WASHINGTON -- Jailed Islamic extremists with violent interpretations of the Koran are taking advantage of scarce religious monitoring to breed terrorists in US prisons, a study released yesterday says .
State and local prison officials are struggling to track radicalized behavior by inmates or religious counselors, the joint study by George Washington University and the University of Virginia found.
Many prisons can't afford preventive programs; in California, for example, officials reported ``that every investigation into radical groups in their prisons uncovers new leads, but they simply do not have enough investigators to follow every case of radicalization."
``Radicalized prisoners are a potential pool of recruits by terrorist groups," concluded the study, released at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on ``home-grown" terrorists. ``The US, with its large prison population, is at risk of facing the sort of home-grown terrorism currently plaguing other countries."
An estimated 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States, and 6 percent of them are Muslim, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism consultant, told senators that ``chilling" interpretations of the Koran were given to prison inmates when he worked for the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, an international charity that served as a major Al Qaeda financier.
The readings urged Muslims ``to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule," Gartenstein-Ross said in prepared testimony to the Senate panel.
``I know of only a few instances in which prisons rejected the literature we attempted to distribute -- and it was never because of the literature's radicalism," said Gartenstein-Ross, who has since left the charity and converted to Christianity.
Prisons have long been considered recruiting stations for gangs and, more recently, terrorists, but little has been done throughout government to combat them.
The Senate hearing was held as law enforcement and intelligence officials focus on finding out how and why extremist home-grown sympathizers cross a line to become operational terrorists.
The panel's chairwoman, Senator Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican , called the matter ``an emerging threat to our national security."
Added Senator Thomas R. Carper, a Delaware Democrat , ``While home-grown Islamic terrorism might not be as much of a threat as in say Europe or some other places, we ignore the threat that does exist at our peril."