The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda's American Recruitsby Catherine Herridge
Who are the recruits for the next wave? They live next door.
A radicalized army major guns down forty-five, killing twelve soldiers and one civilian; an airport shuttle-bus driver plots a subway slaughter; a
TERROR WALKS AMONG US. Born here, raised here, plotting here, the terrorists of al Qaeda 2.0 aim to kill Americans. And our government helps.
Who are the recruits for the next wave? They live next door.
A radicalized army major guns down forty-five, killing twelve soldiers and one civilian; an airport shuttle-bus driver plots a subway slaughter; a legal immigrant tries to blow up Times Square while another fanatic hopes to kill hundreds at a Christmas tree–lighting ceremony . . . and a radical Muslim born in New Mexico has a legion of fanatics in his web.
The Next Wave reveals the shocking story of how that blood-crazed American, Anwar al-Awlaki—now hiding in Yemen—was treated to Pentagon pomp as a “moderate Muslim,” and how our Justice Department hid his movements from the 9/11 Commission . . . even though al-Awlaki aided the 9/11 hijackers.
The terrorists next door turn our tech against us, exploiting Facebook, Skype, and our outdated laws. Online terror recruiters are one of the Web’s greatest success stories—yet our government refuses to stop them. Activists howl about “inhuman” conditions at Guantánamo—while pampered inmates laugh at our weaknesses.
The next wave of deadly terror is here and now. Washington shuts its eyes. And the next massacre in the name of Islam will be “Made in the U.S.
"The only thing more disturbing than al Qaeda's efforts to recruit U.S. citizens to harm America is its success at doing so. Expertly investigated, The Next Wave delivers a powerfully written, fresh look at homegrown terrorism in its most insidious form – and gives every reason to believe that the question is not whether an attack will occur, but when."
- The Honorable Tom Ridge
“Catherine Herridge has written a book that, from start to finish, grabs the reader. It is a fabulous look into her complex world that contains detailed observations and shocking revelations. Woven into the back story is the harsh reality of U.S. government incompetence, cover-up and deception – all focused on self-serving bureaucratic ass-covering that continues to endanger the well being of the American people. She is able to provide a dire forecast – a storm warning if you will – of the next generation of Muslim extremism and how they are evolving and adapting to the 21st century. Her work should be read – and internalized – by anyone who wants to learn how we must improve U.S. national security, counterterrorism and intelligence collection. Herridge's investigation of al Qaeda 2.0 reads like a novel. Herridge comes from a military family so her reporting on national security issues is deeply personal. The Next Wave is an action adventure like a "mission impossible" military mom.”
—Tony Shaffer, LtCol (USAR), bestselling author of Operation DARK HEART, and Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Defense Studies
"Even before Osama bin Laden's death, al Qa'ida had shown itself to be an organization as adaptable as it was deadly. With their plots frustrated at one level, they have adjusted their approach. Catherine Herridge's The Next Wave chronicles that adjustmentincluding more AQ reliance on the self radicalized, home grown, lower threshold threatand challenges us to adapt as quickly and as well as our murderous adversary. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand where this war is going and what we need to do to win it."
General Michael Hayden, former director CIA and NSA
“Written with no-nonsense clarity, moral rigor and hard-earned expertise, The Next Wave is a landmark in investigative journalism. This book by our most-relentless reporter on national security reveals in sharp detail how Washington's infighting, political correctness and outright duplicity enable home-grown Islamist terrorists to attack Americansby turning our own freedoms and laws against us. Fierce, first-rate and frightening.”
—Ralph Peters, former U.S. Army intelligence officer and author of Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization.
"This is a must read for every American. The domestic terrorist threat is real! America's response has been disappointing. Explore the world of the growing and evolving danger of homegrown terrorism in this compelling analysis." - Congressman Pete Hoekstra Chairman/Ranking member House Intelligence Committee (2004 - 2011)
“Catherine Herridge is quite simply the best national security reporter on television today. She breaks news, and tracks down stories before the mainstream media – and even the U.S. government – know about them. If you want the inside story of how an American Muslim cleric became al Qaeda’s top recruiter and propagandist, and the growing danger posed by cadre of traitors – al Qaeda’s American recruits – you must read this book.” – Marc Thiessen
“Catherine Herridge's The Next Wave is a desperately needed antidote to the soothing, politically correct, but ultimately lethal pabulum about militant Islamism fed to Americans by leaders in both parties and their academic and mainstream-media acolytes. Ms. Herridge's investigatory reporting details the growing appeal of bin Laden's call to jihad among young U.S.-citizen Muslim males, as well as the damage they already have done in America due to a lack of focused, enduring attention from government and law-enforcement officials at all levels, men and women who fear a backlash from bin Laden's able, if unthinking abettors in U.S.-based Muslim advocacy groups, the ACLU, and other champions of multiculturalism. Ms. Herridge's The Next Wave makes clear that a front in the war America is fighting overseas against Islamist militancy is well established in the United States, that it is growing and attracting intelligent fighters, and that it intends widespread violence in our cities and towns.” –Michael Scheuer, author of Osama bin Laden and Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University
Solid account of the growing threat of homegrown terrorists.
In 2009, FBI director Robert Mueller stated that American-born recruits to al-Qaeda posed a "real and growing" danger to the United States. Drawing on a six-month investigation for Fox News, where she is a national correspondent covering homeland security and the intelligence community, Herridge debuts with a revealing report on a new generation of terrorists and the American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has inspired many of them to commit violent acts. Now believed to be in Yemen, al-Awlaki was targeted for killing by the U.S. government in 2010. He is linked to three of the 9/11 hijackers, the massacre at Foot Hood, the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing and the cargo printer plot in October 2010. Drawing on documents and interviews, the author shows how the charismatic al-Awlaki has become a leading al-Qaeda propagandist, using the Internet to recruit alienated American youths, many newly arrived in America, to join the terrorist cause. There are several hundred important jihadist websites, and al-Awlaki crafts messages ("44 Ways to Support Jihad," etc.) for them using rap music and other Western marketing techniques. His target audience consists of under-30 individuals who are unsure of their identity and welcome a chance to connect anonymously online. In recounting al-Awlaki's activities and the stories of young jihadists, Herridge notes that homegrown terrorists are often U.S. passport holders who travel abroad for training, and Americans who are radicalized at home in chat rooms. She offers evidence that al-Awlaki may have been part of a terrorist cell within the United States that paved the way for 9/11, and that American officials may have tried to turn the cleric into an informant.
A sobering view of why the 9/11 nightmare continues a decade later.
- The Crown Publishing Group
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- Random House
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Read an Excerpt
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
Latitude: 19 degrees 54 minutes north
Longitude: 75 degrees 9 minutes west
June 5, 2008
The courthouse is imposing: a large metal box. Several rings of fencing surround it. The barbs on the wire are three inches long and razor sharp. They glint in the sunlight. It is custom built for the trial of the century: that of the five 9/11 suspects. Almost two dozen lawyers, both civilian and military, and a handful of translators are present.
Just before 0900, the temperature is nearly eighty degrees, and it feels much hotter. There are two screening checkpoints. IDs are shown. No bags, no electronics, no water bottles with labels are allowed in court. After some prodding, a young man with the Coast Guard explains that the detainees think they are being poisoned if their water bottles look different from ours. There is no name patch on his uniform. Many of the sailors don’t want to be identified. They don’t want their families harassed. They didn’t ask for the Guantánamo assignment in the first place. When their fellow soldiers come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, they get a pat on the back, a well-done and a thank-you. Those who return from Guantánamo speak of sneers and dirty looks.
With surveillance cameras trained down on us, the ACLU observers and others are having a smoke. We are waiting in the gravel courtyard for the fi nal okay to enter. When the courthouse door opens, a blast of cold air hits us. Crossing the threshold, I wonder if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of 9/11, and his four co-conspirators ever feel Cuba’s oppressive heat or scan the picture-perfect waves of the Atlantic. Guantánamo Bay is a place where absurd thoughts intrude with regularity.
Every journalist signs in. We are shown to our seats. Reinforced glass separates us from the accused terrorists. They are no more than fifteen yards away. I am in the front row, just to the left of a pillar, with a fairly good vantage point. From what I can see, most of the men are not shackled. They wear white slip-on sneakers with no laces, like little girls. I have covered most of the big terrorism trials, and experience has taught me that the most important moments come when court is not in session. This pretrial period lives up to my expectations.
At the front left side of the court is the man himself—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. There is no resemblance to his mug shot that we, covering the trial, refer to as the terrorist’s John Belushi period. The disheveled hair and white T-shirt have been replaced by a head covering and a long white robe. His beard is now gray and well over six inches long. His glasses are military issue with thick black frames. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is smiling. Though the sound, which is controlled by the military, is turned off or is at least very low, we can see KSM gesturing wildly with his hands and talking at the top of his lungs. He greets his fellow co-conspirators like old friends at a high school reunion. The men are survivors. They withstood the worst the U.S. government could throw at them. The waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and pressure positions at the CIA secret prisons did not destroy them.
I am distracted by the sound of scratching. The sketch artist, Janet Hamlin, who watched 9/11 unfold from a rooftop in Brooklyn, is feverishly drawing on her sketch pad. First, she lays out the raw outline of the courtroom and the men. Color comes next. I jerk myself back because an extraordinary scene is unfolding before me. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now motioning to the others. He wants them to follow his lead. He waves a single defiant finger in the air when he senses dissent from his plan.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is already working the system. He wants the 9/11 conspirators to act as their own attorneys. He mocks the proceeding by calling it “an inquisition.” His delivery and body language suggest he’s been practicing the line in his cell. KSM understands us better than we understand him. He knows that whatever he says will be reported around the world. A military source says KSM devours every story, every Web posting, every TV clip about him. Without question, he is al Qaeda’s media whore.
And then things get really crazy. For some unknown reason, a court security officer who is making decisions way above his pay grade thinks it’s a good idea for KSM to review Janet’s sketch. It’s the one where he dominates the picture. Turns out, KSM hates the sketch. He says the nose is all wrong. It’s too big or too ethnic or too something. It has to be fixed. KSM orders the sailors to get Janet his FBI mug shot. Apparently, he prefers this picture because he looks composed. His clothes are pressed. So Janet fixes the sketch to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s satisfaction. Within minutes, the sketch is carried to our live shot position on the tarmac about fifty yards from the courthouse. It is filmed by the pool TV crew and then broadcast to millions.
Later in the evening, I sit on the equipment box near the live shot position. The sun is dropping like a red hot ball into the Cuban hills.
“Who’s in control?” I say under my breath. “Us or the terrorists?”
• • •
The five 9/11 suspects are al Qaeda’s old guard. It would crush their mammoth egos to know that they would soon be yesterday’s news because the next wave of recruits was about to crash on America’s shores.
There is Faisal Shahzad. On a Saturday night in May 2010, the naturalized American of Pakistani descent drove a crude car bomb into Times Square. Though Shahzad was trained by the Pakistani Taliban, his bomb failed to explode. Unrepentant to the end, the thirty-one-year-old was sentenced to life in prison.
There is Najibullah Zazi. Just three months earlier, the Denver airport shuttle bus driver, who was born in Afghanistan and raised in Pakistan and the United States, pleaded guilty to an al Qaeda plot to blow up the New York City subway system. He was trained overseas by Osama bin Laden’s network.
And there is Major Nidal Hasan. The Army psychiatrist allegedly shot to death thirteen at Fort Hood in Texas, including twelve soldiers, one of them pregnant. Shortly after 1330 on November 5, 2009, Hasan walked into the Readiness Center, where soldiers get medical checks before and after deployments. According to eyewitness accounts, Hasan opened fire as he shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great.” It took the Obama administration nine weeks to publicly acknowledge the Fort Hood massacre as an act of terrorism.
There are cases, like that of Anthony Joseph Tracy, a thirty five-year-old Virginia man, that do not make national headlines. Described by his court-appointed attorney as a father and a husband, Tracy was arrested for allegedly smuggling 272 Somalis into the United States. Some may have terrorist ties to an al Qaeda affiliate known as al-Shabaab that is based in East Africa. Tracy was held without bond because federal prosecutors said he was a public threat and a flight risk. He was later convicted on human-trafficking charges and sentenced to three years’ probation and time served.
The list continues: Omar Hammami in Alabama, Daniel Boyd in North Carolina, Carlos Bledsoe in Arkansas, David Headley and Michael Finton in Illinois, Hosam Smadi in Texas, Betim Kaziu in New York, Tarek Mehanna in Massachusetts.
Analysts may disagree over whether these men truly qualify as al Qaeda members or simply al Qaeda wannabes inspired by the network’s message. Although some may be innocent, the number and origin of those charged suggest a pattern. After 9/11, al Qaeda’s top-down structure, much like a Fortune 500 company, splintered and morphed. With the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda reconstituted in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Recruits still traveled to the camps to get hands-on experience in bomb making and explosives. But by 2006, there had been a perceptible shift.
As CIA director Leon Panetta warned Congress in February 2010, al Qaeda’s tactics were evolving. The new recruits were in their twenties, with clean backgrounds. They were hard to detect. Many no longer made the obligatory pilgrimage to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training. Instead, they traveled to Yemen or Somalia. Some were radicalized right here in America.
In a growing number of cases, al Qaeda’s followers are just like us. They are educated here, sometimes born here. The radicalization process is compressed. An offbeat loner can reach out and become a dedicated killer in a matter of months.
In the late 1990s, when I was a foreign correspondent based in London, I talked, over warm beers in a pub, with a former weapons inspector in Iraq. He gave me a piece of advice that still rings true today: “Catherine,” he said, “terrorism is like water. It takes the path of least resistance. You move one way and it moves another. It is a thinking enemy.”
Al Qaeda and its attack on our country continue to shape my life and career. To my knowledge, I am the only network TV correspondent to cover 9/11 in New York, to report on the war on terror from Washington, D.C., for nearly a decade, and to follow the narrative of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators to a military court at Guantánamo Bay.
I live in a military family, so my perspective is different from most correspondents’. I am not sitting on the sidelines reporting the story. I am feeling the impact. In 2009, my husband, an Air Force major and West Point graduate, was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, the birthplace of the Taliban. For nine months, I was a single parent with two children under five. Phone calls late at night made me nervous. When I investigate the future of al Qaeda, it’s personal. I need to know what my family and our nation are in for. What I see, through my reporting, is a growing body of evidence that al Qaeda’s American recruits are already here.
Meet the Author
From Guantánamo to Afghanistan, Fox News national correspondent Catherine Herridge has looked the world’s worst terrorists in the face. A “reporter’s reporter,” she and her investigative team spent years scouring the United States and the world to uncover the shocking secrets of the next wave.
From the Hardcover edition.
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