The last months of 2010 featured a flurry of terrorism sting operations, says NPR: A young Somali-American in Oregon was arrested for allegedly trying to ignite a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting. A Virginia man was accused of conspiring with people he thought were al-Qaida operatives to bomb D.C.-area targets. Authorities say a Baltimore man unknowingly was working with undercover FBI agents when he detonated a dummy car bomb outside a U.S. military recruitment center.
The three plots were launched by lone-wolf attackers, and the FBI was in the middle of them. Experts say to expect more undercover cases in 2011, because the agency has clearly decided that the best way to battle the growing threat of homegrown terrorism in this country is to confront the suspects directly. “I believe that we have something in this country that you don’t see characterized in TV shows,” says Philip Mudd of the New America Foundation, a former counterterrorism official with both the CIA and the FBI. “It is not cells or clusters of individuals that are like-minded [ ] it is clusters of kids who are talking about extremism. I think this exists across the country. Kids are talking about what they don’t like in Palestine or Iraq or Afghanistan, and within those clusters occasionally you’re going to have a couple who say, ‘All my friends, all our friends are talking, why don’t we do something about it?’ “Al-Qaida has smaller scaled aspirations. Pinned down by drone attacks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the group’s leadership has been calling on affiliates to launch attacks.