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15 November 2013

US Threat of Homegrown Violent Extremists

Hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

The Homeland Threat Landscape and U.S. Response

November 14, 2013

The Honorable Matthew G. Olsen
National Counterterrorism Center


Homegrown Violent Extremists

Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) remain the most likely global jihadist threat to the Homeland. While the threat posed by HVEs probably will broaden through at least 2015, the overall level of HVE activity is likely to remain the same: a handful of uncoordinated and unsophisticated plots emanating from a pool of up to a few hundred individuals. Lone actors or insular groups who act autonomously pose the most serious HVE threat.

The Boston Marathon bombing in April underscores the threat from HVEs who are motivated, often with little or no warning, to act violently by themselves or in small groups. In the months prior to the attack, the Boston Marathon bombers exhibited few behaviors that law enforcement and intelligence officers traditionally use to detect commitment to violence. We are concerned that HVEs could view lone offender attacks as a model for future plots in the United States and overseas. The perceived success of previous lone offender attacks combined with al-Qa„ida and AQAP.s propaganda promoting individual acts of terrorism is raising the profile of this tactic.

Many HVEs lack advanced operational training, which forces them to seek assistance online from like-minded extremists or pursue travel to overseas jihadist battlegrounds to receive hands-on experience. Recent political unrest in many parts of North Africa and the Levant, including in Syria, affords HVEs opportunities to join militant groups overseas. Foreign terrorist groups could leverage HVEs to recruit others or conduct operations inside the US or overseas.

HVEs make use of a diverse online environment that is dynamic, evolving, and selfsustaining. This online extremist environment is likely to play a critical role in the foreseeable future in radicalizing and mobilizing HVEs towards violence. Despite the removal of important terrorist leaders during the last several years, the online environment continues to reinforce an extremist identity, supplies grievances, and provide HVEs the means to connect with terrorist groups overseas.

Looking ahead, we assess HVEs probably will continue gravitating to simpler plots that do not require advanced skills, communication with others, or outside training. We assess HVEs probably will move towards more active shooter events such as Nidal Hassan.s attack at Ft. Hood, the recent Navy Yard shooting, or Anders Breivik.s mass shooting at a political youth camp in Norway. HVEs stress targeting military personnel, bases, facilities, recruiting stations, and places where military personnel gather.