One of the nation’s top intelligence officials was stunned by what he heard in that secret, underground facility.
Jack Tomarchio, the Department of Homeland Security’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the time, had flown from Washington to Ohio earlier that spring day for a briefing on the Buckeye State’s latest efforts against terrorism. Now, as heavy winds battered the streets above, two Ohio Homeland Security officials told him how the capitals of Ohio and Minnesota had become havens for refugees of war-torn Somalia.
“Get out of town!” Tomarchio remembers saying in surprise. “Why did they go to Minnesota? It’s freezing up there. Why don’t they go to Arizona, where it’s desert-like?”
Then the two briefers told Tomarchio they were becoming increasingly concerned about “radical mosques” in Columbus, Ohio, where imams “considered to be a little fiery” would come from Somalia and preach anti-Western messages to the growing Somali community, Tomarchio recalls about that day in 2006.
It marked one of the first times a U.S. counterterrorism official was warned that Islamic extremists in Somalia could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland — not just a threat to the Horn of Africa or U.S. interests there.
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