Violent Islamist terrorists have attacked the United States and its interests many times. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, and many others were carried out by well-organized, well-equipped, and well-trained individuals indoctrinated into violent Islamist ideology. The United States government has appropriately focused its attentions at its borders and abroad, disrupting terrorist planning, training, and operations as part of the Global War on Terror. Despite these efforts, the Committee’s investigation has found that the violent Islamist threat to the homeland has evolved and expanded.
Propaganda has always been integral to the violent Islamist movement, especially for the purpose of attracting followers. Printed materials, videos of terrorist activities, including operations and training, and recordings of sermons and speeches espousing the virtues of the violent Islamist ideology have been distributed and sold around the world for decades.11 But today, for an individual seeking information on this ideology, the Committee found that the Internet provides the most accessible source of information – both passive, in the form of static Web pages, and interactive, in the form of chat rooms and discussion forums that can connect interested individuals with extremists around the world.
The use of the Internet by violent Islamist extremists is constantly in flux, with websites appearing and disappearing regularly. Yet despite the dynamic nature of the websites, there is a generally organized framework for the dissemination of the core terrorist enlistment message. For those who want to know more about violent Islamist ideology, immense caches of information and propaganda are available online. Some material is produced by organized groups committed to advancing this ideology around the world, while other material is produced by self-starting individuals, who themselves may have "signed on" to the ideology’s virtual network. These self-appointed amplifiers of the violent Islamist message may not be part of a known terrorist organization, but they choose to advance the cause, not necessarily with guns but with propaganda. Much of this material is readily available through web searches and is often discussed in chat rooms and other online forums where those interested in learning more about the violent Islamist ideology begin the radicalization process and seek out like-minded individuals.