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Amid the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration and a general belt-tightening mood among many on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon is being asked to reduce its spending after a decade of increases. Some argue that even with cutbacks, the U. But others say that the U. Also, they say, maintaining an effective all-volunteer military requires ever-increasing personnel costs, meaning less money is left for training and equipment.

Terrorizing Ourselves: Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It

A group of experts recently faced off, two against two, over military spending in a debate for the Intelligence Squared U. The motion for the Oxford-style debate was, "Cutting the Pentagon's budget is a gift to our enemies. Before the debate, the audience voted 22 percent in favor of the motion and 57 percent against, with 21 percent undecided.

After the debate, 29 percent agreed that "cutting the Pentagon's budget is a gift to our enemies," while 65 percent disagreed — making the side arguing against the motion the winners. He is the co-author with Frederick W. How important does Madeleine Albright believe energy security is?


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Where does Paddy Ashdown believe the Balkans is heading? And how do award-winning journalists, economists and researchers see the future in diverse issues from organised crime to climate change? Seek and you shall find is an old phrase.

But it is an apt one, argues Benjamin Friedman, when applied to the search for something which has almost certainly always been there. Homegrown terrorism is not becoming more common and dangerous in the United States, contrary to warnings issued regularly from Washington.

American jihadists attempting local attacks are predictably incompetent, making them even less dangerous than their rarity suggests. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are among legions of experts and officials who have recently warned of a rise in homegrown terrorism, meaning terrorist acts or plots carried out by American citizens or long-term residents, often without guidance from foreign organisations.

Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated President McKinley in , was a native-born American who got no foreign help. The deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U. Homegrown terrorism has declined since. According a report published earlier this year by Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina, arrests of homegrown terrorists fell from 47 in to 20 in No more successful plots have occurred. There are reasons to doubt that the recent increase in homegrown terrorism arrests reflected an increase in actual terrorism.

One reason is random variation. Because a run of aces may be due to chance, it does make the next gamble a good one.

Similarly, a spate of homegrown terrorism does not necessarily indicate a continuing trend. Second, as Jenkins notes, a sizeable minority of those arrested for terrorism in the late s were U. That counts as terrorism because the U. But it is an insurgent organisation chiefly interested in Somalia politics that has not attempted terrorism in the United States. With Ethiopian forces occupying parts of Somalia from , many in the Somali diaspora saw support for al-Shabaab as a defense of their homeland.

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Those that aid or join it are not necessarily interested in terrorism, let alone terrorism against Americans. Third, U. After the September 11, the FBI received a massive boost in counterterrorism funding and shifted a small army of agents from crime-fighting to counterterrorism.

Many joined new Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Ambitious prosecutors increasingly looked for terrorists to indict. Most states stood up intelligence fusion centers, which the Department of Homeland Security DHS soon fed with threat intelligence. The intensification of the search was bound to produce more arrests, even without more terrorism, just as the Inquisition was sure to find more witches.

Of course, unlike the witches, only a minority of those found by this search are innocent.

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But many seem like suggestible idiots unlikely to have produced workable plots without the help of FBI informants or undercover agents taught to induce criminal conduct without engaging in entrapment. Take Rezwan Ferdaus, the year-old who lived with his parents outside of Boston before his arrest last fall. He allegedly planned to fly small remote-controlled airplanes carrying a few pounds of explosives into the Pentagon and Capitol dome, assuming they would easily collapse. A second attack would somehow destroy the bridges at the Pentagon complex, before a six-man team armed with AKs attacked the survivors.

Happily, Ferdaus had no accomplices, aside from those provided by the FBI, no money for the planes, other than what the FBI loaned him, and no explosives, beyond the fake sort that the FBI provides.

Jim Harper, Author at Alt-M

The officials and pundits most worried about homegrown terrorists claim that Americans are lucky to have enemies like Ferdaus. They say the same of Faizal Shahzad, whose car bomb failed to explode in Times Square, Nazibullah Zazi, who could not make a working bomb despite the training he got on the subject in Pakistan, and the many other incompetents that have lately attempted terrorism in the United States.

Homegrown American jihadists cannot acquire the funds and training needed for terroristic expertise. Most would quickly kill themselves once they achieved it. Professor Cate is the author of numerous books and articles, appears regularly in the press, and is a founding editor of the journal, International Data Privacy Law. He received his J. Harper co-edited Terrorizing Ourselves: How U. He is the editor of Privacilla. He publishes both in scholarly and popular forums and his work is widely discussed in various meida outlets.

Harper holds a J.