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The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits

A TV journalist tracks the ‘next wave’ of terrorists – the home-grown variety.

By David Holahan / June 20, 2011

The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits By Catherine Herridge Crown Publishing Group 272 pp.

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Fox TV reporter Catherine Herridge has seen the face of terror, reporting from ground zero after 9/11 and from a Guantánamo Bay courtroom – where she observed plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed close up. She admits that for her the story is personal because she has two young children that she hopes to raise in a terror-free world and also because her husband is an Air Force major who was deployed in Afghanistan in 2009. She doesn’t admit to a political bent, but it seeps out periodically.

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The thesis of The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits is that home-grown terrorists are the threat tsunami of our recent past, present, and future. These Jihad Joes and Janes are American citizens, speak English, have clean records, American passports, and mass murder in their hearts. Herridge reminds us that they could be our neighbors. She also promises the reader, “What we discover together will surprise and anger you. It will change your view of the future. It will also change how you see those behind the 9/11 attacks.”

It is a tall order, one that she doesn’t fill. What she does do is to provide a reasonably thorough survey of prominent terrorist attacks, or attempted attacks, within the United States and around the world in the past decade, including the inept underwear bomber and the tragically more accomplished Fort Hood, Texas, shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan.

She also ties a number of these cases to the poster child of born-in-the-USA bad guys, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam who had contact with three of the 9/11 hi-jackers and who is now known as the bin Laden of the Internet. This is not news. The Obama administration put Awlaki, believed to be hiding in Yemen, on its kill or capture list.

Awlaki is certainly an intriguing figure. He was questioned four times by the FBI after 9/11, and subsequently became, as the author puts it, “quite the Imam around town,” a talking head when the media needed an articulate American Muslim to interview. (Herridge singles out PBS without informing the reader until much later that Awlaki also was invited to lunch at the Pentagon not long after 9/11, a story she reported last year.)

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