Would-be Capitol attacker new face of terror?

February 17, 2012 4:39:58 PM PST
In Washington, D.C., a Moroccan man is being held without bond on charges he planned to blow up the US Capitol during a suicide attack.

In this Intelligence Report: Why authorities consider the suspect to be the new face of America's terror threat.

Federal authorities say the public was never in any danger, but when Capitol police take up the pose with automatic weapons, it sends a chilling message. A 29-year-old man from Morocco -- in the United States illegally for more than 10 years -- was arrested near the Capitol Friday wearing what he thought was a suicide vest, and he was planning to detonate it. Counterterrorism authorities say the man is typical of the new threat faced by law enforcement from D.C. to Chicago to California.

Heading into the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, the Capitol Plaza Friday was crowded with students and other tourists. Amine el Khalifi hoped to take advantage of the D.C. turnout, according to federal investigators, who say he was intent on carrying enough explosive force to take down the U.S. Capitol building.

Authorities, who say they had been monitoring the man for a year and had an undercover agent provide el Khalifi with a mock vest, arrested him near the Capitol.

The FBI has broken up 20 similar homegrown terror threats the past year. Like Friday's suspect, many of them had no direct contact with al-Qaeda operatives overseas. But investigators believe they -- and those to follow -- are quietly inspired by magazines and Internet sites that recruit individual to commit acts of terror.

For several years the I-Team followed a slick al-Qaeda magazine called Inspire that in one edition featured Chicago's John Hancock Tower as the backdrop for a story called "Open Source Jihad," which means holy war, and urged followers of radical Islam to build "the ultimate mowing machine," and wage "personal jihad" against America by using a pickup truck "to mow down (people) the enemies of Allah."

The I-Team hasn't seen a photo yet of the latest terror suspect amine el Khalifi. He was driven to court late Friday in a car with blackened windows. But even without seeing his face, investigators contend he is the new face of terror.

The last edition of al-Qaeda's Inspire magazine was put out almost a year ago. Inspire's editor was killed last September in an American drone strike, and so far, no one has replaced him or taken on the publication.

But there are numerous jihadist websites that encourage individual violence. And so, as radicalism percolates in the minds and homes of tomorrow's terrorists, it is a new threat requiring new tactics by law enforcement.