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Homegrown Terrorism in prison

Study confirms prisons are being used to recruit "homegrown" terrorists

By Douglas J. Hagmann

Thursday, September 21, 2006

21 September 2006: Our review of a recent report released Tuesday at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "homegrown" terrorists confirmed what we the Northeast Intelligence Network has been reporting for some time: "Radicalized prisoners are a potential pool of recruits by terrorist groups. Prisons have long been places where extremist ideology and calls to violence could find a willing ear, and conditions are often conducive to radicalization. The U.S., with its large prison population, is at risk of facing the sort of homegrown terrorism currently plaguing other countries."

The joint study conducted by George Washington University and the University of Virginia found that the state prison systems are ill-equipped, either by funding or training of personnel, to identify, track and stop radicalized behavior by inmates or religious counselors. The U.S. prison system currently houses about 2 million people; an estimated six-percent, or about 120,000 of the inmates are Muslim, cites the study. Most importantly, the study confirmed that jailed Islamic "extremists" with violent interpretations of the Qu'ran are exploiting the weak monitoring of our prison population to spread their ideology to other inmates in U.S. prisons.

Counterterrorism consultant Daveed Gartenstein-Ross told senators that "chilling" interpretations of the Quran and other radical Islamic literature was commonly given to prison inmates, citing his experience when he worked for the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, an international charity that served as a major al-Qaeda source of funding. In prepared testimony to the Senate panel, Gartenstein-Ross stated that the literature urged Muslims "to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule." He added that the prison system never rejected the dissemination of the literature due to its radical content.

The report identified several high-profile examples of terrorists who became "radicalized" while incarcerated, including the now infamous British shoe bomber Richard Reid and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Egyptian cleric who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks in 1993. Abdel-Rahman, sentenced to a life term, issued a decree from his federal prison cell ordering Muslims to kill Americans "wherever you find them." Terror leader Osama bin Laden confirmed that edict by Abdel-Rahman gave religious authority for the 9/11 attacks. The report also cited the formation of the Islamic terrorist group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS) by Kevin James, who organized the group while he was an inmate at California State Prison in Sacramento.

The study noted that state and local prison officials have been using contractors and volunteers from the private sector to provide counseling to the Islamic prison population, promote Islam within the prisons, and conduct Muslim prayer services. The program is largely unmonitored. As a result, there have been a number of cases of imams espousing and spreading a violent Islamic agenda to the inmates, who are already disenfranchised. "In the absence of monitoring by authoritative Islamic chaplains, materials that advocate violence have infiltrated the prison system undetected," the report concluded.