Those testifying before the subcommittee said LeT, which now goes by the name Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), isn’t likely to strike directly on U.S. soil because the Pakistani government’s intelligence service, generally considered a sponsor or protector of the group, doesn’t sanction that. But Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who chaired the hearing, noted that LeT had a hand in plots in Denmark, Australia, France, Canada, and New Zealand, and it is believed to have cells in the United States.
LeT is also known for the training camps it operates, and at least a dozen terrorist groups draw from its “training and enlistment machine,” said RAND’s Jonah Blank, who testified at the hearing. Those trainees make LeT a violence factory.
But again, the good news is that such recruits haven’t evidenced a high level of competence outside of the local region. “A recent study of Islamist terrorists in the United Kingdom and Spain found that they lacked tradecraft and that the training they received did not translate well to the target countries,” said Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University, speaking at the hearing. This means that, once they left the camps and returned home, they weren’t able to hone their skills.
That’s no reason for complacency, cautioned Blank, who noted that an attack could be executed that would be like Mumbai in impact but not in its specifics. It might be “Boston Squared,” and such an attack would not require much in the way of sophisticated planning or funding.
Fair also cautioned against a myopic view of the ideologies that could generate homegrown terrorists, noting that they can be on the left or right, including white supremacists.
It is the nature of terrorism that the probability of an attack is low. But as Jenkins notes, in terms of threat analysis, given the size of the potential consequences, governments are driven by terrorists’ fantasies and their own worst fears. And that is what creates the pressure on civil rights. Finding the right balance remains, he notes, the biggest challenge for democracies today.