Detect, Disrupt, and Detain: Local Law Enforcement's Critical Roles in Combating Homegrown Extremism and the Evolving Terrorist Threat
Silber, Mitch, Frey, Adam, Fordham Urban Law Journal
Introduction I. The Al-Qaeda Threat to the Homeland 2013 A. Al-Qaeda Core B. Affiliates and Allies C. Al-Qaeda Inspired (or Homegrown) II. Radicalization and Detection A. The Radicalization Process B. Online Radicalization III. Local Law Enforcement's Role A. Local Law Enforcement's Comparative Advantages 1. Manpower 2. General Police Power/Knowledge of the Community 3. Greater Accountability to Local Concerns B. The Legal Framework: The NYPD and Handschu: A Case Study 1. Background 2. Investigations Under Current Handschu Guidelines a. Leads b. Preliminary Inquiries c. Full Investigations d. Terrorism Enterprise Investigations e. Investigative Techniques 3. Other Authorizations Under Handschu IV. Prosecution A. State Level Prosecutions 1. Ahmed Ferhani 2. Jose Pimentel B. Federal Criminal Statutes 1. Background 2. Dissemination of Bomb Making Material/Information 3. Solicitation 4. Communicating Threats Conclusion
As this thing metastasizes, cops are it. We are going to win this at the local level. (1)
Over the last dozen years, the great cities of the West--New York, London, Madrid, Amsterdam, Boston, Toronto, Sydney, and Los Angeles, among others--have been under the almost constant threat of al-Qaeda type (2) terrorism. (3) There have been many plots against American cities. (4) Some have been planned and directed from al Qaeda or its affiliates abroad, whereas others have been hatched by small cells of so-called homegrown terrorists and/or lone wolves inspired by al-Qaeda's ideology. (5) And, while the vast majority of these plots have been thwarted, some have succeeded with deadly impact. (6) As the recent al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist attack in Boston of April 2013 demonstrated, despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda type threat to the U.S. homeland--and cities in particular--remains both real and deadly. (7)
Given that terrorist threats to urban environments are unlikely to abate any time soon, and that cities must seek to protect their citizens from terrorism, local police departments have to consider how best to counter this menace. At the same time, local police departments must balance the competing challenges that urban counterterrorism initiatives raise from security, law enforcement, intelligence and civil liberties perspectives. More broadly, local law enforcement has to understand the nature of the threat, which necessarily informs how it should be best thwarted.
This Article argues that the threat is three-fold: from al-Qaeda "Core"; al-Qaeda's regional affiliates and allies; and homegrown extremists. Moreover, as U.S. military and intelligence operations overseas continue to put pressure on the first two elements, the threat is likely to metastasize and become further decentralized? While the threat from al-Qaeda Core and its overseas affiliates and allies will remain, we have seen over the last five to seven years that these so-called "homegrown extremists"--who are radicalized here in the United States, often in urban centers and often over the Internet--present one of the most serious terrorism threats to the homeland. (9) This Article will focus on the third leg of the stool: the threat of homegrown extremists. In particular, it addresses some of the problems this phenomenon presents, as well as the tools available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat it in urban environments. Finally, it will focus in particular on the role of local law enforcement in combating this threat.
Part I of this Article begins by describing and defining the nature of the al-Qaeda threat in general, and that of homegrown extremism in particular. Part II then addresses the question of radicalization--the process by which homegrown extremists may be moved to violence. …