Official: Home-grown terrorists more a threat than Islamic radicals

Asbury Park Press/September 12, 2011

Toms River -- There is a greater risk of terrorism in Ocean County from white supremacists and anti-government radicals than Islamic extremists, said a former top state Homeland Security official.

"What kind of problems do we have in this county? Do we have problems with people, Arabs, that are coming here to threaten the (Brick Municipal Utilities Authority)? No, we're mainly dealing with a lot of homegrown, lone wolf type problems," said retired State Police Lt. Col. Bill Malast, who now works for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Malast, who served as deputy superintendent of Homeland Security for the State Police, was speaking as a member of a panel discussion Monday at a homeland security conference hosted by Ocean County College, one day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The conference attracted a standing room only crowd of mostly young criminal justice and homeland security students.

The daylong panel discussions followed a 9/11 memorial ceremony in the Arts and Community Center Theatre, honoring the victims of a decade ago and the service members who have since sacrificed their lives in the ensuing War on Terror.

Charles Amoroso, 61, of Howell shared the stage with a piece of the World Trade Center that had been donated to the college. His son, Chris Amoroso, 29, a Port Authority police officer, died in the South Tower when he had gone back to rescue more people after saving several others on 9/11.

"We are the eyes and ears of America," Charles Amoroso told the audience. "What we see on a daily basis is routine. You know what's not right. I can tell you that I go to the same coffee shop every morning, get my cigarettes, get my coffee, get myself ready to go. I know when something is out of place. I know when something just doesn't look right. And I ask that you keep that vigilance so we can keep this great nation safe."

Keeping Ocean County safe from terrorism has become a full-time job for the Prosecutor's Office, though advances in technology are helping law enforcement to do that with greater stealth, Malast explained.

"We have problems with Aryan Nation in this county, we have Hammerskins, which is associated with the Aryan Nation in this county," he said. "We watch Sovereign Citizens group in this county, and there may be some in here."

The Aryan Nation and Hammerskins are white supremacist, anti-Semitic organizations. Sovereign Nation is an organization that advocates anti-government beliefs. Last year, a "father-son team of Sovereigns" murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over while traveling through West Memphis, Ark., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In areas of Ocean County that are classified by the state as "critical infrastructure areas," such as power plants, Jewish schools, college campuses, areas where large crowds congregate, and other potential terrorist targets, there is a greater reliance on electronic surveillance.

"The biggest thing right now, and you've seen them out there and maybe you've been a victim to one if you didn't register your car, are license plate readers," Malast said. "They're in police cars now and there are eight in this county and there are two more coming."

Point Pleasant Councilman Mitch Remig, who is also a part-time police officer in Manasquan and attended the conference Monday, said his hometown just purchased a license plate reader.

Police officers can patrol up and down roads around their critical infrastructures and while keeping the license plate reader running, Malast said.

"They'll run 2,200 plates in a matter of three or four hours. What do they get from that? They get a tracking of every plate that went through. If you're unregistered, if there's a warrant out for you, it's going to 'beep.' He's got you right there. It's just like a radar machine," Malast said.

If an officer determines a motor vehicle to be suspicious in what is supposed to be a secure area, he or she can run the plates through a database.

"Has it shown up anywhere? And they type the plate in and it pops up everywhere, every cop that has picked that (plate) up," Malast said. "And you look and you see, 'Well, what was it doing hanging around Lakewood, the chemical plants by Lakewood? What's it doing driving up and down Sixth Street where the Beth Medrash Govoha (rabbinical school) is? What's going on here?"

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.