WASHINGTON — The White House announced a new strategy to help police, schools and other local organizations counter the threat of domestic radicalism, a broad plan involving federal departments not usually associated with national security.
The effort is modeled on anti-gang initiatives developed in the 1990s and programs intended to prevent school shootings like the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
Although short on details, the eight-page outline for the first time called on all parts of the U.S. government, including the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, to devise ways to help communities identify extremist agendas that could lead to violence.
Wednesday's announcement came a week after the arrest of U.S. soldier Naser Jason Abdo in Killeen, Texas. Abdo was charged with possessing an unregistered destructive device after a gun store clerk tipped police that he had behaved oddly while buying gunpowder. Abdo planned to blow up a restaurant frequented by soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Hood, authorities said.
At his arraignment, Abdo yelled out the name of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 during a 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood.
Congressional investigations into the Fort Hood shootings revealed warning signs that could have tipped off authorities ahead of time.
Intelligence reports indicate that al-Qaida has tried to recruit Americans to launch attacks on U.S. soil.
Thirty-one American citizens or legal permanent residents were arrested between May 2009 and July 2011 in connection with homegrown terrorism plots, according to the Congressional Research Service. Those arrests within a two-year period contrast with 21 such arrests in the previous seven years.
Since 2009, at least 24 people have been killed in the United States due to actions of individuals who ascribe to a violent ideology: Fourteen were killed by people who supported al-Qaida, and 10 by people who were motivated by other ideologies, like white supremacy, according to an Associated Press report.
In President Barack Obama's written introduction to the new strategy, he cited threats from "al-Qaida's hateful ideology" as well as domestic neo-Nazis and anti-Semitic hate groups.
Some government efforts to identify violent extremists before they act are under way. The Department of Homeland Security hosted a training seminar this week in Columbus, Ohio, for 150 police officers from across the country on how to spot warning signs that someone might be planning an attack.
The Bureau of Prisons and the FBI have begun sharing information with police about inmates being released from prison who had known links to violent extremist groups while incarcerated.