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Terrorist Groups

Terrorist Groups

Erroll Southers (Former Deputy Director of the California Department of Homeland Security) gives expert video advice on: What is Al Qaeda and why is it so successful?; How did Al Qaeda start?; Where does Al Qaeda get its money? and more...

What is Al Qaeda and why is it so successful?

What's interesting is that Al Queda has always been associated with Osama Bin Laden and Amin al-zawahiri. Al Queda has become a movement. It has almost become a franchise. One of the reasons that they are so successful is that their organizational structure is essentially decentralized, it is flat. You had, prior to operation and account in Afghanistan, and we invaded in that country after Sep 11th, you had a structure where they had command and control in the way of Bin Laden and Amin al-zawahiri and others. Since that time, what was seen to be a tremendous amount of blowback on their part and perhaps success on our part, actually suited them very well. What they are able to do now -- and by the way they started around in 1988-- what they are able to do now is have individuals who've radicalized, self-appointed as holy warriors carry out acts around the world and they can claim success, whenever that happens. So you by the very nature of believing in Al Queda's philosophy and going and blowing yourself up in a building and then being able to go on Al Jazeera and claim success although you have never met them in your life, means that they have an organization which in my opinion is very efficient, very effective, very, very good in a way of being able to carry out further attacks and most importantly interest other people in what they are doing. That is how they are so successful. It is not so much what they are doing, it's that next generation of people that is watching what's happening and believes that they need to become part of the movement.

How did Al Qaeda start?

Briefly they started around 1988; they were all part of the Mujahadeen when they were taking on the Russians in Afghanistan. I like to speak that Bin Laden was the financier, Ayman al-Zawahiri who is a doctor and MD was the brains they came together as two separate groups formed as one, agreed that they had a common enemy and moved forward.

Aside from Al Qaeda, what terrorist groups are threats to the United States?

What is interesting is that a number of terrorist groups that you see in the Middle East, like Hezbollah and Hamas, are active here in the United States. In some cases, they are out in public. One of the groups I have not seen here is Tamil Tigers, who invented suicide bombing. In fact they had females carrying out suicide bombings long before the Palestinians did them in Israel. I would saya lot of what you would call your Jihadi Salafi groups in Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Jamas, Lamah -- those are the groups that have us on their radar screen. They are very active throughout the world. There are a lot of different reasons which no one ever really wants to be quoted because we really don't know why they are not hitting the United States, but we are certainly not their friends, if you will.

Are there groups inside the United States that pose danger to our security?

Domestically speaking, a large part, most of the groups we have here in the United States, are white supremacists groups. World Church of the Creator, National Alliance, Aryan Nations, there are some black separatist groups. What's interesting about those groups is you find that they are usually either Christian identity groups and/or groups that really have a foothold in our correctional or prison systems in the way of radicalization and recruiting.

Which home-grown terrorist groups pose the greatest danger to the US?

Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government and in most cases anti-abortion. They are usually survivalist type in nature, identity orientated. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in, I believe it was 1999. When he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children's community center, then shooting a fellow penal postal worker later on. Matthew Hale who's the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois and Ben Smith who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African Americans and Jews and Asians that day. Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian identity oriented.