A U.S. Senate panel has released a report concluding that terrorist groups have stepped up their appeals to English-speaking audiences, including those in the United States. The report, warning that such appeals could foment homegrown terrorism, is urging the U.S. government to do more to isolate and discredit the violent extremist ideology. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released the report at a news conference Thursday.
Senator Joe Lieberman, who calls himself an independent Democrat, is committee chairman:
"Our committee investigation found that terrorists are skillfully using the Internet to spread their propaganda across national borders and cultural barriers, permitting anyone with the inclination and in Internet connection to immerse themselves in the hate-filled messages of radical Islam, to receive training, and weapons and tactics and to build in cyberspace the kind of group support that once required travel to overseas training camps," he said.
Lieberman said the report's findings mean that America is vulnerable not just to attacks plotted by terrorists living oceans away, but also to terrorism conceived within U.S. borders from disaffected Americans who may have no operational ties to international organized terrorist groups.
Lieberman said terrorists have become sophisticated in their communications abilities:
"Our report found, for example, that al Qaida and allied violent Islamist organizations, manage a multi-tiered online media operation, consisting of several production units that create content consistent with the core message used to recruit and train terrorists," he added.
The senator said the content is sent through a clearinghouse, which stamps the material with a seal of authenticity before being sent out digitally to thousands of Web sites around the world. He said the material may include English subtitles to appeal to Americans of specific ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. He quoted an official at the Department of Homeland Security who said terrorists are now making extremist podcasts that can be downloaded to iPods.
Lieberman says the United States lacks a cohesive and comprehensive outreach and communications strategy to confront terrorist ideology and reduce its appeal within the United States.
"The United States must counter the influence of this ideology in order to deter homegrown attacks like the ones that have already been seen in cities like Madrid, London and Amsterdam," he said.
Lieberman says Congress and the administration must decide what new laws, programs or tactics should be adopted to combat homegrown terrorism.
Senator Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate panel, says communication will be key:
"I want to emphasize that our report concludes that one of the most productive steps that we can take in the short run is improved outreach and communication efforts that would challenge the terrorist message," she said. "Our nation must promote more effective outreach to the Muslim-American community and to religious leaders who can reject al-Qaida's violent message and help form a counter message."
The Senate panel has conducted six hearings on radical Islamic extremism and homegrown terrorism over the past two years.