Homegrown Terrorists

Local law enforcement are gaining more responsibility in the war on terror. CBS

For Zein Rimawi, the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is – very simply – a place for peaceful worship.

But as correspondent Jim Stewart reports, this holy place was also the spiritual home of 22-year-old Matin Siraj, a man the FBI and New York police describe as a new breed of enemy, the homegrown terrorist.

Siraj was captured on undercover police surveillance video conspiring with cohorts about how big a backpack bomb they'll need to blow up New York City's Herald Square subway station.

"Suppose I drop it, then the train come and it stop. And then boom," Siraj could be heard saying.

According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, the significance of the case is that Al Qaeda doesn't have to plot to send killers here any more.

Asked what the definition of "homegrown" terrorism is, Mueller tells Stewart, "Homegrown terrorists, these are individuals who are inspired, motivated by al Qaeda, but we have not seen any direct connection with al Qaeda."

Police say Siraj, outraged by the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, conspired to bomb the subway with a friend and a mentor from the Bay Ridge mosque, who turned out to be a confidential informant working for the NYPD.

"I'm gonna dress like a Jew. And then I put the bomb in there," Siraj's co-conspirator could be heard saying.

In the past two years, FBI and local police say they've uncovered at least five homegrown cells around the country: most recently in Miami, where seven men were charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Asked if the agency had been lucky or good in stopping an attack, Mueller said: Yes, you could be fortunate, but to the extent that you are thorough, to the extent that you follow-up on every lead, you make your luck."

But if the latest homegrown cells shared bin Laden's ideology, they sorely lacked his expertise. The Miami group's revolutionary strategy bordered on delusional.

"After this, we're going to launch the ground war…," one of the suspects could be heard saying on an undercover tape.

Were these really terrorists?

"If you look at the individuals prior to September 11, several individuals with boxcutters only who had a scheme to hijack airlines and run them into buildings. We cannot risk any one of these groups could undertake a like attack, and I can assure you that where we have indications or evidence of such planning, we will investigate, we will disrupt and we will prosecute," Mueller says.

"And no apologies?" Stewart asks.

"No apologies," the director replies. `

Asked whether the U.S. is safer now, Mueller says, "Yes."

"The Patriot Act broke down the walls," he says. "And we are much more adept now at identifying pieces of information and following up on those pieces of information with all of our counterparts in the intelligence community and the law enforcement community."

  • Daniel Schorn

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