Skip to comments.Report: Region may be a hotbed for terrorist recruiting (Police: White Veterans, Black Colleges)
Posted on 04/26/2009 3:25:01 AM PDT by csvset
A new report produced by a branch of the Virginia State Police portrays the state's colleges and universities as potential breeding grounds for terrorism.
The 200-page report, intended for distribution to law enforcement, intelligence and military organizations, says "a wide variety of terror or extremist groups" have links to Hampton Roads and singles out the area's two historically black universities for special mention.
It also cites the region's "diverse population due to the strong military presence." In addition, it mentions Regent University, an evangelical Christian school in Virginia Beach, and a Chesapeake-based anti-abortion group.
The report acknowledges that none of the Virginia groups it singles out has engaged in any violent activity and says there is no intelligence indicating that terrorists are planning attacks in the state.
Nevertheless, it adds: "In order to detect and deter terrorist attacks, it is essential that information regarding suspected terrorists and suspicious activity in Virginia be closely monitored and reported in a timely manner."
The report drew critical attention across the political spectrum as it began circulating around the Internet.
The American Civil Liberties Union has gone on the offensive, saying the report makes unwarranted assumptions based on race, religion and other demographic data and could have a chilling effect on Virginians' First Amendment rights.
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, cited the Virginia report in testimony last week before a Senate subcommittee in which she urged more congressional oversight of terrorism-related information gathering by law enforcement agencies.
Such bulletins "would be laughable except that they come with the imprimatur of a federally backed intelligence operation, and they encourage law enforcement officers to monitor the activities of political activists and racial and religious minorities," Fredrickson said.
"What is clear is that these abusive intelligence reports do nothing to improve security. Sharing misleading information about the ideologies and activities of nonviolent groups only undermines public support for law enforcement."
The report contains little or no explanation of its methodology - for instance, why it singles out Regent and the historically black schools.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the State Police, said that because the report was not intended for public release, she couldn't comment on its contents.
In a prepared statement, the State Police said the report "inadvertently made its way onto the Internet and it is likely some will view this information and misinterpret the 2009 Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment in a false manner."
The purpose of the report is to convey "potential terrorism threats," the statement said, underlining the word "potential."
The 2009 threat assessment is a product of the Virginia Fusion Center, a multi-agency intelligence clearinghouse that opened in the basement of State Police headquarters in Chesterfield County in 2005.
Funded in part with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the center shares information with a variety of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, private industry and the military.
At least 58 such centers have sprung up around the country since the terrorist attacks of 2001, supported by more than $250 million in federal money.
The Virginia center has operated largely under the public radar. Its records are exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act, and disseminating information received from the center is a misdemeanor.
The new report calls attention to the ethnic diversity of Hampton Roads and the state's other urban centers, especially the presence of people with cultural ties to the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia "and other areas heavily impacted by terrorist activities."
"While the vast majority of these individuals are law-abiding, this ethnic diversity also affords terrorist operatives the opportunity to assimilate easily into society, without arousing suspicion," the report says.
"Virginia's network of colleges and universities also represent a potential avenue of entry for terrorist operatives and a possible forum for recruitment of sympathizers."
In a regional breakdown of potential terrorist threats, the report notes that Hampton Roads and the Richmond area each have two historically black universities. Although it doesn't cite them by name, the apparent reference is to Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia State University in Petersburg and Virginia Union University in Richmond.
University-based student groups "are recognized as a radicalization node for almost every type of extremist group," the report says.
"Richmond's history as the capital city of the Confederacy, combined with the city's current demographic concentration of African-American residents, contributes to the continued presence of race-based extremist groups," the report adds.
Sharon Hoggard, a spokeswoman at Norfolk State, said the report contains "several glaring over-generalizations."
"It is true that colleges and universities attract diverse populations of people," Hoggard said. "But for the most part, those diverse groups share a common interest, and that is a passion for learning and teaching, which is our core business."
Carol Pretlow, an associate professor of political science at Norfolk State, said she was "baffled" by the report's singling out of historically black schools.
Perhaps it was prompted by memories of radical groups such as the Black Panthers that were active in the 1960s, she said.
"But the reality is that the global scene has changed," Pretlow said. "When you look at the students of today, whether it's at Old Dominion or Norfolk State or Tidewater Community College, they're pretty much 'Show me the money, people. This political ideology stuff is good, but what's in it for me?'... They want to be part of the mainstream.
"So this assessment that these are breeding grounds for terrorism - I don't see it."
At Regent, the Christian university founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, the reaction was similar.
"We appreciate the Virginia Fusion Center's diligence in identifying potential threats," said Carlos Campo, vice president of academic affairs at Regent. "However, we believe that specifically naming Christian universities and associating them with radical extremists is overreaching."
Robert Stacey, an associate professor of government at Regent, said he is generally a supporter of fusion centers but he found the Virginia report largely unhelpful in the fight against terrorism.
"In terms of actually assessing threats, it does not do that very well," he said. "And it casts such a broad net.... In some of the categories, they don't produce evidence of a serious threat and yet throw it in the report anyway."
"I know the fusion center does more than this report reflects," Stacey said. "But if this were it, if this were all the work they were ever going to do, they wouldn't be doing much for us."
A Department of Homeland Security report issued earlier this month on right-wing extremism drew widespread outrage in conservative circles, including a blast from Robertson on his daily TV show "The 700 Club."
"Somebody who doesn't think we should have abortion on demand is suddenly labeled a terrorist," Robertson said, urging viewers to call the DHS and complain. "It's outrageous.... This is stigmatizing a vast swath of our people."
A February report from a Missouri-based fusion center on the militia movement stirred similar resentment on the right.
Among the potential terrorist threats identified in the Virginia report were:
- Two anti-abortion groups, including the Chesapeake-based Army of God and Life.
- White nationalist groups, said to be recruiting "military veterans skilled in weapons and tactics."
- "Anarchist extremists" at Virginia Military Institute and the College of William and Mary.
- "Environmental extremists" protesting against energy companies.
- The state prison system, said to be "an attractive venue for recruitment and radicalization relating to terror organizations and hate groups."
- "The size, courses of study, and significant population of international students" at Virginia Tech.
- The Virginia Commonwealth University chapter of the Muslim Student Association, said to be "possibly involved with terrorism financing and recruitment" as a front organization for the Mideast-based organization Muslim Brotherhood.
- "Suspicious photography" of military aircraft, bridges and tunnels in Hampton Roads.
Incidents that might seem mundane to some are chronicled in the report as potentially terrorism-related.
For instance, an employee of the marine container terminal in Portsmouth "noted that two males approached him and asked to come inside and look around. The subjects were told they could not come inside the facility at which point they left the area."
At the Martinsville Speedway, "a temporary employee called in a bomb threat during a Sprint Cup race in March 2008 because he was tired of picking up trash and wanted to go home."
Bill Sizemore, (757) 446-2276, email@example.com
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Yeah, VMI & Regent University, terrorist training grounds.
Off to another terrorist training ground: church
VMI has changed since August 1997?
30+ years ago I would agree with that sentiment but by and large all colleges drink the same kool aid these days even places like VMI. Government money, government dictated curriculum, and Marxist ideology. They are multicultural, multinational, non-denominational(even "Christian" colleges), "we are the world" morphing grounds.
We have been flooded with unlimited immigration since 1965 both legal and illegal with essentially open borders. Demographics with Marxist control and thinking dominate our national ideology, at least within government, industry and the MSM.
It also cites the region's "diverse population...
The new report calls attention to the ethnic diversity of Hampton Roads and the state's other urban centers
Of course the real problem is that now that we are all "equal" we are all also equally "suspects". Whatever happened to "Diversity is our strength"?
Just had a shooting at Hampton College today. 3 shot. Details are coming in.
Fwiw, I'm going to Hampton later this morning to pick up a table that I bought at an auction yesterday. I have to drive past the school to get there.
VMI was secessionist before and during the days of the war of northern aggression. That is probably why it made the list. Its rich history is one of the reasons I want my son to go there.
Has Virginia instituted sharia law yet?
Agreed, their history is rich but if that is why Tim Kaine's State Police placed them on this list; that's really, really reaching.
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