Bryant Neal Vinas’ unlikely odyssey from Long Island, N.Y., to Al Qaeda’s innermost circle of commanders in Pakistan was achieved without any help in the U.S. from the well-oiled “jihadist pipeline” that has guided so many militants from Europe and other countries — a fact that is cause for concern, current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials said.
His case, which became public last week, showed that a U.S. convert to Islam bent on waging holy war could — without much difficulty — rely largely on friends and acquaintances to find his own way into the shadowy terrorist networks.
Current and former intelligence officials said that although they were able to at least partly track Vinas, they fear that the informal network of militants in Pakistan that he tapped into is widespread and below the radar of U.S. intelligence gathering.
Juan Zarate, the former deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism in the Bush administration, said that the Vinas case illustrated how difficult it was to follow young men who become radicalized and make their way to militant camps in Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. [continued…]