Doug Bedell — February 27, 2008, 8:28 am

Countering Terrorist ‘Wannabees’

The “third wave” of would-be terrorists spends a lot of time on the Internet, chatting up feelings of disaffection and rancor, says a researcher in Philadelphia who tracks them.

Marc Sagerman, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a onetime CIA case officer in Afghanistan, says Al Qaeda has become the “brand name” for a host of “terrorist wannabees” who fuel their resentment on the Web. “They become increasingly radicalized by shared group discontent and join the terrorist jihad in a quest for glory and heroism,” says a report on a speech Sagerman gave February 20 to the New America Foundation in Washington.

All of which suggests that terrorist acts could flare almost anywhere, and makes alertness (without paranoia) advisable in communities everywhere. In particular, the Department of Homeland Security and state and local officials ought to be maintaining keenly collegial relationships. However, a report in The Wall Street Journal says “the Department of Homeland Security is stumbling in in its efforts to coordinate the gathering and sharing of domestic intelligence with state and local officials.”

That’s sad to hear, especially because the observation comes in a report commissioned by the department itself. If fledgling terrorists can commune together via the Internet and other means, the U.S. agencies responsible for detecting them need to be as cooperative as possible. And we all need to be prudently alert in our own communities.

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