob Orr

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